It's the time of year when suddenly gyms are packed and everyone optimistically swears to get into better shape. Unfortunately, within a month or so, the crowds at the gym will dwindle as the list of New Year's resolutions gathers dust in a drawer somewhere. Why is better fitness one of the top New Year's resolutions if it's one of the hardest to keep? I propose it is an issue of perspective. This year, resolve not to drop pounds or lower calories, but rather to focus on finding a fitness plan that brings you happiness.
This is not a simple task. Misery is easy. Happiness is hard. So let's take a look at 10 ways you can work on pursuing the joy of fitness.
1. Consider who you are doing this for
Bottom-line: The answer needs to be you. Really think about the fitness goals you have come up with and assess why you want them, or if you really want them at all. If you are running a mile a day just because your doctor told you to and you find you actually hate everything about running, then stop. (Don't tell your doctor I said that.) Goals meant to please other people and not yourself are unlikely to last long-term. Even if you are working out for health reasons, don't think about how you're doing it for your doctor, significant other, children, etc. Think about why you want to feel healthier and stronger. Do what you want for yourself. It's OK to be selfish about your own body.
2. It doesn't have to be expensive
The cost of a gym membership, classes, equipment, etc. can be daunting for some. Those just starting out exercising may especially want a cheaper way to dip their toes in the water. Fortunately, there are a lot of options that won't break the bank. Activities such as running, hiking, and dancing to your own music are all free. Youtube, and the internet at large, are great resources for finding free workouts and fitness tips. My personal favorite is Fitness Blender, which offers a variety of free videos online, as well as options such as meal plans and workout programs. Do some research and find the videos you enjoy.
3. Try something new
It is easy to get into the rut of doing the same workout over and over. Not only is this boring mentally, it also is ineffective at continually challenging your body. So, why not resolve to go on a little adventure and try some new, fun kind of workout. That could mean swimming, kickboxing, tennis, mountain climbing, tap dancing, whatever. Focus on some activity you have always wanted to try, and then just go do it.
4. Address areas of pain
Our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for, and pain is their way of telling us something needs our attention. Think about what parts of your body are sore, stiff or tire easily, then consider what you can do to ease the pain. This could mean strengthening a weak set of muscles, stretching or non-exercise activities such as massage or acupuncture. Whatever it takes to eliminate the pain from your body will set you on the right track for a healthy lifestyle.
5. Focus on actions over results
Our fitness success is typically measured in pounds or inches. We fall into the trap of focusing just on the end result and, when the journey to that end result gets rough, it can quickly seem like a hopeless task. It is perfectly fine to have specific result oriented goals, but put them on the back burner for the most part. Think instead about the road map to the result. Come up with specific actions, such as working out five days a week, or eating three servings of vegetables a day, that will lead to the final goal. Focus on those steps and leave the scale alone for a while.
6. Make it personal
Exercise can seem like drudgery, but try just changing your perspective. Think of it as high quality "me" time. It is a time to take care of yourself. You can be alone with your thoughts or spend the time connecting with a friend. You get to pick whatever exercise method you want and have the privilege of taking care of your body. Working out can be a very therapeutic experience. Use that time to nurture your mind, body and soul. It's all about you, after all.
7. Stay positive
Apply the concept of positive reinforcement to your fitness plan. Rather than telling yourself you can't eat that doughnut, tell yourself that you will eat a healthy home-cooked breakfast. Instead of chastising yourself for binge-watching on Netflix, praise yourself for your yoga session. Acknowledge if you slip up, but don't dwell on it. In the long run, a few lazy days or unhealthy meals will not affect your overall health. Focus on what you have done and still can do.
8. Be a child again
Children have a ton of energy. Watch them in a park or playground and you will see the little darlings running all over the place, jumping and climbing and having a great time. Now, maybe you should refrain from such behavior at work or school, but let your inner child loose a little. Run wildly around your home. Go to a playground and swing. Jump on a trampoline. Climb a tree. Play. Have fun, and let that feeling of fun attach itself to the sensation of your body in motion.
9. Find beauty in the ugliness
We tend to approach workouts as chores to check off a list. They aren't considered pleasant or pretty, just something we have to push through. Maybe you hate waking up early for your morning workout, getting sweaty, and having achy muscles. Those feelings are all valid, but you should really learn to love the grossness of exercising. Working out isn't really that glamorous. It's heavy breathing, soaked clothes, gulping water, and burning muscles. It's not about enduring the uglier aspects of exercise. It's about living in the moment and learning to love every part of the experience because you know it ultimately brings more health and happiness into your life.
10. Break the rules
You, and you alone, are in charge of your body. You make the rules, and that gives you the freedom to break them too. If one method isn't working for you, change it. Screw what anyone else has to say. It is OK to take days off from working out, or to eat a slice of cake. Really. It won't kill you. What will sabotage your fitness journey is getting so obsessive that any slight deviation from your original plan hits you as a major failure. Be kind and flexible with yourself. Make your goals, but don't let them control you.