Can't seem to stick to an exercise regimen? Overwhelmed by all of the options out there?
Here are some tips to help you figure out the how's, the what's, and the when's of moving your body in a way that will FEEL good, help you STICK to your program, and achieve your goals.
1) Get real with yourself.
This one is HUGE, so don't overlook it. Many stumbling blocks to a successful routine are because we tell ourselves what we SHOULD feel, do, want, etc. We end up carrying around tons of baggage around "exercise" that may not even be ours to carry and certainly isn't anything that is helpful.
When you have a few minutes to think, during that drive to work or in the shower, really get clear on how your body is feeling. Think about what your current movement routine is AND what you want out of it.
Maybe the most movement you get is walking into Target from the parking lot and chasing after your kids during the day, and you are tired of being out of breath all of the time.
Perhaps you take your dog for a walk regularly or always take the stairs at work, but you've noticed that carrying in groceries has gotten a bit harder lately and your posture sucks.
Or maybe you already are good about getting to yoga or the gym so many days a week, but just aren't seeing the results you want.
While you're thinking, consider what movement is fun and what you don't like. What is something you'd be excited to try? What is something that makes you cringe? With so many fitness trends out there, it is easy to think you need to do whatever shows up in your facebook feed.
Instead, let's take advantage of all of the crazy ways to healthfully exercise these days and make it work for you!
No matter how you answer these questions, knowing where you are at and what you actually like will help you set reasonable expectations and goals for yourself.
2) Observe: When you do move, how do you feel?
Exercise may not always be enjoyable or fun for everyone. In fact, it may be downright uncomfortable, but it should never be painful. If so, you have options- from seeking out professional help from a physical therapist to choosing a different activity. It totally depends on your situation, but whatever you do, don't push through it.
Also, when your moving, what is your brain telling you? Really listen to that internal chatter. If your brain is consistently saying things like, "Man, I'm going to hurt for a week after this!" or "Oh Lord, when will this end??? SOOO BOOORINNG!" Find something else to do! You don't HAVE to do yoga just because everyone you know seems to be doing it. Or maybe there's a different style that you'd enjoy more. There are so many different types of movement, and with the internet and YouTube, we have access to so many free and affordable forms of exercise. Do a little research and try something new.
Another consideration is how you feel AFTER you move. *This is big if you're not seeing the results that you want.* If you are feeling run down, losing energy or generally feeling depleted, think about adding in more low and slow workouts that aren't so challenging to your system. If you overstress your body physically, you're likely to start going AWAY from your goals and risk falling off of the wagon altogether.
3) Set a baby step goal.
People are WAY more likely to continue a behavior if they find a little success to keep them going. However, when it comes to exercise, people usually set unrealistic goals like losing 5 pounds every week or looking Instagram perfect at yoga the first class.
Instead, set a goal that doesn't have anything to do with your body. No weight or inches goals here. No goals about lifting this much weight or flying your crow in the first week. Be specific, but not too specific.
For instance, commit to showing up at the gym and doing something 3 times this week without worrying about what you'll do or how long you'll stay. You can always grow your goal next week if that turned out to be too easy.
Walk for 10 minutes after dinner with your kids or friend 4 days this week, but don't get tied up in how far or fast you're going.
Goals like this are more empowering and easier to complete because YOU have way more control over them, and more importantly, there's less baggage attached.
If you're one of those feeling exhausted after working out or only chooses high intensity workouts and isn't seeing progress, consider choosing to add in 1-2 low intensity, recovery workouts per week as your goal- or even a rest day. This is often a HUGE challenge to my long-time exercisers addicted to the endorphins, but is a gamechanger.
When you set a goal that is reliant on your body changing in some way, you lose some of that control and with it your chance of success drops and your risk of feeling like a failure skyrockets because now we've gone and allowed shame and judgment in the door.
So, right this instant, think of ONE thing you can do in the next week that you are at least 80% sure you can achieve. Write it down. I'll wait :)
4) Break down your goal into teeny tiny action steps.
Think through the details that go into achieving your goal. What are the logistics of making it work?
Do you have the clothes, shoes, or equipment needed? How much will it cost and how will it impact your budget? Is there a free option?
Will you need support from others? This can be practical, like in the form of childcare or it can be emotional, in the form of asking someone to check in to hold you accountable.
Let's say you decide to take a 10 min walk 5 days this week with your kids after dinner. Does that mean you need to start dinner 10 min earlier? Or maybe, bed time is 10 minutes later for your kids. Or perhaps, you leave the dishes to do until after your walk or even bedtime.
Do you need to check the weather? Is it supposed to rain this week? Is there a practice or PTO meeting scheduled? If so, maybe 5 nights a week isn't reasonable, but 3 is. That's totally ok, too!
Remember, we want you to succeed this first week!
5) Don't be afraid to change your goal
This is not the get out of jail free card it might sound like, so don't let your mind go there. BUT, if as you go along, you find that your body is not capable of healthfully accomplishing the goal, CHANGE IT. Be flexible with yourself!
This means a few things. If you initially set out to walk for 30 min 3 nights a week, but your knee starts talking to you at 15 minutes, change your goal! You can always go longer if it feels good to do so.
It also means that if your goal is causing you so much stress to accomplish it, figure out a way to adapt to make it feel good. If you start off thinking you're going to go to a yoga class, but every time you go you get hives over the cost or feeling inadequate about the seemingly professional yogis all around you (note the word seemingly- I promise you they're not!). Find a different class! Stay home and do a YouTube yoga class instead.
Another example I often see is women who are in no way early risers and perhaps already not getting enough sleep, swearing to themselves they're going to get up at 4am to work out. Yes, some women do adapt over time, but if you're not one of them, there's no shame in the game of sleeping to the last minute as long as you do the work of finding another time to slide in your workout.
Grace over guilt. Progress over perfection. Whatever phrase resonates with you here... remember this is about taking care off yourself so you can be the version of you that YOU desire.
At the end of the day, YOU determine your own success, even when it comes to exercise.