How I Stopped Hating Exercise
Growing up, my greatest athletic accomplishment was managing to not get injured by any of the basketballs that flew off the court and towards the bench – the one I was dutifully warming. I was the kid who begged my mom to let me bring Virginia Woolf to the volleyball game that I was supposed to be playing. The kid who would rather be tortured slowly by geometry than run a mile.
I was not an athlete, to say the least.
I remember when I told my family I was running my first half marathon. Running? They looked skeptical. From what?
Just because I enjoy it.
Enjoy it? Is something wrong? Then came the hand on my forehead, the head shakes, and the worried looks. Honey, I think you might be ill.
Amazingly enough, I had come to love exercise. Today, I treasure the moments I can get outside and feel the cool breeze on my cheeks on a run. My body feels alive and invigorated when I stretch my arms out long to swim. I feel centered and calm when I hold my body in a yoga pose. Movement awakens my spirit.
But like I said, it wasn’t always this way. And I want to share with you just how I stopped hating exercise.
1. I ignored those that linked exercise and weight loss. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – there’s minimal evidence that exercise actually leads to weight loss. While this news comes as a major disappointment to those that slave away on the treadmill in hopes of a smaller figure, it’s actually really freeing news. It means you can step off that monotonous treadmill and start doing something you actually have a chance of enjoying.
2. I stopped doing it mindlessly. When exercise is associated with struggle and pain, of course we want to disconnect from the experience. Who wants to hurt? Like most people, I was initially addicted to Bravo and my iPod during exercise and couldn’t fathom doing without distraction. It was only once I gave mindful exercise a chance that I realized just how… dare I say it? … good movement could feel.
3. I started practicing yoga. Some of you might remember when I took my first real yoga class (Spoiler: It was unpleasant!). Since then, however, I’ve become a total convert. Yoga (and other eastern pratices like Tai Chi) has a way of transforming the way that you view your body and your experience in it. You won’t look at movement the same way again.
4. I ditched competition – with others or myself. Humans, particular ones in western society, tend to run on the obsessed side when it comes to competition. From road races to CrossFit competitions to pie eating contests, we can’t seem to get enough of beating the heck out of each other. For me, competition takes the focus off of myself and my own experience and moves it outside – something that diminishes the experience for me. When I start to worry about being faster or stronger than someone else, I immediately enjoy what I’m doing less.
5. I stopped the same thing all the darn time. It’s easy to fall into a rut when movement means doing the same activity again and again. I couldn’t get myself out of bed if it meant running for the fifth day in a row. But when I have some variety to look forward to, I anticipate my exercise time with excitement.
6. I started savoring the time alone. I spend a lot of time talking with people. It’s sort of part of the job. So I like being alone and quiet while exercising. It’s one way that I can decompress and look inward. I especially love the early mornings.
Do you enjoy exercise? Have you always? What’s your favorite part?