If you asked most people why they exercise, they would probably tell you one of two things: either because they have to or because they are training for something.
Both of those are perfectly good reasons to exercise. We do need to move our bodies in order to be at our healthiest, and choosing and training for an event can be a great motivator and lots of fun. But what would happen if we focused on movement as the source of feeling good and loving and nurturing ourselves?
Let’s ditch the fitness extremes.
Let’s talk about the two extremes. First we have the people who we will call the over-zealous exercisers. These are the people who workout to eat, who train for events, and who feel that high-level training is a necessity in their lives. They are driven, they are over-achievers, and a lot of times they don’t know when or how to stop. Their motivation can come from loving and unloving places. Maybe they are motivated by how much they ate last night, so their training begins to be a form of punishment on their bodies. Maybe they are motivated by a goal that seems bigger than themselves, like a marathon, so then their training takes the form of accomplishing something that takes their self-confidence to a new level.
Regardless of whether the motivation is positive or negative, over-zealous exercisers often have a hard time understanding that recovery is a very important part of being fit and healthy. They are usually forced to stop because of sickness or injuries. Our bodies cannot take the stress of constant, week-in week-out training. Sometimes the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves is take a break from training or exercise, be still, and soak in the goodness of rest.
The other end of the spectrum are the people we will call the work-shy. These are the people who struggle with committing to exercise to keep their bodies in harmony with its natural need to move. The work-shy resist moving at all and feel most comfortable in a sitting position. They lack self-confidence and struggle with motivating themselves to creating a new habit or practice. They often feel as though they have to do something uncomfortable, like take a class or work out in a gym, in order to feel accomplished. They typically allow fear to stand in their way of trying something new.
The work-shy usually know that movement is an important part of being in balance but feel stuck in their present circumstances until something drastic happens with their health or a significant life change.
6 Ways to Practice Fitness for the Soul
As different as these two extremes are, they actually have quite a lot in common. Neither have any form of harmony in their lives when it comes to exercise. Neither are truly listening to what their body is asking them to give it.
How can you start to move to a place where you are listening to what your body is telling you? Here are 6 ways you can begin.
1. Set an intention for your movement. If you are striving to live a life where each moment matters, setting an intention for what your movement will bring to you each day will make that movement meaningful. For example, setting the intention of being filled with energy creates the space to take a walk or go for a swim that fills you with energy.
2. Listen to your body. Each morning before you get up, do a quick body scan. Are you feeling overly sore or fatigued from yesterday’s workout? If so, a more gentle form of movement or complete rest might be best. Are you feeling creaky from not moving enough? Some stretching and a brisk walk might shake that feeling out.
3. Be flexible. Maybe your training plan calls for a long run today, but you are just not feeling it. Allow for flexibility in your plan for the day, week, and month. Be willing to change your plan according to what your body is telling you it needs.
4. Be honest. When making choices about movement it is important to stay in your own integrity. Avoid making excuses and placing blame when you choose something that is not in line with your goals. Own your decisions fully and make choices about movement that leave you feeling empowered and energized instead of feeling guilty.
5. Have a vision and set realistic goals for your health. Close your eyes and picture how you want to look and feel in regards to your health in one year. How does that feel to you? Really start to embody that feeling and look at it as though you are already there. Once you have a detailed vision of what you want in your health, you can start to set realistic goals to get you there. Your vision will be the driver and motivation behind your choices as you start to take action on your goals.
6. Ask for help. You do not have to do this all by yourself. Ask a friend to be your movement buddy or hire a coach to help you come up with a realistic plan for your goals and then help you work on your mindset. A good coach will believe with you and hold you accountable for your choices.
Movement does not have to be all or nothing. When we start to tune in to what our bodies are telling us, we become more deeply connected to the inner wisdom that we all have available to us. Being mindful of what our bodies are asking for in the form of movement is where we can begin to make every moment matter and create harmony with exercise.