I have a confession to make – I used to hate exercise. Hate, the word I tell my kids not to use but here I am using it. And when you hate something, why would you be motivated to do it? The problem for me was I didn’t do what I enjoyed, I did what others did or what was popular and for what? I would try it for a bit and then give up. EVERY year and EVERY to do list (and I make a LOT of to do lists), I put I would “exercise 3X a week”. It never happened.
A few years ago I was on a work trip in Miami (rough I know) with my boss at the time and I asked him what he did to not think about work outside of office hours. This was something I struggled with and wanted to improve on. He shared that he would run. It was his way to destress and clear his head. I carried that idea with me for years. I loved the idea of doing something where I could get physically fit and clear my head and destress. I found it super intriguing, yet still didn’t do it. I would occasionally (ok rarely) run on the treadmill at the gym and think I was a runner. I even told a masseuse I was a runner when he asked me if I was, while massaging my calves. Boy did my husband call me out on that one! I even talked about signing up for the 10K Sporting Life run but then found a million excuses as to why I couldn’t. I didn’t have time to train, I was too busy with work and the kids, how would I get there and get home, I didn’t own “running clothes”, etc. So instead of trying to become a runner, which I found myself longing to be, I stuck with trying to do things that I just didn’t enjoy. I figured if I kept trying them, I would eventually like them.
It took until last year for me to finally discover what works for ME. What motivates ME. What makes ME feel good.
I knew I could no longer pretend to get fit. I needed to actually do it and that it was crucial for both my physical and mental wellbeing. I needed a way to turn my mind off and destress. I turned to what I love and for me it became simple – I loved running and dance parties. Turns out running was something I thought I hated, when in fact was something I loved. Running was my thing growing up. Cross-country and track and field. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. I trained for fun. But then I got older and somehow I forgot about it and turned to things I just didn’t really enjoy but wished I did. I like to look at it this way – you know when you dated that really nice person and you wanted to like them more than you did, but couldn’t? It’s the same with exercise. If it’s just not working for you, move on. Find what does work. And if you’re thinking a dance party isn’t exercise, think again! I have an Apple watch that tracks my activity and I was blown away at how many calories I burn while dancing. The more we start thinking about exercise as really just fun ways to move our bodies, the more possibilities we open up.
Moving my body is so much more than being physically healthy. I’m in a pretty high stress job (client services at an advertising agency) and running and dancing for me releases my stress and clears my mind. Now I know it’s a TV show but when the Doctors would dance on Grey’s Anatomy to destress, I loved it. Those were some of my favourite scenes yet it took me a long time to make the connection that the same could work for me.
Habits are more likely to stick when we find them pleasurable (good and bad), hence why it took 38 years for exercise to finally stick for me. Here’s what I had to overcome:
Looking at what I enjoyed, not what others enjoyed or what was popular
Figuring out what time of day worked best – I used to wait until the evenings but would find myself too tired or too busy with the kids to follow through. Early mornings work best for me as I don’t have anything come up that would cause me to cancel and I have more energy.
Thinking I had no time – once I sat down and mapped out my weekly hours (see my post here to learn more about this), I saw I had way more free time than I would tell myself and all I really needed was 30 minutes a day
Thinking I had be a good runner before I ran in public – as I’ve said earlier, this is liking telling our kids they need to know how to ride a bike or swim before they do it in front of others which is ludicrous.
Getting over my fear of going out alone in the dark. Early mornings are dark and that freaks me out. But even though it’s dark, I’m amazed at how many people are out walking, running or biking. Once I did it a few times and realized it’s actually safe, it’s now one of my favourite times of the day. Seeing the moon and stars at the start of my run, followed by the spectacular sunrise is pretty breathtaking. And you know what? I used to have watching the sunrise on my bucket list as I thought it was going to be a really big deal to ever get up in time to see it and to convince others to come with me as I didn’t think I could do it alone.
Buy the darn outfit or equipment – I stopped running when it got cold as I didn’t have the right gloves or jacket and found myself freezing. I now have a jacket (in red, my favourite colour and my first official piece of running clothing), lined running pants and gloves and am golden! Until we have a lot of snow on the ground that is. Then I’ll be back to the treadmill.
Listen to what will get you going. It can be music, a podcast, watching tv, nature. Again, whatever makes you happy and will help motivate you. My running play list ranges from 90s dance music to current dance music to Foo Fighters to Dolly Parton. I love pressing shuffle and never knowing what song awaits me.
Changing my “shoulds” or “I’ll try” to “I will” and “I am going to”! “Shoulds” sound like someone else telling us to do something rather than us wanting to do it for ourselves and “I’ll try” is already giving yourself an out if you don’t follow through. No more excuses.
Lastly, moving our bodies isn’t always going to be fun or easy. There are many times I don’t want to go running or where I want to stop halfway through, and where I justify why I should stop over and over in my head, so my last tip is to share your movement goals with others. We all need someone who will be our cheerleader and someone who will give us a kick in the butt when we fall off track – find both! And remind yourself how good you feel after your run, or yoga class or TRX workout. Especially on the days you would rather sit on the couch and watch Netflix.