For those of you who follow my blog and website, you may have noticed I’ve been pretty quiet around the New Year. I don’t know about you, but my inbox is full right now with promotional offers from gyms, trainers, and online exercise programs promising me all sorts deals for a new me in the new year. Thank you, fitness industry, but I think I’ll stick to the me I have right now. I like her just fine 🙂
Recently, I led workshop for youth at the Rainbow Community Center in Concord, CA about self-love and exercise. One participant brought up that he feels frustrated because it’s hard to get a machine at the gym in January, but, by February, gym attendance is back down to a more moderate rate. I used to work at a gym where the staff would take on extra shifts in January to deal with the influx of members. Again, by February, attendance would return to “normal.”
His observation brings up the question:
How can we develop habits of self-care and movement that stay with us year-round?
Here are some of my thoughts, stemming from my own experience, and my work with clients. I’m curious to hear what resonates with you, and what you would add to this list.
1) Exercise Doesn’t have To Be All or Nothing:
So often, resolutions fail because we think we have to do them to the extreme, or it doesn’t count at all. If we don’t go to the gym 5 days a week (for example), we throw in the towel, and think that none of it was worth it.
Exercise (and life) doesn’t have to exist in this all-or-nothing binary. Everything “counts.” Walking counts. Doing a few squats while waiting for the laundry to finish counts. Playing with your kid on the playground counts. We can think outside the box about how to incorporate movement into daily life. It doesn’t always have to be regimented.
2) Do What Makes You Feel Alive
Take a moment and sit or stand with your feet on the ground. Notice your breath. Picture a time in your life when you felt joyful in your body. It could be sometime recently, or sometime when you were a child. Take a moment and feel this feeling in your body. What are some of the sensations you experience? You can close your eyes to help you dig in deeper.
What if movement could feel like this right now? What is one activity that might make you feel this way?
This is a really big question, and, often, a really difficult or emotional one. Often times there is not a simple answer. It is a question that you can gently pose to yourself, and continue to come back to.
3) Focus on intrinsic, rather than external motivations
If you are motivated to exercise for health reasons, focus on what is important to you about your particular health goal.
Exercise can bring benefits such as stress reduction, greater energy throughout the day, regulating sleep and digestion.
When we are motivated by weight loss or by looking a certain way, we become more focused on what others think of us.
Focus on the feeling you want to have, and the health benefit that is most important to you.
4) Find a supportive, non-judgmental space
Find a place to move/exercise where you feel welcome and where no one will make comments about your body or your weight. Do you have a supportive friend you can go to the gym or to a new dance class with? Do you know any gyms, studios, or personal trainers who are reputable for being welcoming? And, whether you answered yes or no: how can you create a kind and non-judgmental space within yourself? Do you have a positive mantra you can say to yourself while exercising? One I say to myself is: Slow and Steady.
5) Failure is an opportunity for assessment
It is so easy to get into the habit of beating ourselves up when we “fail” at diet, exercise, or some new intention. What if this “failure” is actually a great moment for you to dig deep and evaluate what it is you truly do or don’t want to be doing? Failure is an opportunity to identify what are your intrinsic versus your external motivations, and to reconfigure your goals and plans. Failure is also a great time to say “fuck it” to something you truly don’t want to do. Health priorities look different for every single person. What is a good idea for your friend isn’t necessarily best for you.
6) Set manageable and achievable goals. Be realistic. Celebrate your successes!
Making goals that you are likely to follow through on (even if they seem small to you) allows you to feel proud about your successes, and keep building on them. Try this concept with fitness. What is do-able for you today, in this moment?
As always, I’d love to hear from you!