What’s the first word or picture that comes to your mind when you hear the word “exercise”? Does it have a positive connotation, or a negative connotation for you? Does that very word motivate you or does it make you want to sit back down with a bag of chips and get serious about it tomorrow? Is there another way to think about exercise? Is there a different word we could use that would make the whole idea a little more appealing?
When I first decided to make some lifestyle changes in order to get healthier, I knew that “exercise” had to be a part of it. I had goals. I was going to change my eating habits. I was going to lose some weight. I was going to join a gym. I was a very out of shape and unhealthy 50 something woman. However, I was motivated and I did it. I joined the gym. I changed my eating habits. I lost 50 pounds. I achieved my goals.
I also knew that if I was going to sustain that weight loss, and keep the momentum going with my improving health, I had to turn those lifestyle changes into “lifelong habits”. I began to really love eating the foods that were good for my body, and I actually began to crave things that were good for me.
However, the daily grind of “exercise” began to wear on me. The novelty wore off. Going to the gym began to feel like a chore. I began to let a day slip by here and there without going to the gym. Then two days. Then three days, etc. Before I knew it, a month had gone by and I had not been to the gym. Then the guilt set in. Every day I began to hear myself say, “You should go to the gym. You should get out for a walk.” Some days I went so far as to put my workout clothes on, grab my bag and keys and head for the door. Only to put the keys back, my bag down, and change back into my street clothes. You see, I just didn’t enjoy the gym anymore. I didn’t like the lighting, I didn’t like the machines, I didn’t like the sweaty, grunting men (just keeping it real).
I thought about the fact that exercise was supposed to be a form of self care, but when I went to the gym, it felt like anything but that. I went through the motions, and counted down the long minutes until I could get off that treadmill or elliptical. It was a drag, and I hated every moment of it. Isn’t self care supposed to make you feel good?
I decided to look for a different way. Why should I pay money to do something I didn’t enjoy? Is it possible I could find a new way to look at this word “exercise”? Does “exercise” have to be a formal practice every day? Does it have to happen at the gym? Does it have to be a 30 minute or more chunk out of my day, five times a week?
I had to be honest with myself and realize that if I was going to sustain this habit called “exercise” for the rest of my life, I needed to first of all, call it something else. Physical Activity? That still sounds like a chore. How about “movement”? That I could do! I also decided that I was not going to pressure myself to carve out a chunk of time every single day to do a formal practice of “movement”.
I thought perhaps 15 minutes twice a day, or even 10 minutes 3 times a day. That seems doable!
So what does this word “movement” mean? Can it possibly have the same positive impact on my body and my health as “exercise”? I believe that it can. I set out to find ways to fit movement into my life and incorporate it into things I already had to do.
So I thought about my daily activities. I realized that I felt much better during the day and it was easier to get going if I start out with some stretching, so beginning my day with 10 minutes of yoga. There you go. I am one third done for the day! What other things do I do in an ordinary day? I do laundry just about every day. My washer and dryer are in my basement. So when I go up and down the stairs to tend to my laundry, I do a couple extra sets of stairs. If I pick up the pace while I am doing it, this also gets my heart rate up, so there’s my cardio. What else do I do in a day? How about tooth brushing? I can do the tree pose for balance while I am brushing my teeth. Oh and there is the many times per day I check my email, or sit at my computer reading articles, or listening to a podcast? I can stand up while listening to the podcast and do some arm circles, or lift some handweights, or do a one minute plank, or any combination of the above. It can be whatever strikes my fancy in the moment! Or, while I am fluffing my pillows, or sweeping the floor, I can put a couple dance moves in here and there.
You see, when I starting looking at exercise as “movement”, a whole new perspective opened up for me, and I realized I could incorporate movement into just about anything during the day. I could move while sitting, standing, walking, climbing, etc. Anything! I discovered it is easy to get that 30 minutes of movement incorporated into my day, as opposed to carving out 30 minutes or more of my day for a formal practice.
I believe you can do this too!
You see, the key is to find a way to incorporate movement in a way that you are not thinking about it as exercise, and thus, it does not feel like a chore. I found ways to make it truly feel like fun, and in so doing, it became an act of self care.
Some days you might still want to just break a sweat. I still do that too, and it’s a great feeling. The difference is that now I don’t feel guilt on the days I don’t have time for a 45 minute workout, or I just don’t have the energy. No guilt, because I know I can still incorporate movement in my everyday tasks, and I can feel just as good about it.
You can too! I’d love to hear your ideas for creative ways to get movement incorporated into your day. I’d like some new ideas myself!