Carrie Bradshaw once asked: “Why are we should-ing all over ourselves?” There are so many ‘shoulds’ in our vocabulary for fitness and movement. We should do cardio exercise for heart health and to burn calories. We should do yoga to stretch and destress. We should include strength training in our routines.
The hardest part of sorting through the list of shoulds? Figuring out how or where to begin. If you are working with past injuries, health issues, or any level of busy life, it can seem even harder to get started.
Here’s the thing. Making fitness a ‘should’ is the best way to make sure that we never actually start. That’s not meant to sound hopeless. We just have to change our thinking a bit. Here are some ways to do just that.
Instead of giving you another list of things you ‘should’ do, I’m going to share some information that will help you get started and keep going in a way that works for you. Maintaining a variety of workouts is best. After all, the very best workout is the one that you will do! There are two ways we can think about this.
First, is the behavior science approach. Using positive psychology will help you identify your motivation for including movement and fitness in your life. Understanding your motivation will help identify how fitness can fit into how you frame your life and your vision for your best self.
Second is the movement science approach. This is a little more instructional and grounded in what we know to be true about how movement and fitness impact your body and overall health. I’m going to outline both of these approaches for you. Maybe they both will resonate and help you on your movement journey.
Step one is to understand why you want to be healthy in the first place. It is the opposite of thinking, ‘I really should exercise more’ or what we commonly think of as a New Year’s Resolution. Let’s take it beyond the ‘should’ and go deeply into the why for you personally.
Having a personal vision for your life creates lasting change by setting the stage for the creation of a new habit or routine. The reasoning is that if you want to live the life you envision for yourself, getting as strong as you want or staying as healthy as possible supports turning that vision into reality.
Somewhere in this process of self-reflection you can find your motivation. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, suggests we work toward what he calls “identity based habits.” He tells the story of someone who wants to be healthy and asks themselves when parking their car in a busy lot, ‘where would a healthy person park?’
In asking yourself a question like this, you are making a choice based on the identity and vision you want to become instead of based on something like a weight loss goal.
The next step is to think about what types of activity you love. If you love to dance then give yourself the opportunity to move your body in this way that brings you joy. If you don’t like to run, you might think it’s probably best to leave a 5K off your goal list.
But here’s the thing. If you don’t like to run, but you DO like how you feel after a run you may need to really hook into that and think more about it. Maybe running really is for you and that you just need baby steps to make it feasible for you.
It’s the impact of the activity and how it makes you feel in the end that will help hardwire it into a habit. I encourage you to really dig into the big picture and identify some activities that will help you feel great overall. Make sure that whatever movement routine you choose starts by moving in a way that you enjoy.
I’ve been a Pilates and GYROTONIC® Method instructor for more than 20 years. I see again and again how mind-body fitness systems like these impact people who for a variety of reasons dislike traditional fitness.
Because you are connecting to your breath and focusing on your movements, it gives you a break from your thoughts and allows you to just focus on yourself. You get strong and feel energized to boot.
Whatever activities feel right for you, there is a winning formula for hardwiring the habit of fitness. Link fitness to your vision for yourself, add in the things you actually enjoy to get started, and connect to the feeling it gives you afterwards. You’ll be giving yourself the intrinsic motivation to get going and keep moving for the long haul. And, the more you move, the better you’ll feel.
There is so much to be said for a simple formula of including all the levels of movement and fitness that will positively impact your health. All those ‘shoulds’ that surround us exist for a reason. There are real recommendations grounded in science for why we benefit from all those activities.
By including the different types of fitness and movement in your life you can make them all more effective. Mixing it up might just be the best way to maximize our effort.
For example, it’s common knowledge that we need to have some cardio in our routine. In recent research, we know that interval training or getting your heart rate up very intensely for short periods of time is a great way to create the heart rate variability or HRV needed to keep our hearts healthy. But we also know our heart health benefits from mind-body systems of movement like yoga, Pilates, and GYROTONIC® exercise.
These systems support mindfulness and stress reduction in the body that are key to optimal heart health. We also need to move our bodies through all ranges of motion to keep joints healthy and inflammation down. Strength training will keep our bones healthy and positively impact our metabolism. There is no one single fitness program that will achieve all of these goals at the same time.
