When I’m passionate about the information or ideas I want to share, the words seem to flow effortlessly from my brain through my fingertips onto my keyboard. When I’m engaging in exercise, I typically feel that same level of passion.
Yet, there are days when I find myself going through the motions, moving from one exercise machine to another and not really putting in a full effort.
Once I recognize and acknowledge that I’ve hit my boredom threshold, I consciously make a plan to modify my routine. Last month, for example, I decided to add some higher-intensity exercises to my workout. Instead of basic squats, I added single-arm and then alternating-arm kettlebell swings using an 8-kg kettlebell. I also did several sets of jump-squats and jumping knee-tucks.
Those changes to my routine engaged my muscles in different ways and gave me an excellent cardio workout. My heart was pumping and I was out of breath. I also felt excited as I exercised. Two days later, my lower-body muscles were still sore – not pain like when you injure yourself, but the kind of soreness that is your body’s way of healing at a microscopic level and saying “thank you” for the challenge.
If you find yourself stuck in a rut with your exercise routine, if you’re physically present but emotionally bankrupt, it’s time to make some changes. Showing up is the first step. I commend you for that. Most people never go to fitness classes or the gym or even for a walk. But showing up is not always enough. If you want to get the maximum benefits out of your workout, you have to put in a full effort. You have to be willing to sweat and feel your heart pumping, to move in new ways and exhaust your muscles. If showing up is the first step, what are the next steps?
Find what you love. If you’re not motivated by your current exercise program, class or activity, or you’re not involved in any exercise at present, take a stroll down memory lane. Was there a sport you enjoyed in your youth? How did it make you feel? Why did you stop doing it? What would it take to revisit the sport?
Think back to the time in your life when running around, skipping, playing hopscotch or dodgeball were things you did for fun. You can enjoy those same pleasurable feelings as an adult. Exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery. Find things that fill you with joy. Do you see other people doing activities that look like fun? Approach them and ask how to get started. Most people are thrilled when others seek their advice.
Face your fears. Do you avoid certain situations because you’re afraid you’ll look foolish, weak or incompetent? Maybe you haven’t tried a Zumba aerobic dance-oriented class because you’re unco-ordinated. Or perhaps you haven’t tried weightlifting because you assume everyone at the gym is uber-fit and you feel embarrassed about your appearance.
If you let your fear dictate your behaviour, you’ll lose out on many opportunities. You owe it to yourself to push yourself out of your comfort zone and at least try some new experiences. But, instead of jumping into the deep end unprepared, put some lifesavers in place. Inform the class instructor that you’re new and a bit unsure; he’ll reassure you and soon you’ll be dancing to your heart’s content. Hire a personal trainer so when you do go to the gym, you’ll know what to do. And try something at least a few times before you make up your mind. Try different instructors or different types of classes. Take a chance. Make a change. These small risks have the potential for big payoffs.
Finding the perfect fit for exercise may require exploring options and widening your definition of what’s suitable for you. It’s not all that different from finding the right job or partner. You can build upon your current interests and preferences or expand your horizons with something completely new. Don’t let tunnel vision obscure your view. Don’t let others dissuade you with stereotypes and negative thoughts. Bowling, gardening, skating – there are an infinite number of ways to stimulate your appetite for fitness. Be open-minded and you might be surprised by what you become passionate about.