Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body and mood but sometimes it becomes a habit we know we should do, but don’t want to.
Here are some practical tips to encourage you.
1. Give yourself a break about extreme consistency
People often stress how important consistent, daily exercise habits are.
However, being very rigidly attached to any daily habit can be a psychologically unhealthy sign as often as it’s a healthy one.
Some people thrive on consistency and prefer rigid daily habits, others less so. Know your temperament and whether you prefer consistency or variety in your daily routines.
To reduce boredom, try seasonal habits.
Perhaps winter is your season for doing Peloton at home and spring is for hill walks.
Every Wednesday doesn’t need to be “leg day.”
Easing up about consistency is a good strategy for you if it paradoxically increases the amount you end up exercising.
Author Michael Pollan is famous for simplifying eating with his saying, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Try out a similar saying to simplify exercise for you.
3. Make it self-compassionate
In The Joy of Movement, Dr Kelly McGonigal explains research showing that people who are frequently physically active feel more gratitude, hopefulness, love, and connection to their communities, and less loneliness and depression.
“Runners’ high” (which isn’t exclusive to running) makes people feel more loving and cooperative.
We think this chemical response to physical effort evolved to encourage our hunter ancestors to work together and share the spoils of their labour.
Exercise becomes self-compassionate if you tune into these benefits.
Dissociate it from guilt and frustration about your weight or appearance.
Find what feels good, like a walk around the block to decompress when your brain is fried from work.
4. Thank your body
A few years ago I had a health scare when I thought I might have MS.
Now, every time I exercise, I think how grateful I am not to.
When you move, thank the parts of your body involved in that movement.
Get particular about thanking specific body parts, like your hips or knees.
Do this whenever you do anything physical.
5. Use movement to experience different sides of yourself
A study showed that people who do synchronised movement (like a group exercise class) work together with others more effectively afterward.
If you’re mostly a loner, maybe you want to try that to experience a different side of yourself.
If you’re mellow and don’t tend to be ambitious, try something intense like training for a half marathon.
If you’re anxious, try rock climbing or another adventurous sport.
Going to yoga three times and then not going back for six months isn’t a failure.
You experienced what it feels like and how it changes you.
Try a variety of types of movement, when the impetus strikes you, and pay attention to the thoughts, emotions, and subsequent behaviour they stir.
The motivated you, the consistent you, the adventurous you, the tired you, and yes, the sometimes lazy you, are all aspects of the real you.
Embrace this a little, and how exercise can help you experience multiple aspects of yourself.