24 Jan Fall in Love With Exercise (Really) with 8 Tips from New York City Dietitian and Personal Trainer
In our month of resolutions, this might be the most radical: getting exercise-phobes to love … exercise. Exercise, just the mention of it, has become many people’s great nemesis. There are many funny memes and supposedly inspirational quotes that float around the internet about it:
Exercise in the morning … before your brain figures out what you’re doing.
My favorite exercise is a cross between a lunge and a crunch … I call it lunch.
My fitness goal is to get down to what I told the DMV I weigh.
You earn your body: I want to get healthy. I want to eat better. I will eat right. I will exercise. I will earn my body.
Just as with food, one of the key problems with exercise in this country isn’t how we exercise, instead why we exercise. Exercise, often, is a means (or punishment) to a goal (this “ideal” weight) that, once achieved, gets shelved. So instead of developing a healthy movement mindset and lifetime habits, we end up creating short-term goals and high-intensity workouts to achieve them. This puts us at risk for the emotional, and physical, ups and downs of yo-yo dieting.
And as soon as a personal trainer says the word, “exercise,” people’s minds conjure up a sweat and menthol-smelling gym with neon lycra and techno music. Honestly, a gym can be an intimidating place for many.
There are limitless ways to find exercise in your life and start to live a life where movement is a core part of it. So, exhale, and fall in love with not only exercise but what your body is capable of doing. Here are 8 tips to help you learn to love to move.
- Do what you love! Exercise isn’t limited to gyms, running, and pilates. Really. Walking, salsa classes, swimming, yoga, jump roping, riding a bike … Exercise comes in every shape and size, just as people do. Try different activities until you zone in on what you love (okay, like more than the others … sometimes love takes time).
- Don’t start with a marathon. Oftentimes, in the New Year, people get excited about exercise and start with some crazy, ambitious activities. A pretty common scenario is someone deciding to run, buying some shoes, and running five miles the first day. This ends up in crazy-sore muscles and joints and lots of discomfort for many days. Then going out that second day feels overwhelming. Instead of starting with pain (because with new exercise, you may feel discomfort, but I never recommend pain), start with something small. Go to a track and jog the curves, walk the straights. Do two laps the first day. Build up as your body gets stronger. Or walk to the park with your kids, instead of taking the car. While they play, walk around the park, don’t sit down. Every little bit counts. Any movement is better than no movement.
- Take time to be present. I love the Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” When was the last time you took an hour to yourself? To be present, listening to your breath, being aware of your muscles? Exercise is an escape from the madness, from technology, and a way to be thankful for your body and mind. Whether you take twenty minutes or an hour, take the time to exercise as a time for yourself. This is a gift.
- Peer pressure can keep you exercising, especially in those first critical months. If you know your co-worker is waiting for you to pick her up to get to the gym at 5:00 am, and you don’t show up, you will often drag yourself out of bed to get there. Joining a class or setting up a lunch-walk group are great ways to keep you accountable and not alone.
- The intimidation factor: As opposed to “positive” peer pressure, many larger-sized people feel ashamed to exercise with others because they believe everybody else is in better shape than they are. Yoga, Zumba classes, pilates … can be incredibly intimidating experiences. Look for supportive environments where you feel welcome and comfortable. A great example of this is Buddha Body Yoga in New York City.
- Make exercise a family affair. Yes. I can already hear the groans and mumbles. How can you get your teenager off the couch? Go to your community center and sign up for classes as a family – everything from geocaching to dance, tennis to handball. Creating spaces for the family to exercise together helps form lifetime exercise habits in kids. Healthy kids = healthy adults.
- Pump it up: Turn on the Footloose theme song and get moving. It’s impossible to not want to rock out and move to some songs. So, make a soundtrack for vacuuming, dusting, washing dishes, gardening, and other household chores. This, too, is a cool way to build endurance to the sounds of your favorite songs. Create a playlist. Move, run, walk, jog, jump-rope to a number of songs. Build up from there, adding one song each week until you get through the playlist.
- Walk everywhere (or bike): To work. To the grocery store. To school. Make your feet the first transportation option. And if you have to drive, park in the space farthest from the store. Take the stairs (if it’s safe and they’re illuminated). Find movement opportunities everywhere.
Be kind about your body and your exercise process. Understand that everybody has a different curve, so to speak, for getting into exercise. Every time you move, you are helping build a healthier body and mind. We’ve got our beautiful bodies for a lifetime. It’s a great idea to start to show them a little more love … one step, one movement, at a time!