Every person I have ever met has one type of fitness or movement they prefer over another. Some people are drawn to the cardio aspect of fitness. They really need to feel that burn to have a sense of accomplishment. Some people love the deep release of yoga or the whole body strength, balance, and mobility of Pilates.
Let’s think about our fitness plan the way we might when we go into the kitchen to make dinner. Stay with me here! We’re looking for that perfect recipe. We look for a balance of flavors that nourish us in a healthy, satisfying way. The right mix of ingredients will help us achieve our successful dish.
It’s really not that different when creating your fitness plan. We want to create a routine that includes what we love seasoned with healthy doses of all the aspects of a well-rounded program.
Brené Brown loves to talk all the time about another quote from James Clear – “you don’t rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” Here’s a formula to create your own recipe for fitness that you know you can stick with at home or in a studio or gym.
Here’s how this looks in my own life. My favorite fitness activities are Pilates and GYROTONIC® exercise. I like to do those activities three days a week at a minimum. Two of the days are at home online in a livestream or on demand class, and one day is at my studio on our Pilates Reformers and Gyrotonic equipment.
I fill in my other days with a well-balanced mix of activities and try to keep moving as much as possible. Cardio is the hardest for me, but I get on a mini-trampoline for 10 minutes (and dance to some 80s music) combined with walking and jogging on a treadmill or outside for 15 minutes.
I add in a mindfulness meditation session for 10 minutes every day. It sounds like a lot, but it is not a rigid structure, and I don’t beat myself up if I miss a day. I do try to stay as consistent as possible because I feel better, sleep better, and am able to live in my identity as a healthful, mobile person.
With so many different types of workouts to choose from, there is something for everyone. I’m going to share a little more about some of the ingredients in my own recipe for fitness. Maybe you’ll be inspired to try one of them for yourself.
Pilates is a system designed to help you strengthen and mobilize your unique body. There are a variety of exercises that target strength and mobility for the whole body, connecting through the trunk. They can be done on a mat or Pilates equipment designed to support and sometimes challenge the movement.
Some pieces of equipment you would likely find in a Pilates session include the Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, and Barrel. Many people have a preconceived idea that Pilates is only for young, extremely fit people, but the reality is that Pilates is suitable for all bodies at any stage of life.
Whether you are trying to figure out how to move safely around a particular injury or just looking to do more of what you love, Pilates is an efficient, effective, and safe choice.
Both Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis exercise fall under the larger umbrella of the GYROTONIC EXPANSION SYSTEM®. Gyrotonic training is a three-dimensional movement system based on the principles of yoga, dance, tai chi, and swimming.
Clients will focus on stretching and strengthening muscles while simultaneously stimulating and strengthening the connective tissues in and around the joints of the body. The exercises are performed on beautifully crafted weight and pulley-based machines and involve a series of circular and fluid movements.
Gyrokinesis exercise uses the same movement principles, but is practiced on a stool, mat, or standing without equipment. In a Gyrokinesis class, you’ll explore movement sequences using just your own body.
Postures are not held. Instead, they are smoothly and harmoniously connected through the use of breath, making exercises appear and feel more fluid, like a dance or swimming. Gyrokinesis classes can be done in-person and online.
Mindfulness is about noticing how you feel without passing judgment on yourself or your feelings. This idea of “noticing” and understanding why it matters is critical to mindfulness and creating successful mindful movement routines.
Noticing the sensations within our own bodies is called interoception. On a basic level, it’s how our bodies and brains speak to one another. It’s how we know when we’re tired, hungry or thirsty, or when we need to pee.
Learning to listen to our bodies’ messages can also help us develop healthy movement and exercise habits, reduce stress, and improve our overall well-being. Starting an exercise routine isn’t just about finding the time or purchasing equipment.
3The first and most challenging step is practicing mindfulness regularly so you can better connect how you feel with how you move. That connection is what will really help you stick to your movement routine over time.
Figuring out where to begin your fitness journey can be a challenge. Learning the movement essentials and finding your favorite types of workouts are the first steps to getting started with fitness.
Have you started a movement routine? What does it include? Is it easy on your joints? What is specific about it? How do you feel since you started a movement routine?
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