I'm not working out any more!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Okay, so if the title of this blog post sucked you in, here's a warning: This post is not about giving up workouts. It's about changing the way I think about them.

I asked myself, "Why is it that so many of us dread working out?" Sparkpeople message boards are full of posts from people wondering how to motivate themselves to work out more regularly. It's clear that a significant number of us see workouts as, well, work. Specifically, toilsome, uncomfortable work.

My goal is to lose all my extra fat, keep it off for the rest of my life, and live a healthy lifestyle. To achieve this, I need to make friends with my workouts. I KNOW that, if I continue to perceive workouts as a necessary evil, I'm not going to make it. So, here are all the things I'm doing to change my relationship with exercise. I hope you'll contribute your ideas, too.

Changing My Language

Language has a huge influence on the way we think and, thus, on the way we experience the world around us. So, I'm not "working out" any more. I'm "playing." Playing is fun, relaxing, sometimes even exciting. Work is none of those things. I no longer say, "I'm going to go lift weights." I say "I'm going to play with my weights, now." And when I take a break from work to walk, I don't say, "I"m going for a walk." I say, "I'm going to take a break," or "I'm going to relax for a bit." I also don't say, "I HAVE to exercise." I say, "I WANT to exercise."

Alright, so I don't really believe that "playing" instead of "working out" is all it's going to take. But I do know that it's a great start to changing my own perceptions. At first, the change in language takes conscious effort. You have to remember to make the change. But, eventually, it becomes automatic and that's when the words you use start to influence the way you think and feel.

Playing As Much As Possible

If I'm going to "play," I really need to make an effort to have fun and relax. And, there are a lot of ways to do that. Here are some of my favourites. What are yours?

** Listen to uplifting music while exercising. But, listening is not enough. Listening is just a way to distract yourself from the negative aspects of exercise. Instead, actively experience the music. Focus on how good it makes you feel. Sing along. Dance a little. I "dance" on my exercise bike by waving my arms and bobbing my head. Yes, I work out at home, but ask yourself, "If I dance at the gym, how much will it really affect my life to know that the guy on the next bike thinks I'm a dork?"

** Dance, skip, hop, play on playground equipment, jump in puddles. Act like a kid. And, while you're doing so, focus on how happy you feel.

** I'm not a social person. I prefer to exercise alone, but for those of you who are social, informal team sports, throwing a frisbee, playing tag with kids or dogs are all great ways to play.

** Introduce a little friendly competition. It can be fun to see who can snowshoe to the far side of the field fastest or who can do the longest sprint on the exercise bike.

** Find fun ways to track progress. I recently walked from my house to my favourite weekend vacation spot, 600 km away. Virtually, that is. Every day, I recorded how far I walked then plotted my progress on Google Maps. It was a lot of fun to see where I ended up each day.

** Change it up. Doing the same thing every day is drudgery - at least it is for me.

Focusing on the Positive

Another way to turn exercise into a positive experience is to link it to positive feelings. Here's how I'm working on that:

** I use walking as a way to de-stress at work. I set a timer on my computer to go off four times a day. And, when it does, I walk for 15 minutes. (I always work during my lunch hour, so I am allowed these four 15-minute breaks, but you can adjust the timing to your work schedule.) When I walk, I do not focus on burning calories, or walking fast enough, etc. I simply walk to relax, to stretch my muscles, to stand up straight, to smile at a few people. And, I focus on how relaxed I feel. Now, I'm starting to view walking as a relaxation and I crave it. And despite the fact that I'm not focusing on calories or speed, I'm burning calories, anyway.

** While exercising, focus on positive things. I count my blessings. And, not just the big obvious ones like being glad that I have a great husband. Little things are important, too: I'm thankful Nike made these great running shoes that keep my feet comfortable, I'm thankful that I can afford them, I'm thankful for that robin singing to me...

** Visualization is another great way to get positive during exercise. I like to imagine myself already slim and healthy as I walk, for example. I focus on how good it feels, how tall I stand, how healthy I feel, etc.

** Smile. Research shows that smiling actually makes you feel happier. Smile at other people and see how their smiles make you feel good, too.

** And, last but not least, mindfulness is a great way to be positive. This works best for me when doing yoga and strength training. I concentrate my focus inward: on my body position, how my body feels, relaxing into a movement, maintaining good posture, taking even breaths, etc. When I walk, cycle, snowshoe, etc., I find it easier to be mindful of my surroundings. I focus on the sounds I hear, the things I see, the temperature, etc.

Have you given up workouts, too? What are your strategies?
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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