I’m at a point in my life where, although I appreciate how important exercise is, I am absolutely unwilling to do any exercise that isn’t fun and doesn’t make me feel great. It’s taken me many years to arrive at this attitude. I’ve suffered through lots of tight leotards, gyms I didn’t feel comfortable at, countless leg lifts and sit-up’s, weird and expensive exercise equipment and Tony Little exercise videos (need I say more!?!).
Over the years, I’ve gone to great lengths to get fit. I did it because I felt obligated to - some “expert” or another told me that I should do THIS or THAT in order to get the body I wanted - and I have to admit that most of the time, it was drudgery, fueled by nothing more than willpower. When I gave up on it (as I inevitably did), I assumed that things fell apart because I didn’t have the willpower. WRONG! Things fell apart because ALL I had was willpower and willpower just isn’t enough.
Now, don’t get me wrong, willpower can be a really great tool (especially when it comes to getting/staying healthy). There are times that we need the extra “oomph” that comes from that kind of fierce determination, but by itself, willpower is not enough to sustain a healthy practice.
I’ll give you an example: I take yoga classes several times a week. There are times when we’ll be holding a pose for...like, FOREVER. My muscles are shaking (the “shake of joy,” as the instructors call it) and I’m using every bit of willpower to hold on to it because I’m determined to push myself past where I thought I could go. Those times when I’m successful, I know that willpower helped me get there and that’s a beautiful thing.
But willpower, alone, is NOT what gets my ass to yoga class, week after week. I go to yoga because I love everything about yoga class - the studio/environment, the people (my instructors and classmates), the music, the postures, the way I feel during and after class. Am I an expert yogi? Far from it, but I keep working at it because my practice brings me a lot of pleasure. This “pleasure principle” also explains why I’ve had a hard time sticking with certain exercises, like running or circuit training at the gym. I just don’t enjoy them the way I enjoy my yoga class.
And that, I’ve learned, is the key to sticking with an exercise program: Enjoyment. Not Willpower. As I reflected on this idea, I came up with a list of “non-negotiables” - things that I enjoy and absolutely must have in my exercise routine:
- a sense of play and fun
- a comfortable,“fuss free” environment (aka, no makeup or fancy workout attire)
- a non-competitive activity
- people I enjoy spending time with - or -
- something I can do by myself (a meditative sort of activity)
- music I love
- a challenging, yet do-able workout
- one that makes me feel centered in my body, energized and sexy ;)
Now, for some Action Steps:
Action Step 1: Spend time reflecting on your non-negotiables when it comes to exercise and choose an activity/activities that you truly enjoy. You can make a list like mine, or just think about the exercises you enjoy most. Then, I want you to lose any exercise habit/program/routine that you don’t take pleasure in. I mean it. You have my permission to stop doing it (especially if you’re paying good money for it!). If willpower is the only thing fueling you, it isn’t the right fit. You deserve to enjoy what you do.
Action Step 2: Incorporate those activities you love into your week. A few times a week is great. You don’t have to work out like a maniac, every single day, to get great results and cleansing benefits. I believe in being fit, not fanatic. The important thing is to move enough to work up a sweat.
So, go work that body, finish the week strong and I’ll be back on Monday with Week 3’s post :)
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