“Changing ‘exercise’ to ‘movement’ was a game changer for me . . ..” –@brittanilancaster (Tik Tok)
Last month, I wrote about the importance of rethinking exercise and the benefits of incorporating movement into your daily activity. Nevertheless, it isn’t always easy to plan, begin, and stick with a program. You may have the best of intentions, only to be derailed by life. Don’t feel guilty or ashamed by this–many of us, including myself, have been there on more than one occasion. Consequently, I am not writing to preach or make you feel bad. Guilt is not, in my opinion, a sustainable motivator; however, as I have previously stated, mood does follow action. Therefore, this month will focus on actionable steps to starting, or returning, to a routine plan of movement.
Honestly, the best form of movement is the one YOU will enjoy doing, but in case you’re not sure, here are a few considerations.
- Solo or buddy/group system. Personally, I think it’s important to know if you’re a solo-type of exerciser or one who would stick to a program better with a buddy or a group. Some people prefer, and are more likely to follow through, with an exercise buddy or group. While others tend to like more solo endeavors. Knowing your preference may increase your chances of a more positive movement experience.
- Choose an activity that you like. It goes without saying, but I am going to state it again, if you dread exercise, you are probably not going to stick with it. Ideally, find a form of exercise that makes you feel happy, empowered, and/or confident. Do you love talking and/or sharing the latest juicy tidbits with a friend? Then, choose an activity that allows you to do that while moving, such as walking. Do you crave alone or quiet time? There are many types of exercise that can lend you that much needed head-space for “me-time,” such as walking, biking, or strength training to name a few. Are you motivated by instructors or group energy? Try one of the myriad of group fitness classes offered by gyms, fitness centers, or studios. And by all means, if you try one form of exercise, and you don’t like it, don’t throw in the proverbial sweat towel, try something else!
- Be realistic and start small. In an ideal world, we would all follow the Department of Health and Human Services guidelines and exercise moderately 150 minutes per week–typically divided into five days for 30 minutes per day. However, your schedule may only allow for three or four days and/or 15-20 minutes per day. That’s okay. Commit to a realistic routine and time. Better to work within your schedule and be consistent with lesser amounts, than to do nothing at all.
- Make it part of your weekly routine. Brainstorm ways to reduce or eliminate barriers. Schedule exercise times into your smart calendar and set reminders, so nothing else can be scheduled during this time period. Schedule workouts with a friend in advance to build accountability, or use smart watches and/or fitness apps that allow you to link with friends, during workouts. Set out clothes, water bottles, equipment, snacks, and so forth, ahead of time. (I actually lay out all of my workout clothes for the week, set them in one stack by the bathroom, so I can grab and go quickly each morning.)
- Remember to reward yourself. “If I do this, then I can do this.” Think about what really motivates you, and then set mini-goals towards that reward. It could be as simple as giving yourself permission to watch your favorite guilty-pleasure TV series for thirty minutes after completing a workout, or heading to your favorite local coffee or smoothie shop with a friend after completing a week’s worth of goal workouts. With consistency, health rewards will also naturally begin to occur, such as, sleeping better, greater sense of self-esteem, reduction of stress, lowered blood pressure, etc.
“Day 29 of exercising for mental health. Finally feeling like myself again. I can’t believe I’ve gone my whole life without this. Love watching my heart and lungs get stronger so quickly. Getting my appetite for life back.”–@claraandherself (Tik Tok)
Barring any health issues, here are a few ideas for working around common obstacles that often occur when starting and/or maintaining an exercise program.
- Have flexible expectations. Sure, we’d all like to look and move like a Marvel or DC superhero, but that’s not realistic, especially when first starting a new exercise routine or new form of exercise. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and any exercise program takes time. However, little-by-little, improvements do occur, including moving with greater ease, less fatigue, feeling overall better/stronger, or even sleeping better. It won’t happen overnight, but with a fair amount of consistency, improvements will occur.
- Self-kindness and self-compassion always. Nobody is perfect. Kick ideas of perfection out of your head. Setbacks, illness, injuries, and other unplanned interruptions are going to happen. If you miss a day here or there or if you have a time span in which your workout plan went out the window, don’t let it derail your overall goal of lifelong wellness. Offer yourself the same compassion and understanding that you would offer a friend. Then, as soon as you can, get back to it–even if it means easing back into it or changing/adjusting your plan
- Avoid the all or nothing attitude. You do not need to spend hours each day engaged in exercise to reap the benefits. Even modest amounts of time will benefit your physical and mental well-being, and that could even include 5-10 minute movement breaks interspersed throughout your busy day!
- Slide day mentality. Don’t get me wrong. I am not giving you permission to let exercise slide. Instead, while you may have certain days/time you prefer exercise, be willing to slide a workout to another time or day of the week in order to accommodate week to week schedule fluctuations. Likewise, if you’re short on time, reduce your total workout time. A short workout is still better than no workout at all!
I encourage you to banish those limiting beliefs about movement and exercise. Ignore the toxic, guilt-inducing, body-shaming misinformation about exercise circulating on social media. Exercise movement is all-inclusive and should be a positive experience for EVERY BODY.
Of course, I am not a medical professional, as such, it’s always best to talk to your family health provider before beginning a new movement program. That said, as a so-called “non-athlete,” exercise has made a huge impact on my own physical and well-being, and I’ve watched it do the same for so many other dear ones in my life. It is my hope that if you are not currently incorporating much movement into your life, you will consider starting today. If you already embrace exercise, keep it up, and while you’re at it, grab a friend to move with you!
Wishing you the best health, Dear Reader!