You know those people who seem like they were just born to exercise? The ones who always make it to the gym after a long day at work... The ones who can go out for an easy 8-mile run... The ones who do yoga before they've even had their coffee...
I'm not one of them. But somehow I still love exercise. And it's taken me awhile to get here.
Because let's face it: there are a lot of reasons to hate exercise. Starting with the fact that most people do it out of obligation. They do it because they know it's healthy. They do it to lose weight. They do it to not waste the money they already spent on a gym membership.
Don't get me wrong...those can all be great reasons to exercise. But not if they come from a feeling of obligation.
I've been to all of those places and back. And I think exercise and I finally have a pretty healthy relationship. It keeps me looking and feeling good, but I know when I need to take a break before exercise starts to irritate me a bit too much. Here are a few of the ways we make our relationship work.
Make it a habit...
Exercise is no longer something I have to make time for. It is just as important as my semester classes or work meetings. Make your exercise part of your schedule, so it's not an afterthought. Write it in your planner. Do this for long enough, and you'll find that you're out the door to the gym without even thinking about it. Exercise is most effective when it becomes part of your lifestyle, but you have to figure out where it fits in. One of my favorite things about living in a city is that I get to exercise any time I want to leave the apartment...walking everywhere is my main exercise habit.
...But cut yourself some slack.
Just like we all occasionally need to play hooky from school or work (I won't tell), it's not the end of the world to skip a trip to the gym. I know I can't miss three weeks of class and still do well in school, and it's the same with exercise. I can't afford to make an excuse every time I feel a little tired or a little unmotivated. But if I never cut myself any slack, I end up overworked and overtired. Skipping a day of exercise is not a fitness failure...it's necessary for your physical and mental well-being.
Do what you love...
My dad said this to me many times as I was growing up. He says that the only way people will really pursue lifelong fitness is if they like what they're doing. So if you don't want to run a marathon, don't. If you find yoga insanely boring, skip it. Exercise is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and trying to follow someone else's routine might just make you hate it.
For years, I used the elliptical machine almost every time I went to the gym. Something about them seemed magical to me. But when I used them, I was always counting the minutes, either because I was bored or tired. And after those many years, I finally realized that I pretty much hate elliptical machines. Now I primarily lift weights, because I love the variety I get out of a weight lifting routine, and how much stronger it makes me feel. I go for a light, long jog about once a week. And I stretch a lot, with some occasional yoga. And I love a good hike and lots of walking. I love doing all of these things while I am doing them. That tells me I'm doing something right.
...But try new things.
That being said, I would never know how much I love a light, long jog if I hadn't forced myself to start running. I always insisted I wasn't designed to run, and had bad knees. Then just over a year ago, I decided I wanted to be a runner. I pushed myself harder than I ever had. And while I no longer care about being good at running like I did a year ago, I do have an appreciation for how great running feels when I'm going at my own pace.
If you never try, you'll never know.
Do what feels good...
I once saw a girl at the gym vomit because she had been running too hard. I didn't get it. And I don't think I ever will. Yes, exercise sometimes hurts, but it should hurt in a good way. It should hurt in a way that reminds you you're making progress, not damaging your body. When you exercise, pay close attention to the feelings in your muscles, lungs, heart, and mind. Those are the places that should feel challenged, but happy.
....But keep setting goals.
Exercise that doesn't ever push you also doesn't really feel good...it feels boring. And it's probably not doing much for you. Whether it's getting stronger, going to the gym more often, or getting into that yoga pose (above photo is from my 'goals' board on pinterest), goals are what keep us going to the gym, and making that time useful.
Any other inspiration you can share?