As I was driving to the gym for my Tuesday morning 5:30 a.m. bootcamp class last week, I realized that it was probably a little unusual that I was up this early to exercise, and yet I was still legitimately excited about going to a very tough workout. How is that even possible, you ask? With plenty of New Year's health and fitness resolutions on the horizon, it's a convenient time for me to share how I have learned to love exercise!
I should start by saying that I have always enjoyed being physically active. I played very competitive soccer through college, as well as basketball, swimming, and A LOT of horseback riding in my childhood. But as an adult, when work, family, and life can make it difficult to squeeze in that dedicated fitness time, getting an effective workout can easily become a chore...one more thing on my To-Do List...something that we know we should do, but avoid and dread in reality. I get it! I've been there. And here's how I've found joy in physical activity again...
1. Don't Exercise to Lose Weight. Sounds weird, right? But guess what: if that's your only motivation for getting up and moving, the excitement of a smaller jeans size will quickly wear off, and you'll be hitting the snooze button in no time. You've got to find SOME OTHER reason to make fitness a habit. What's yours?
For me, it's a couple of different things. I love how I feel after getting some exercise (especially fresh air) -- positive, upbeat, strong, and calm (endorphins are REAL, friends)! I also love that it empowers me. Lifting weights or accomplishing something physically challenging just makes me feel GOOD. In charge. Confident. And, since I have three very active little boys, I want to be healthy and strong for a long time so that I can keep up with them. I want to be able to play soccer with them, chase them around the yard, and pick them up when I need to without my back hurting!
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2. Find the Workouts that YOU LOVE. This might take some trial and error, but there is something (maybe more than one thing) for everyone. Take some classes, rent some workout DVD's, or try some team sports -- something will just "click" eventually.
For me, it's a mix. I have found that I love walking with my girlfriends. Since social time is limited (due to kids' schedules and work commitments), I use exercise as a way to connect with friends and visit while still getting my heart rate up. Multitasking at its best!
I also love the aforementioned boot camp classes at my gym, which are 30-minute tabata-style or boxing workouts with a trainer and a small group of other (crazy) moms who get up before their kids in order to squeeze in a workout. Again, this is not just a fun way for me to get some exercise, but it's also another chance to get some socializing in. The team camaraderie here reminds me a lot of my soccer days, and it fuels and encourages me each time!
On weekends (or quiet weekdays), there's nothing more I love than taking the boys and the dog out for a walk in the woods. We're fortunate enough to live right near Shenandoah National Park, and Keith and I try to take advantage of these amazing resources as often as possible.
And finally, YOGA. Before I had kids, I went to yoga classes at the gym almost every day during my lunch break from work. Now that I'm not in an office, and now that we don't have any yoga classes in our County, I have learned to get my yoga from DVD's at home. While it's not ideal, it's necessary! I enjoy yoga for the calming, peaceful, centering, and STRETCHING that my mind and body so desperately need.
Together, it turns out that these options make up a great well-rounded exercise routine. But I'm not rigid about it. There are plenty of weeks when I can't get to the bootcamps, or I just can't find a convenient time to walk with a friend (hello, Winter Weather). Instead, I'll pop in one of my favorite DVD's in my living room, grab my jump rope for a 15 Minute Workout, or do a quick routine in my living room. Most of all, I'm flexible, I'm kind to myself, and I listen to what my mind and my body want!
This is all a (very) longwinded way of saying that YOU can find what appeals to YOU. When you do, you will soon realize that you're actually looking forward to your workouts...and NOT because you're trying to lose weight!
Whether it's a Barre class, Zumba, marathon training, zoning out with a magazine on the elliptical, or simply lifting dumbbells in your bedroom, I'm confident that everyone can find at least one form of movement that they enjoy! And once you find it, give yourself permission to do THAT workout with pleasure, and to not compare yourself or your workout routine to anyone else. Because we are all different, with different personalities, strengths, and goals. You do YOU...and have fun!