Why and How do You Exercise?

Today I want to talk about why exercise is so important.

011617_SkeletalMuscle-630x1024Let me start by telling you that I hate exercising, and I don’t say that lightly. I dislike feeling tired and achy and literally throughout the entire time I could think of a million more productive things I could be doing than exercising, because I don’t do it for the muscle. I don’t even do it to get thin or fit, because I am a 125 lb 5’7″ woman. I look damn good naked. And I don’t even get that super accomplished feeling afterward, either, like most people and memes seem to. Just literally everything about exercising is unappealing to me.

But I don’t do it for the physical benefits, I do it for the mental ones. There is a plethora of research, by reputable sources, connecting physical exercise with mental health. (Have a look at this article by the American Psychological Association and this one by the Mayo Clinic.)

I’m not the most mentally stable person, in fact it’s one of the reasons most of my relationships have failed, but again, a story for another time. In my junior year of college I was in a severe depression, but I decided to take control of my life and take advantage of some of the free counseling most schools offered. One of the first things my therapist asked me about was my exercise routine. At the time, I had none, but I was lucky enough to have a friend notice how I was struggling and offered to go to the gym with me. Just like that. Call it synchronicity, lucky, whatever. It was great.

Now I’m not so lucky to have a great friend like that around, but I’ve also already learned my lesson on exercise. So now I’m able to continue my practices by myself because I know how important it is to me. (Side note: This also has to do with my Tendency, as Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project would say,  as I’m a Questioner. (Again, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, another post for another time.)

I once read an article, that I can no longer find, about how to succeed in exercising. I was on a big “I should go to the gym!” kick, so it was right up my ally, at the time. What I read was more interesting and better than any exercise advice I’d ever been given before. The author wrote not about specific tips to get yourself to do exercise, like leaving your workout clothes out or wake up early to get it out of the way, but about how your feeling. She said the secret to a successful exercise routine is to be in tune with your body. Notice how you feel, what you’re in the mood for, and just go with it. Try out di

She said the secret to a successful exercise routine is to be in tune with your body. Notice how you feel, what you’re in the mood for, and just go with it. Try out different types of workout classes or ways to work out and see what works for you. Maybe you’re like me and hate feeling achy and sweaty and fast paced workouts make you want to crawl into a hole and sleep for 3 years, so yoga’s the way to go. Maybe those things invigorate you, so Zumba and cardio are your things. Maybe you feel a little different every single day, so you switch it up. Just because you tend to feel a certain way and tend to enjoy a certain workout plan doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. Listen to your body, what’s it saying to you today?

Now I think I’m off to do some yoga. How does exercise affect you? Why do you work out? Or how do you get yourself to actually do it?

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Listen To Your Body, What Do You Need?

On beautiful days, I always want to take advantage of the weather. Over the years, I’ve noticed what a major impact the weather outside has on me, so when it’s nice I figure I should most definitely go out and enjoy that niceness. However,  I’m not always in the mood to be outside and I feel a sense of guilt if I don’t get my ass outdoors.

So what do I do? I feel torn between (1) what I think I should do and know makes me happy, and (2) what I want to do in the moment.

But instead of feeling anxious and torn and guilty, I take a breath. I close my eyes, put my feet on the ground, and listen. First I listen to the sound of my breath – in and out, in and out. This allows my thoughts to calm and gives my mind a break in all the crazy, streaming thoughts. I listen to my body and really hear what it’s trying to tell me it needs. Do I need some me time? Do I need sleep? Do I need to fuel and nourish my body to give myself energy for the day? Or perhaps comfort it with some not-so-healthy, but oh-so-yummy foods? Do I need to read or create or zone out with some TV?

I just listen to what my body has to say, and then give myself permission to fully accept the answer. Sometimes I need yoga and a yogurt. Other times I need tea, Criminal Minds, and some time in bed. Sometimes what you need isn’t what’s deemed as “healthy,” but I fully believe in balance.

That being said, there’s a difference between what I want and what I need. Sometimes I think I need tea and yoga, but want chocolate and TV. It’s at these times when I know I need to listen to my body most, what is it truly saying? Maybe my brain is still vying for control and attention by telling me “it’s wrong to eat chocolate and watch TV in bed all day,” so my brain says “tea is the healthy option and tends to make you feel good, and yoga is good for the body! So do it! Do what you’re supposed to do!”

But I listen to my body and think back on previous days and give myself permission to need whatever I need, whether that’s deemed good or bad, because there really is no such thing as good or bad, but that’s a story for another time.

Maybe my body is exhausted from working 50 hours and constantly being “on.” If that’s the case, I let myself be. I give myself chocolate and a day in bed, because that’s truly what my body needs. Other times, I’m just being lazy and don’t want to do yoga, but know it’s what I need. My body always knows what I need.

When was the last time you listened to your body without judgement? How did it feel to allow yourself to fully enjoy whatever you needed, sans scrutiny? If you’ve yet to do so, try it out. Let me know how it went in the comments below.