Recently I was browsing the health and fitness corners of the interwebs for some articles to feature in last week’s Fitness Friday roundup. One article in particular caught my eye: “How to make running suck less”.
At first, I thought to myself “I know some of my readers want to love running but are having a hard time. I want them to get as much out of the sport as it’s given me, so maybe this would be helpful.” But then I gave it a little more thought, and eventually convinced myself that this was not the type of thing I wanted to share with you.
Right off the bat, I really didn’t like that title sounded so negative right from the start – like running is a necessary evil of life that we just have to find a way to deal with. But there was more to it than that.
Last month I read White Hot Truth by Danielle LaPorte. Her thoughts, plus some other insight gathering I’ve done has led me to taking a very firm stand for wellness on our own terms: a wellness routine that is 100% individualized for them, created by them, and WORKS for them. What that looks like for me is different to what it looks like for you, the hottest new personal trainer, an elite athlete and a Hollywood celebrity.
It sounds obvious, right? But in reality, for many of us, what we end up doing “to be healthy and fit” is so not working right now. I’m not even talking about what a practice does for your physical state (body composition, blood pressure, hormones, organ health etc) – this is about sheer enjoyment.
Spending hours in the gym with no rest days because you read a celebrity trainer advise that the best way to jump start summer weight loss “is to work out every single day until you actually crave the workout.” (No joke – just stumbled across that one about 10 minutes ago.)
Regularly taking a bajillion expensive supplements as a Band-Aid solution for poor eating habits
Meditating daily by sitting with crossed legs on a cold hard floor, even though you’re super uncomfortable and all you can think about is 1) how much your butt hurts, and 2) how long you have left before you’ll hit your self-imposed 15 minute quota.
Doing a Crossfit streak (ie. x days of WODs, no days off) because you’re part of a group doing a challenge and you don’t want to be the one that breaks the streak.
Running every day because you want to lose weight and of all the exercise methods available, you’ve heard running burns the most calories… right? Or does it?
Eating a highly restricted eating plan because you read somewhere that it was the best thing for x, y and z.
Forcing yourself to go to yoga because a celebrity whose abs you covet swears by it, even though sometimes you find yourself leaving the class more stressed out than when you walked in.
Don’t get me wrong – the above examples might be exactly what’s needed for some people at a given time (except maybe that first one…?). Personally, yoga actually does seem to be serving me really well right now, and there are plenty of yogis in the world who probably wouldn’t be practicing for as long as they have if they didn’t truly love it. My point is that there are tons of wellness practice we’ve probably all felt obligated to try and maintain because they’re supposedly good for us.
Experimentation is awesome, and I’ll be the first person to advocate for it. But I think that so often, the practices we end up incorporating into our wellness routines are ones we feel we should do, and not ones that actually make us feel well. Isn’t feeling great supposed to be the whole point? And who needs yet another ‘should’ in their life? Not me. Not you.
Tying this back to that article about how to make running suck less, all of the above were thoughts that were flying through my head shortly afterwards. Sure, as a beginner at anything, there are struggles we inevitably face. When I started Crossfit, I was barely able to clean a 35lb barbell over my head properly. For those of you who have dabbled in triathlon, I’m sure you’ll agree that swimming 100 meters during your first pool session probably felt like a mile. Even for experienced athletes, not every workout sets off mind-blowing endorphin fireworks. Sometimes they just suck – the pain is part of making progress.
We all know that if we stick with a practice for long enough, we’ll get better at it. But without that intrinsic motivation, enjoyment, and that true deep desire to pursue it, the long-term forecast isn’t very promising. So instead of forcing yourself to stay on a bandwagon that you’re not so sure you should be on in the first place, I’d like to propose 7 steps for finding a fitness routine that works for you. I mean your routine actually makes you feel inspired, liberated, energized, supported and free. Soon I’ll follow up with a part 2 that focuses more closely on nutrition, but for now, treat this like a buffet – take what you like, leave what you don’t, and you can always come back for more!
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1. Consider what you loved doing as a kid
Back then, we didn’t think of it as ‘working out’ or ‘fitness’. It was playing. We loved it so much that sometimes we were willing to sit through a lecture from our parents afterwards for being late to dinner. Think back to what those activities that made you late for dinner and consider giving them a try again.
2. Set a few different goals
…none of which have to be races. Racing can definitely be a good motivator, but it doesn’t need to be your only goal (and depending on the types of fitness makes you feel best, races might not actually exist.) Pick some that emphasize the process, rather than the outcome. Time and distance goals are helpful in assessing progress because the numbers will tell you when you’re there, but there are plenty of others. For example…
- being able to do 10 chin-ups
- being able to do 25 push-ups on your toes
- being able to squat your bodyweight
- learning how to surf or stand-up paddleboard
- learning to swim
- completing 10 hikes this summer
- going on a wellness retreat
- doing something active 5 times this week (or however many times feels right for you) – none of which necessarily have to happen in a gym
- being able to touch your toes (I know plenty of people who struggle with this!)
- being able to do a handstand
- try one new fitness class every week (passes like ClassPass make this easy because you don’t have to commit to one studio – you can hate something and never go back again, or love it and go all the time!)
- go for a run in every new city you visit
3. Ditch the numbers for a while
This is probably a little contrary to what I’ve suggested in the past, and if you’re like me, numbers can be motivating. But after I finished up training for my half Ironman two years ago which involved watching my heart rate progress beat by beat during every run and ride, nothing felt more liberating than doing a workout with zero electronic devices on me. Well, one thing actually. That was no longer requiring cycling shorts that made me feel like I was wearing a diaper. ?
4. Make it a sweat date
Pick a friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, daughter, son, co-worker – anyone you want! I sweat solo most of the time during my early morning workouts, but it’s amazing what a difference the occasional sweat date with a friend can make. We spend so much money on getting together for drinks, lunch, dinner etc… why not spend that on a class instead where you can both get fitter and feel a million times better at the end?
5. Trade playlists with a friend
Music can make all the difference sometimes. Build a playlist for your bestie and have her do the same for you. Swap and enjoy listening to some different beats!
6. Reward yourself for progress + consistency
A lot of you have written to me saying that one of your goals is to lose weight, and while weight loss is a very quantifiable way to measure progress, it can be misleading because of sooooo many factors – periods, sodium intake, time of day and hydration levels are just a few.
Instead of focusing solely on a weight loss goal or other big goal, decide what success looks like for you along the way and give yourself meaningful mini rewards for hitting those milestones. One might be consistently making it to all of your planned sweat sessions for an entire month, and rewards might be…
- getting your nails done
- buying a new workout outfit or some other fun piece of fitness equipment (yoga mat, water bottle, running shoes etc)
- going out dancing
- booking a spa treatment
- getting your hair blown out
- buying yourself flowers
- going on an active weekend getaway
- going to a concert
It’s checking off those mini milestones and watching progress being made that’s going to motivate you to keep going, so decide on a few and write them down as reminders.
7. Commit to being active, but be flexible about your methods.
If you take just one tip away from this post, make it this one. What I hope to have done here is given you some new ideas to consider – and perhaps given you permission to let go of things that just aren’t lighting you up and giving you those feelings of inspiration, liberation and freedom when it comes to being active. Your true commitment to living an active lifestyle is something that will stem from your intrinsic motivations, and while I advised in tip 7 that consistency is key, it doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing all day, every day. Be flexible and open to trying new things, shedding what’s not working and keeping what is. Just keep moving.
Alright, those are my 7 tips but I know you guys are a super clever bunch and probably have some to add too. Hop into the comments below and let me know how you make your fitness routine work for you!