Tag Archives: positive thinking

The Fitness of Playing: Making Exercise (More) Fun May Be a Key to Keeping Yourself Doing It

Image Courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of AKARAKINGDOMS at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Too many people find it difficult to exercise often enough to stay fit and healthy. The reasons for this are complex, for sure. But I’ve come to believe that one big barrier to exercising regularly for many people is the fact that they simply haven’t found any physical activity that resonates with them enough to make it fun, or at least fun enough to want to continue.

We, as humans, love to have fun. Laughter and playfulness can help make physical activity fun and engaging, drawing a person to return to the activity in question again and again – not because they think they “should” in order to stay fit, but because they actually enjoy the activity and look forward to doing it…or look forward to how great they feel after doing it, as the case may be.

This is one of the lost concepts in fitness plans and programs and ideas for too many people, creating an obstacle to health and fitness. There’s a sense of exercising being a blah, icky, necessary evil that people have to endure if they don’t want to end up overweight or out of shape or both.

It’s true – exercise plans can indeed be boring and distasteful. Also true is that what one person loves and savors and find works wonders for them and lights their inner fire may draw an exactly opposite response from another person.

It’s so common for each of us as individuals to assume that everyone else wants what we want and thinks how we think and will experience what we experience in the same way with the same reaction. We also take comfort in numbers, so having others affirm that our choice is indeed the route to fun and enjoyment makes us feel happy and secure, and there’s nothing wrong with that – unless we find ourselves pressuring those who maybe don’t have the same response or reaction even harder to do what we do, making them feel bad or guilty that they’re not having the same enjoyable experience (which almost inevitably will push them even farther away from trying that particular form of exercise, or possibly any form of exercise).

One of the most important things for each person to work out for him or herself is to find a way to bring playfulness, joy and fun into his or her exercise plan or program. I’m not saying that this will be easy; it can take time to find a physical activity that is actually enjoyable. If a person is really out of shape, almost any activity may be uncomfortable, but still – figuring out a way to make it fun and to involve some laughter and lightheartedness can help make it seem less repugnant.

How do you make exercise fun? Try the following approaches:

  • When kids play, they don’t necessarily have to have a “point” to the play – nor do they have to have a time limit that makes it valid and worthwhile. Remember that 5 minutes of walking is better than doing nothing at all – or a few cat-cows, or pushups, or crunches, etc. It all adds up. Make it a game to see how many small chunks of time you can exercise throughout the day, if that helps you get more movement in;
  • Keep it lighthearted and don’t take it too seriously – if you don’t reach your goal for a particular workout on a particular day (in terms of time, distance, length, weight lifted, skill learned/mastered, etc.), let it go, and just be happy and pleased that you made the time for yourself to play at all;
  • Don’t be afraid to try something new, to look uncoordinated and silly doing it, and to laugh when you don’t – or do – succeed. When I teach yoga, it fills me with joy when students get caught up in the moment of trying a challenging pose or sequence, whether they giggle at not quite getting it or beam with joy when they finally do get it. This is exactly what I’m talking about – forgetting all of the “stuff” that awaits outside of the yoga practice, and just being present and playful in the moment;
  • Exercise with others, and make it an enjoyable social occasion as well as a chance to improve your fitness. You can have an exercise buddy (or two or three) with whom you meet up to exercise a few times a week; you can work out at a gym or sign up for a class; you can join a dance or yoga or martial arts class; you can get involved in an outdoor activity that is inherently social (rock climbing and bouldering certainly are!); whatever you choose, having other people involved can help add an element of fun and joy, even if you’re working your body hard;
  • Add some music that makes you happy, lively, and focused – music makes us move and can add pep and vigor, helping you kickstart and potentially prolong your efforts at moving;
  • Don’t give up right away if you can’t find something that you enjoy; take your time and try lots of exercises and approaches – perhaps you’ll cycle through a whole variety of different activities in search of something that motivates and inspires you, and perhaps something that doesn’t light your fire at first will gradually come to be something you feel you can’t live without. Whatever the case, don’t give up – and again, remember that doing something active, even for 5 minutes at a time, is better than no exercise at all.

Turning physical activity into something that you look forward to, that isn’t a tummy-turning chore that you must endure, can help make for a much more healthy and happy relationship with exercise and fitness. You may find yourself actually looking forward to your workouts instead of finding excuses as to why you’re too busy or too tired after work to make it happen.

For more tips on how to incorporate exercise into your life as a mainstay, check out How to Kick Start Your Workouts & Recommit to Fitness and The Long & The Short of It: How Little Time You Really Need to Make Improved Fitness Your Reality.

