One of my clients is making some brave changes in her life, especially her relationship with exercise.
We were talking about the process of not just creating habits, but about wanting them — wanting to nurture and keep them so much that it would violate your nature to forsake them.
The conversation turned to exercise and how she wanted to embrace it more fully in her life — not simply make it a means-to-an-end or something to endure.
She looked at me and asked, “Are they days when you just don’t want to? How do you make yourself get started or go to a class?”
I used to wish I had a magic answer for people who asked that question.
I love movement. It’s a big part of my life — pretty much every single day.
If you hire me to be your therapist or life coach, I will show up for sessions ½ the time in athletic wear because I’m either on my way or coming from a workout.
It’s like eating to me; it’s necessary for creating and sustaining the kind of life I want to have.
I didn’t always look at it this way. For many years, exercise was something I had an on-again-off-again relationship with.
I thought if I could just find something I loved, I would become obsessively dedicated to making it my sport or “my thing,” and exercise would be easy for me for the rest of my life.
It took some time, but I finally found something that I became lovingly dedicated to in terms of movement.
It was me.
I developed a deeper love for and dedication to myself.
When I was about to turn 40 years old, I asked myself this:
“If this birthday means you’re at or near the halfway point in your life, Laura Wagner, what do you want the next act to be?
Do you want to like your life?
Or are you willing to be brave, vulnerable and daring enough to be wildly in love your life?”
I have answered that question with every choice I’ve made over the past six years of my life since then.
I said “yes” to brave, vulnerable and daring. That includes how I take care of my body, including exercise.
“Brave, vulnerable and daring” sometimes feels like I am on fire and unstoppable … and other days, it feels like I want to stay in bed or hide out in my house all day.
Just this morning — a Saturday — my alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. to go to a spin class. I was up, but I started fighting with myself about whether I was going to go or not.
I’d had a day of rest on Friday.
Maybe I wanted another one. Maybe I just wanted to have coffee and stay home.
I could have, and that would have been fine, but a long time ago, I made a commitment to myself to say “yes” to movement most days of the week. And that is a commitment to my mind, as well as my body.
I got dressed.
I got in the car.
I stopped to put gas in my car and get my friend Jeff a diet Mountain Dew like I do every Saturday and Sunday he teaches.
I almost went home then and was going to give the Mountain Dew to my son – lol.
I got to the parking lot at the gym and parked in a different area than I usually do — a little further away. I was formulating an escape plan.
I sat in the car for about 5 minutes with the engine and my mind running until I finally decided to listen to these thoughts:
“Just get out of the car and show up. It’s okay if you’re late. It’s okay if it doesn’t feel like fun today — but you won’t know if it will be or not unless you go inside.”
I got out of the car, and as soon as I did, I saw my friend Laura pull up. That made my heart smile and my resolve to go inside stronger.
Ha! Listen to this: I went to her car and told her that I’d almost left — and she told me the same thing, and we’re two women who are dedicated to being active.
The truth is that there will be days when you don’t want to. Maybe most days are like that for you now, and it’s gonna be okay.
The best way to feel like there are more days that you will want to move your body rather than turn away from it, is to practice doing it.
You start with your mind, and you lead your body with your mind.
I’m walking proof that you can re-route your brain to crave the movement. I’ve been traveling or on vacations where I’ve gotten out of my groove, but I know I will always come back to it — and in a loving and reassuring way, not in a sad or groveling way.
Movement gives me great pleasure in life — not always when I’m in the middle of doing it — but in the overall picture of my life, it does.
By the way, I had the pleasure of sitting with my friend Laura in her car for 15 minutes talking about our kids and our lives. I needed it. She did, too.
We went inside to class, which was already in progress, and put in 45 sweaty minutes to get it done. And it was fun. And I was proud.
Here’s my challenge to you this week:
- If there’s a day when you just “don’t feel like it,” could you give yourself the benefit of just five minutes? Start there. Get in the car and get there. Hit the pavement. Tell yourself … “five minutes — and I can stop if I want to.” I will tell you that 99% of the time that I have done this, I’ve stayed with it, whether it was for another ½ hour or a full hour. I hung in there. I did it. And you can, too.
- Think about what could motivate you to move besides “let’s just get this done.” Is there something new you could try? It might be intimidating or you might feel vulnerable, but are you willing to see what’s on the other side of that? I always ask myself how I can find the fun in just about anything I do in my life — exercise included.