A lot of you have written me asking about my philosophy toward exercise. So I wanted to talk about that today. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you won't be surprised to learn that my philosophy toward exercise is actually the same as my philosophy about toward food and eating:
You can be trusted.
I deeply believe that our bodies want to move, need to move, love to move. I believe if you can access that truth, you'll exercise in a way that feels good, easy, and joyful. And more importantly, you won't have to willpower your way into it.
But most of us have forgotten how to do that. We're often so overwhelmed from our days that we don't think we have time to care for and nourish our bodies. Or maybe we never learned — maybe exercise was always painful and arduous.
If you have a fraught relationship with exercise, you probably keep coming back to these three excuses. I know I certainly did. But here are some unconventional things for you to try when you encounter them:
1. "I don't feel like exercising"
Many of us find ourselves in a constant battle between the Strict Personal Trainer part of ourselves who says, "You lazy bum! Get out there and move it," and the Couch Potato who just wants to veg all day, every day.
But if that's happening to you, it's worthwhile to notice that you've gotten so lost in the battle that you've lost sight of the reality of exercise — that it can be a way of being good to yourself, of loving yourself better.
Try: Instead of fueling the battle by forcing yourself to exercise or rebelliously going on YouTube for two hours, have a conversation with both sides:
What is the part of you that doesn't want to exercise trying to tell you? I hate running, it's too hard. It's too cold, I can't bear to leave the house. I've had absolutely no time to myself today, I need this half hour for ME. Sometimes it helps to put your hands on your body, on your heart and your belly, and ask, My beloved, what do you need right now?
And what is the domineering Personal Trainer really trying to say? I'm afraid if I don't push you hard enough, you'll explode like a blob! Or I'm nervous about going to your college reunion, and I want you to look hot so you'll feel confident!
Once you know the truth about what's going on, you can figure out what to change to make sure that both of their needs get met. Maybe a 5-minute workout (see #3) would be useful? Or maybe just integrating more movement into your day is what you need (see #2)? But until you have that honest conversation, you won't know.
2. "I am just not an 'exercising' type of person"
We can all get so fixated on "exercise" meaning "run three miles" or "do a 50-minute Soul Cycle class" or at the very least "do an activity that requires me to wear spandex and running shoes" that we forget that exercise doesn't have to be Exercise with a capital E.
In fact, when exercise is just about making your body feel good by moving it, then it can show up in all kinds of unexpected places.
It was a game-changer for me when I realized that movement was the antidote to feeling stressed, overwhelmed, bored, or annoyed, particularly about work.
Before I understood that, I often found myself checking Facebook or standing in my kitchen looking for a little bite of something sweet.
But when I actually asked myself what I wanted, it turned out that moving sounded good. I wanted to escape my desk and get fresh air, or do something fun. So I started taking a quick 5-minute walk around the block of my office building. Or when I was at home, I would put on a song and jam to it.
Not only did it make me feel good, it made it easier to tackle whatever challenging thing I was working on.
Try: Look for opportunities to move your body as a treat within your day, and an alternative to other ways you might have of relieving stress. It won't give you a six-pack, but even doing stretches at your desk for 30 seconds in between emails can be a way of improving your mood and telling your body that you love her.
3. "I would like to exercise, but I don't have time!"
Some days, I know I want to move my body, but I'm still resisting. It's too cold and I don't have time and I'm tired and I want more time to veg.
But I gradually realized that the biggest part of the problem was that the thought a half hour, 45-minute, or hour-long workout was more than I could bear.
Then I discovered the 5-minute workout. And it was a game-changer.
The premise of the 5-minute workout is that you only work out for 5 minutes.
I mean it. Roll out that yoga mat and set a timer. Check the time and walk out your door for a 5-minute walk.
I realized that even 5 minutes had the potential to significantly improve my mood, how my body was feeling, and my day. So if I'm making it about 45 minutes or nothing, I was missing the point.
Sometimes I decide to work out more after the 5 minutes. Often it's just fear holding me back from starting, and once I realize how awesome it feels to move my body, I want to do more of it. But also, many days I just do 5 minutes.
Try: Think about what workout you could do for 5 minutes. Could you take a walk, dance, do yoga? On a day when you're thinking about not moving at all, try doing a 5-minute workout. It's less time than it would take you to read a Buzzfeed article!
I wish you all a movement-filled week!
For extra credit: Let me know in the comments which of these ideas is the most appealing. How do you get moving during your day?