Make Movement Fun Again!

How many of you out there exercise because of the joy it brings you?  Conversely, how many of you out there exercise out of obligation, guilt, or dispassionate routine?  For many of you visiting my blog, I’d guess that you fall into the latter group (i.e. you exercise, not necessarily because you enjoy it, but because you feel obligated to do so for some desired result).  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to exercise because you want to feel and look good.  But when exercise becomes part of a tired obligation, or worse, when it becomes a guilt-driven obsession, that is when it might be time to step back and ask yourself, “Why isn’t this fun anymore?”

Physical activity and movement can be fun and fulfilling.  After all, we are not built to be sedentary.  We are built to move.  Being active doesn’t just benefit us physically, but it also helps us thrive mentally and emotionally.  Are you in a better mood after some good, positive movement/physical activity?  Are you more efficient and effective at home and at work?  I’ll bet your answer is yes.  So the key is ensuring that your physical activity is a positive and healthy experience, not part of some unhealthy, joyless routine. 

Of course, movement and physical activity does not necessarily have to be “exercise,” but they can be one in the same.   In my experience, many people start exercising from a good place.  They are driven to improve their overall health and feel good.  They love the way the endorphins make them feel.  Or, they feel fulfilled by the sense of achievement that certain forms of exercise can bring.  But problems can arise as time goes on, especially when people adopt the mentality that exercise is part of a dieting regime or lifestyle.  In these cases – where physical activity becomes embedded in your mind as being synonymous with dieting – the joy of physical activity and movement is lost.  Every step is merely a means to a calorie-losing end.  Every time you enter the sliding doors at the gym, it’s “go time” and you are not deviating from your routine no matter what.   When you’re done with your workout, and you leave the gym, you don’t feel a sense of joy.  Instead, all you feel is a fleeting sense of relief (knowing in the back of your mind that you “have to” do it all again in 24 hours or less).  

So how do we start enjoying movement again?  I think it starts by separating the concepts of movement/physical activity/exercise from dieting. They are not and should not be one in the same.  Below are some tips to help you on your way:

1.    Let go of the idea of dieting and losing weight

If your primary focus in moving and exercising is losing weight, you won’t be able to maintain much positive momentum for very long.  Either you will work so hard (and probably not see the immediate results that you hope for) that you’ll burn out, or it just won’t be any fun from the start.   Either way, as is the case with all diets, it won’t work for long.  Letting go of the diet mentality is not easy and certainly it’s not something that will happen overnight, but it can happen.   You can start by asking yourself whether any diet you’ve ever been on has worked over the long term.  If your answer is no, then ask yourself what is the point of fixating on dieting and weight loss when exercising.  The more you reflect on this reality (i.e. diets really don’t work), the easier it will become to separate movement/physical activity/exercise from weight loss.

2.    Write down a list of activities you used to enjoy doing?

Think about activities that you truly enjoy.  These are not activities that you believe are the best means of losing weight, but these are activities that you really truly enjoy.  For some, your favorite activity might truly be lifting weights because you like gaining strength and the way it makes you feel.  For others, it could be running because of the relaxation.  But for many others, it might be riding bikes with your kids, hiking, playing basketball, or a host of other activities.  What is important here is to identify what you enjoy doing and use that as your starting point.  It shouldn’t matter whether this activity is “exercise” in your mind or not.  It should merely be a physical activity that you enjoy doing.

3.    From your list pick one activity you feel most comfortable trying first.

Anybody remember the movie, “What About Bob?”  Baby steps…baby steps.   Try doing one thing at a time, and start with what you are most comfortable with.  After your first success, take some time to reflect on how it made you feel, then try something new from your list.

 4.    Get social

Whether it is meeting someone for a walk or a hike or playing with your kids, social activity is often the most fun activity. 

5.    Get outside in nature or use technology

I know these two things seem like they might be at odds, but they can both be highly beneficial.  Maybe it’s just me, but I just feel better when I’m outside in the fresh air.  If you enjoy walking or jogging, why do it indoors (unless it’s raining, maybe).  Enjoy some fresh air and scenic views.  On the other hand, utilizing technology can be a nice boost as well.  Maybe you are a person who is motivated by music or loves listening to books.  Whatever your pleasure, just remember to do what you enjoy.

6.    Give yourself permission to NOT exercise

Remember that my entire point here is all about finding enjoyment with movement.  Trust and listen to your body.  If you are tired or injured or you’re just plain not in the mood, remember that it is OK NOT to exercise.  Unless you are a professional athlete, exercise is not part of your job.   Trust and listen to your body.  Show yourself compassion.  In the end, do what you want to do, and not simply what you feel compelled to do.

7. Make sure to eat

Food is fuel. Not providing your body with an adequate amount of food will only hurt you.  If you want to have energy and be positive, you need to eat.   Be mindful of the way food makes you feel.  If you are eating intuitively, you will feel great!

I hope these tips have been helpful.  Remember that the key to all of this is listening to your body and being mindful of how you feel.  These are just a few tips.  If you are interested in learning more, visit my website or feel free to contact me directly by clicking on the link below.