Why Fitness Resolutions Are So Hard to Keep – And What You Can Do To Change This

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net









“Whenever we make resolutions, it seems we are tested. Temptations, distractions, and old habits spring up from every side. We need to find the inner strength to persevere and to discover ways to succeed.” (from Inside The Yoga Sutras: A Comprehensive Sourcebook for the Study and Practice of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, by Jaganath Carrera)

If you’re struggling already with your New Year’s resolution – less than a month after your intention was set – you are probably not alone. As the above quote illustrates beautifully, keeping our resolutions once they’ve been made challenges almost everyone who happens to be human. We also see this relatively universal experience reflected in the well-known saying “old habits die hard.”

Why is this? What is it about ourselves that makes it so easy to slide back into familiar routines that we perhaps desperately wish to change? The comfort of routine, yes, but why do so many of us persist with comfortable routines that make us routinely uncomfortable in our physical bodies, due to overeating, making poor food choices, neglecting to exercise or get enough sleep – all stressors that can contribute to poor health and suboptimal functioning on all levels of being?

The answer isn’t a simple one, but I firmly believe that we have a deep-seeded natural (genetic/evolutionary) tendency in our bodies that drives us to attempt to maintain our current state of being once our body has learned to operate and function in this state, even if it causes long-term damage and dysfunction and/or shortens our lifespans. In other words, once we’ve established a set point of “normal” functioning for our body in a certain set of circumstances, our body strives to maintain that set point and will actually work against our efforts to change that set point – particularly if we attempt to cause this upheaval on a large scale all of a sudden, which is exactly how many New Year’s resolution fitness/diet programs are undertaken. (Read more about the set point theory here: Weight gain and weight loss difficulties: the Set-Point Theory (part 2)).

This knowledge can seem daunting and discouraging, but actually, I believe it shines a ray of light and hope onto the topic of resolutions, as follows: To make and then successfully keep a fitness resolution, you should work to make small, step-by-step resolutions that involve minor adjustments to your current lifestyle rather than dramatic, drastic overhauls that disrupt your body’s conditioned way of functioning. Make the changes small enough that they will go virtually unnoticed, and make them easy enough so that you can and do succeed. Maybe you eat one more serving of fresh vegetables or fruit a day, switch to whole grain bread for every other meal, cut out sugary soft drinks or do a half-and-half mixture of tonic water and 100% fruit juice in place of sugary soft drinks. Perhaps you add in five minutes of stretching or walking or lifting weights three days a week, and after six weeks, you move this up to six or seven minutes. Maybe you get to bed 10 minutes earlier. All of these are very, very small changes – but they are a start, and if you can maintain them, they are worth so much more than dramatic changes that fall by the wayside after a few short days or weeks.

Once you’ve succeeded for a minimum of six weeks (longer if you want to really ingrain the habit), you can tackle the next change(s) on your list. Or you can try to adopt a small change in several different areas related to your fitness at the same time – but I suggest no more than three at a time. Keep a journal (on your cell phone might be easiest) to keep track of how you do in reaching your goals, and adjust them as needed. The goal is for you to succeed – keep reminding yourself of this – not to set yourself up for failure. Make sure the goals for each six week to three-month period are entirely attainable, and let yourself feel good about reaching them, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem to others (or your unhelpful internal self-judge, who expects you to be swimsuit-ready in three days and also able to run a marathon in the same amount of time).

After several years of making changes this way, you might be surprised to discover real changes in yourself and your fitness/energy levels that you never thought were possible. Another big reason that fitness resolutions and programs fail is because people expect impossibly dramatic results way too quickly. If you can change your mindset to embrace the idea that you’re working toward a permanent lifestyle improvement, not a temporary fix, and that the changes will be gradual, you will be on the way to succeeding via the understanding that the physically visible changes are likely to happen extremely slowly, but that the underlying fitness benefits of improved healthy habits will reap great rewards in terms of your overall health and wellbeing much more quickly…and that physical changes will follow, albeit much more slowly than you might wish them to occur.

Looking back at your New Year’s resolutions now, decide on some realistic, easily accomplished steps you can take during the next six weeks (or longer) to work toward those resolutions. Working to gradually reshape your body’s “fitness set point” will take some time, but if you can stick with it and continually update and expand upon your small, reasonable resolutions, you may be looking back five years from now amazed at how far you’ve come in terms of fitness, rather than discouraged and dismayed by your inability to make a fitness resolution and stick with it.

