Dec 29, 2020
How to get moving in 2021
“Exercise just isn’t my thing.”
I hear it all the time from family, friends and prospective students. Once people learn that I’m a fitness instructor, many feel compelled to tell me that they just weren’t meant to exercise.
Honestly, I get it. I really do.
Somewhere along the way, between the fitness ads and Instagram posts, our society devised the notion that exercise is meant for body change rather than simply feeling better. And we created the idea that exercise is exclusive—only meant for ultra-fit athletes in trendy clothes.
Even when we overcome these initial hurdles and begin a workout program, many of us turn exercise into a punishment instead of a way to become healthy and strong and to take care of ourselves. We chastise ourselves if we miss a workout instead of saying, “That’s okay, I’ll try again tomorrow.”
As we enter the new year and resolution time, the pressure becomes even greater to make over our bodies through exercise—to melt away the pounds or finally chisel out those washboard abs.
But seeing ourselves clearly, with lots of understanding and empathy, is key to getting started in reaching realistic fitness goals.
Shift your mindset
After years working with clients—many of whom told me initially that exercise just wasn’t their thing—I have realized that the most important step toward physical fitness is not about buying a gym pass but about changing our mindset.
Instead of making a resolution around fitness this year, I encourage you to try a simple experiment: Fit any kind of movement into your weekly routine, as often as your schedule and body allow, and after a few weeks, notice how you feel.
That’s right, not how you look, but how you feel.
Instead of staring in the mirror or stepping on the scale, ask yourself: Am I sleeping better? Is my mood sunnier? Do I have more energy to play with my kids or socialize with my friends (physically distanced, of course), and am I more alert at work or school? Am I making healthier food choices?
I think you will be surprised by how you feel.
In addition to reaping some of these benefits, we have another compelling reason to consider exercise this year. Moderate excise has been shown to decrease stress, improve cardiovascular health and boost our immune system—things that can help us stay strong as the COVID-19 pandemic wages on.
Here are a few more tips as you begin your experiment:
- Try a variety of activities. When people tell me exercise just isn’t their thing, I often realize it’s because they have a narrow view of what exercise is. For example, one client told me they hate going to the gym but enjoy walking their dog. Then I let them in on a little secret—that walking their dog is exercise! Here are some examples of activities to try:
- Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi
- Walking, hiking, running
- Strength training (lifting weights or resistance training)
- Dancing (for example, Zumba, salsa, hip hop)
- Cycling, whether on a stationary, road or mountain bike
- Ice skating or roller skating
- Winter activities such as cross-country or downhill skiing, snowshoeing, sledding or playing in the snow with your kids or dog
As I wrote in a previous column, the pandemic also has given rise to an array of fitness apps and online programs that you may want to try.
- Mix it up. To keep exercise enjoyable and fresh, try different activities or explore new neighborhoods, parks and routes when you go out for your run, walk, hike or bike ride.
Give yourself time. Exercise is like any other skill—it takes time and effort to figure out. Often, we have unrealistic expectations that we’re going to fall in love with the first thing we try. That may not happen, and that’s okay!
- Do what feels good right now. We all are juggling so many things these days. When it comes to exercise, don’t add to your stress level. If taking a walk right now is more appealing than going for a run, do it. If you would rather do a yoga class instead of lifting weights, do it.
Be honest with yourself about what is going to make you more inclined to get moving. If buying yourself a new workout outfit will motivate you, go for it. If you hate going down to your basement to hit the treadmill, acknowledge that, and find a way to make movement more enjoyable for you.
Get rid of the “all or nothing” mentality. When it comes to exercise, something is always better than nothing. And if you didn’t do something today, don’t beat yourself up—just try again tomorrow. Many of us believe that one hour is the magical amount of time we need to exercise each day, but I tell clients I would rather they do a little bit of physical activity over a longer period of time than push themselves too hard and burn out in the first week.
“Keep your mind where your body is.” As mindfulness gurus say, whatever you are doing, try to stay in the present moment and enjoy it rather than mentally rewinding to the past or fast-forwarding to the list of to-dos waiting for you at the end of your workout.
For added benefits, get outside and exercise with a buddy. Being in nature has been shown to spark creativity and decrease stress hormones, while working out with a friend can create a better sense of overall wellness. And both approaches are safe and especially helpful now in enhancing overall physical and mental well-being during the pandemic.
If exercise just isn’t your thing—or even if it is!—I hope you will give this experiment a try. And I encourage you to drop me a line and let me know how it goes—I would love to hear from you. In the meantime, I wish you a new year filled with joy, peace, hope and good health!
Nicole Pizzi was interviewed by Rachel Coppola for this column.
Nicole is a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts health engagement strategist as well as a fitness trainer. Have a question about wellness that you would like us to address in a column? Contact us here!
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