The Takeaway: Exercise. Do what feels good. Don’t worry about it. Taking judgment out of the equation will have you enjoying exercise rather than dreading it.
Actions: 1. Do what you enjoy. 2. Don’t judge yourself.
The Back Story:
I’ve been enthusiastically biking to the gym the past few months. EVEN in the rain, because I know the squat bar will be more open. I like squatting too! I used to dread that exercise over anything else. Now I look forward to improving each week and adding more.
This has never happened in all my 26 years of life. Well, maybe I liked squatting as a 3 year old, but so far as I can remember, “working out” has been a chore. Something I need to force myself to do and have willpower to complete. Something I had to berate myself for if I wasn’t doing it right, doing it hard enough, or naturally enjoying it. I’m not sure if anyone really enjoys something if they’ve got an inner drill sergeant egging them on with insults and “you’re not good enoughs” day in and day out.
I ran a marathon to prove to myself that I wasn’t fat and lazy. Every time I got up off the couch and went for a run, I was “sticking it” to the part of me that wasn’t good enough. Or so I thought. We have a pervasive cultural belief that if you are overweight, you are just lazy – you’re not trying hard enough, and you don’t deserve to have a skinny body because you’re not working for it. That’s what I told myself anyway. We don’t realize that excess weight is a symptom of something – malnourished diet, autoimmune disorders, depression, and the many number of lifestyle diseases and factors that we suffer from today.
So I ran a marathon and proved my point, so I thought. And then running became less and less enjoyable. I thought it was just my natural lack of consistency and some sort of personality flaw – I just didn’t have the discipline to be a lifelong runner/athlete/yogi.
Never mind that my body was trying to tell me that long distance running was promoting inflammation in my system. That my adrenals were nearing burnout and things just weren’t working for me in terms of health. I still had the mental block that I wasn’t good enough.
It’s a continual theme in my life.
I had decided to do a triathlon this year, in September of 2013. I thought I needed something to motivate my “lazy” resistant brain and get me back on track. And then I realized that this triathlon was all about my ego, not my health. I still felt I had something to prove. Running a marathon, good of an experience as it was, wasn’t enough (see a theme here?). I had watched many marathons in years past, feeling like I was stuck on the sidelines of life because of some personality flaw, and then I ran one – on pure will. But it still wasn’t enough. I wasn’t on the sidelines anymore, but I wasn’t skinny either, so I must not be doing it right.
I realized that the physical stress of a triathlon would not promote healing, so I had to set ego aside and focus on health first. I did only yoga for a few months to promote adrenal balance, and then moved on to some “energy building” exercises from Paul Chek’s book. And then I started Crossfit. I don’t go to the actual Crossfit gym often, because it is in Tokyo, but one month check ins with a trainer keep me on track. In the meantime, it’s all up to me to go to the gym.
And I enjoy it. I love freaking out all the Japanese men by picking up free weights or lifting bars over my head, etc. I look forward to putting on some of the plethora of exercise clothes I have, greeting the bemused workers at our city gym, and doing the best I can to improve, without any one there to hold me accountable but myself.
What is different now? Why do I look forward to doing exercise, when before I needed trainers or marathons or some form of “motivation” to keep me on track?
I took judgment out of the equation.
I was always comparing myself to others – I wasn’t the best soccer player on the team. I wasn’t an Olympic athlete. I wasn’t a personal trainer who woke up at 4am to teach kettlebell classes. I wasn’t the most flexible person in yoga. I still can’t do a pull up to save my life. I’m a slow sprinter.
And I don’t care anymore. Because I’m exercising.
I’m still a little embarrassed. I do burpees in the privacy of my own home, and haven’t done a group class in Crossfit yet. I’m still a little afraid of being the worst at something, but I’ll work on that fear in time. In the meantime – I’ve found my consistency. I’ve found my inner drive. And discipline and will-power have nothing to do with it.
Right now, for me, exercising is enough. Improving, relative to my own strengths and weaknesses, is enough. I’m not the fittest, fastest, strongest, or best. But it is finally enough for me. Exercise is no longer a judgement of my flawed character, flabby arms, or lack of fanatical enthusiasm.
I like moving my body, and I do exercise that I like. Of course, there are a few times when I do things that aren’t my favorite, but I know are great for my health. Sprint exercises, for example, to sharpen insulin sensitivity. Even yesterday, I had a lot of stomach cramps and lower intestinal pain, so I went for a long walk instead of sprinting, and that was ok. But mostly, I do what is right for me – yoga, sprints, weight lifting, interval training, bouts of intense dancing, and long walks when I’m tired or out of sorts or don’t have the gumption to sprint around like a crazy person or do crazy primal exercises in front of a bunch of macho Japanese musclemen. As long as I move, that is enough right now.
If you struggle with exercise, I invite you to try two things:
1. Do what you enjoy.
2. Don’t judge yourself.
3. Try something new once and a while.
You don’t have to do 3 hours of elliptical work per day if you don’t want to (who would?!). You don’t have to do Crossfit if it isn’t for you (though I will say that when I heard 60 year old women did Crossfit, I figured I might be able to handle it). If you exercise SMARTER, not harder, you will find you are stronger than you think, and you just need a little belief to get yourself going. I know I did. Get out there and try it, and don’t make up any story around how good or bad you were. Just be grateful that you moved around, it felt good (or good to be done :), and you’re making awesome choices for lifelong health and enjoyment.
Bonus! Check out my friend the Holistic Health Nerd’s superfun blog on 3 exercises that make you Superman.
What exercises do you enjoy? Where do you find resistance to exercise in your life? I’d love to hear about it!