How to Kick Start Your Workouts & Recommit to Fitness

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the biggest barriers to engaging with a lifelong fitness plan for so many people is figuring out how to stick with a commitment to fitness over the long term. Though getting started on a new fitness program is challenging, staying with it after the newness wears off is even more challenging. This is true for so many people, from the passionate rock climber who wishes to improve at climbing to the now-and-again yoga student who wants to make yoga practice a regular part of their world, but struggles when push comes to shove to make it onto the mat for classes on a weekly or even monthly basis. To make matters worse, missing one workout or class can lead to a domino effect as a cascade of negative self-judgement turns into a reason to disengage entirely from the once-regular (or semi-regular) workouts that marked the start of the recommitment to fitness. And, the more times a person misses, the more negative that person tends to become about their fitness, and the harder it becomes to reengage and try to get back into a workout routine again.

At this point, the honeymoon period is over, and the real work begins.

Instead of deciding that you’re an utter failure for missing so many climbing days, training sessions, yoga classes, or whatever fitness activity you’ve been missing out on that you were once more committed to, decide to work on discovering what works for you and your style of training. Here are 10 hints and suggestions to help you find a more permanent path to fitness, one that may be more sustainable in the big picture.

  1. Start small. Instead of deciding you’re going to work out 5 days a week for a minimum of one hour, try for 2 or 3 days per week for a minimum of 10 minutes. One of the biggest reasons people stop pursuing fitness is that they try to start out with too much, too soon. This is great way to get exhausted, injured, and burnt out.
  2. Look at your calendar and schedule in your fitness activities the same way you would schedule in important work meetings or other life events. Make a commitment to yourself – you are worth it! Don’t let other life obligations rob you of the chance to be a healthy, fit individual.
  3. Choose fitness activities that you don’t dread, especially to start your workout. If you hate a certain lift or exercise, don’t begin your workout with that (unless getting it over with right away gives you a certain sense of satisfaction!). Start with something that is relatively easy, like a brisk walk for 5 minutes, some jumping jacks, cat-cows, or sun salutations.
  4. About that first 5 minutes – one of the easiest ways I find to get myself to start a workout that I don’t feel that into doing is to tell myself I only need to work out for 5 minutes, and then if I’m not into it, I can stop. More often than not, I continue with the rest of the workout. Be aware that starting a workout is often the hardest part of the whole workout. If you can get yourself over the starting point, after 5 minutes of physical activity you might find that you are much more motivated to continue with the rest of your plan.
  5. If you do stop your workout after 5 or 10 minutes, don’t label yourself a failure – consider it a success that you worked out at all. Doing a little bit of something that’s physically challenging is better than doing absolutely nothing.
  6. If you’re trying to add in a training or personal practice component to an activity that you do enjoy, but you’re struggling with it, choose one small aspect of the activity and make a commitment to train or practice that for the next month for a short, concise session once or twice a week. Set aside 5 minutes and do it. Examples of this: for climbing, doing three sets of pull-ups (or one set); for yoga, choosing one pose you like, warm up with some cat-cows, and then work on the pose until your time is up.
  7. Sign up for a class or training sessions, and pay in advance. Commit to yourself and commit to the class or training sessions, knowing that you forfeit the money if you don’t show up. Otherwise it becomes easy to bow out on a day-to-day basis and to make up an excuse each day or week that you don’t attend as to why you can’t go this week, but you’ll go next week.
  8. If #7 isn’t enough to push you into sticking with it, sign up with a friend and/or make a standing fitness date with a friend/exercise partner to be there at the same time, same day, every week. You’re less likely to let the commitment go as easily if someone else’s fitness program is interlinked with your own, and a partner can help you stay motivated and help you push harder during the workout/class, too.
  9. Play music that you like to add pep and vigor to your workout, but try to stay engaged wholly in the workout – don’t put your body on a treadmill and engage your mind with a book or television show. Keep your workouts mindful and pay attention to what’s going on with your body while you work out. Be fully present and make workouts a time when you are fully present and committed to your whole-being health, not distracted by a media barrage. This is your time for you.
  10. If you truly hate what you’re doing to work out, seek out ways to change this. It may take you months or years to find activities that actually motivate and inspire you to stick with them. Don’t give up; there are so many paths to fitness out there! Learn what your community offers and approach each activity with an open mind. You might be surprised to discover what you love is something you never even thought of doing and that you don’t think you’d like. I had no interest in rock climbing at all before the first day I finally got talked into trying it. Little did I know that it would become a major part of my lifelong journey!