Hi All, I was recently asked to write a fitness article for a new magazine out of New Jersey. Representing on the east coast! Here’s the article in its entirety:
Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.
Who knew Newton knew so much about working out! He was the master of motion after all so it makes sense.
In relation to fitness, this First Law is true whether we can’t get motivated to get (back) to the gym or if we’re in a consistent rhythm of going. Once we get used to not exercising, it’s hard to find that groove again. Alternately, we can usually stay moving when we’re consistent. When it’s part of our routine, it’s easier to stick to our schedule — until we get knocked off of it! Sometimes – especially around the holidays – our best laid plans get sidelined. I’m a not physicist so far be it for me to challenge Sir Newton, but when it comes to keeping my own workout routine in motion, the thing that usually knocks me off track is an inside force, not an outside one. I know that most of my best intentions are interrupted by the one and only me even when I use all the outside forces as an excuse.
I’ve personally been knocked off my game plenty of times – and I’m a fitness coach! But I found that the best way to loosen the grip of excuses is to really consider whywe work out.
I’ve spent lots of time wondering why I work out and eat healthily. When I realized that my why is not about anything superficial, and certainly not based on what anyone else thinks, I was able to settle into my routine with more ease. I no longer work out to “achieve” something. I don’t eat healthily for an aesthetic end-goal. I work out because I know that I always feel better when I do so consistently. I feel alive and capable. I eat well because I feel a hundred times better when I do. Good food doesn’t bog me down. I can recover quicker, which for me translates to less stress on my joints. I feel less achy and my mind is clearer. And that’s it. My personal why doesn’t include an outdated idea of how much I “should” weigh or how I should look. In fact, I don’t attach any shoulds to my health and wellness routines. If I only worried about getting into some jeans or losing those last whatever pounds or any other made-up carrot that has no meaning in the grand scheme of our lives, then I would eventually resent going to the gym. I would never stick to eating well if only to rebel against the “shoulds.” We all deserve to take care of ourselves in the highest order to have the highest quality of our lives. With this shift into a deeper approach to health and fitness, I recognized that everything else in my life is simply more fun when I feel fit and strong. That became a powerful motivator. It was also a better motivator than I haveto go to the gym because I ate too much dinner. My why feels real and sustainable for me. Being able to go on a long hike with friends without worry eases my mind. Being able to easily put my own luggage in the overhead bin makes me feel capable. Keeping up with my active husband and daughters is empowering.
After rejecting the “shoulds”, I decided that I only wanted to do workouts that I actually like. I don’t do the workouts that some magazine tells me is the best to drop a few pounds in the new year — unless it sounds fun. Fun is a huge motivator for me and I often do things based solely on that. I like dance-related workouts so I try those. I like to lift weights because I love feeling strong and I like the fact that my bones have a better chance of staying strong if I lift weights. I like to shoot hoops. I like yoga – though I didn’t always. When I realized that yoga is not a competitive activity like some classes seem to encourage, I was able to tune out the superficial noise and I used yoga as a way to stretch and recover (both my mind and body), and I had a better time and reaped the benefits.
I imagine most of you feel better once you’ve worked out — and hopefully a little during. If the thought of doing anything active sounds like a complete drag, are you willing to try new things, and only things that seem kinda fun? What did you like when you were a kid? Who says we can’t revisit the things that seemed fun at any point in our lives? Take up lessons in a sport you always wanted to learn. It’s never too late for anything. Maybe you can turn everyday things around the house into a fitness game if your time feels limited. Use your imagination, and if that fails, ask your kids to make up the game. They’re good at that. Does a walk first thing in the morning or after dinner sound nice? Does a fifteen-minute free yoga video on YouTube sound intriguing? (Btw, YouTube is an endless source of free workouts). Has a friend fallen in love – seemingly become obsessed with – Zumba/Orangetheory/CrossFit/whatever, which kind of annoys you but deep down you wish you felt that way about an exercise routine? Go try it! If you don’t like it, try something else. Try things that call to you even if others roll their eyes. Nothing says you can’t try things until you admit something is pretty fun. Go find that inside/outside force that kicks you into motion. Make it personal. Make it yours. And make it fun for crying out loud.
Going into the holidays and sticking to our healthful intentions can be a challenge. I completely understand and we’ve all been there. But if we keep telling ourselves how hard it will be, we’re stacking the odds against us. Maybe we don’t have to make it as hard as we’ve perceived in the past. It just takes practice asserting the habits we want for ourselves. When family questions why you’re eating a certain way or why you want to exercise “all the time,” we sometimes avoid the confrontation because we haven’t spent enough time sticking to our plan. With more practice, your whys will eventually take priority.
Whether you want to get started or get back to it, you can. Here are some suggestions on how:
What’s your Why?Does that sound too woowoo? I get it, but if you treat this as a legitimate question, your ability to stick to something will feel more personal; it will be important to you. Why do you want to work out and be healthy? Is there a deeper why other than to lose a few pounds? Or to show off at the company holiday party? I understand those whys, believe me, but can we dig for something with more substance? My grandmother died at fifty-four of an untreated cancer. That’s been on my mind since I turned forty and I do everything I can to give myself the best shot at staying disease-free. We get things done when they are important to us. A really good coach once asked me, “On a scale of 1-10, how badly do you want the thing you say you want?” If I ever answered a 7 or less she said, “We don’t get ‘7’s’ done. 8’s are marginal. We get 9’s and 10’s done.” Dig deeper and find only the why’s that are 9+ on your scale of importance.
Schedule your workouts in your calendar.You’ve probably heard this before, but it works. Writing it into your schedule means you’ve made it important. Health and fitness add value to your life and scheduling them affirms that you recognize their importance just like anything else that adds value. The care with which you treat yourself directly translates to the care you extend. If you are traveling or have time off during the holidays, scheduling in your gym time becomes more important. You may not work out as often, or the work outs may look different, but adjust your calendar to reflect what’s in front of you. Can you find a class – maybe even a new and interesting one – wherever you’re traveling? Look at class schedules in advance, and write it in your calendar. If you have family visiting, fit in an hour to yourself to work out. You might even regain patience! Or take your family on walks, hikes, and bike rides.
Eat nothing mediocre!If you want some of Auntie Norma’s famous blueberry pie that you love so much, have some. Have the things you really love, and say no to the rest. Keep eating the healthy foods that you’ve realized make your body and mind feel good, and have things here and there that are really delicious. If you don’t really love that marshmallow yam thing, for the love of root vegetables, don’t eat it. Give yourself permission to eat a couple things you really love – and give yourself equal permission to NOT eat anything that’s mediocre.
Don’t villainize choices.If you ate a little too much or you missed a couple days of exercising – news flash! – you’re not a terrible person. Things happen. Back to it. Listen, if we approach our lives with a little more compassion and a little bit of fortitude, we’re going to get more things done in the long run, and we’ll feel better for it. Shame is so last century! And shame and beating ourselves up constantly only shoves us deeper into the rut we don’t want to be in. Ultimately it gets us nowhere and it’s a time waster. We have things to do so be kind to yourself and get back to it. If you approach it as simple as that, it can be as simple as that.
You got this.Isaac Newton only addressed the physical momentum of getting moving and staying moving. But our mental momentum can work similarly with regards to our health habits. It’s a practice like anything else, and like Newton’s First Law, the more you put the actual practice in motion, the easier it will be to stick to it. Stay kind to yourself, get to it for yourimportant reasons, and keep it fun. The chances of staying in motion will be so much greater — and it will be much more enjoyable. You got this.
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