Exercise and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. For me, exercise is like a bad relationship or phone contract you just can’t let go of – you know what I mean.
“Exercise, if you kick my butt one more time, I’m out. It’s over. No more jumping HIIT sessions, or weights which I can’t even hold, no more moves which should only be done on a twister mat and if I hear one more thing about Cross-Fit and its acronyms I’ll take its AMRAP and show it what I really think.”
Why is it that something which is so good for us causes us to go through so much pain? It’s so much effort and quite frankly I’d rather have Netflix judge me for how I spend my time than have exercise make me throw up again – physically or metaphorically.
Why is it then that exercise can create so many benefits and happiness for us, in the long run, but the thought of doing it makes me want to tie myself to the couch with resistance bands? It’s the same with our emotional and spiritual health. I want to be that “balanced” emotional person: a serene, peaceful spiritual being just oozing wisdom. Yet why can’t I get there?
Gratification, that’s the problem. Exercise does not (always) turn around and give us a high-five. Sure there’s endorphins, but who feels them when you’re dripping with sweat and just focusing on breathing? Whereas that glass of wine and binge TV watching offers a great big slap on the back, a “we love you”, and a giant dose of happiness.
That’s the problem. Our mindset has been reconditioned for instant gratification and quite frankly exercise, you’re just not playing ball. We don’t need more fad diets, exercise routines, fancy equipment, or fancy gyms for that matter. They’re all just there to help distract us from what we’re actually doing and going through. Sure, I love a thoughtful padded box (no one likes grazed shins) and a tyre throw as much as the next HIIT training madman, but what we really need is a mindset shift.
Happiness and gratification don’t (always) come fully packaged in one workout session but should be seen as a long-term goal and not just a tub of ice cream on a week night. If we start to see happiness as a journey that we move in and towards, and find an exercise or movement we enjoy, then exercise becomes a pleasure and not a chore. Exercise becomes refreshing and not just routine.
It’s the same for our emotional and spiritual exercise. I want to engage more with my emotions and find balance. However, when the arena of patience, frustration, feeling overwhelmed, or responding with kindness appears, I’m not prepared to be in it face-down. I’m not ready to get back up and be knocked down again. I want to be in the bleachers, eating popcorn and watching on, because I’ve obviously already “made it”.
The problem is, you can’t sit on the bleachers without having been in the arena. (Read Brene Brown’s Rising Strong on how to rise up from a face-down moment for more on this.) Spiritually, I want to feel at rest and at peace. I want to be deeply connected to what and who I believe God is, but I can’t seem to get there. We don’t need more self-help books, “21 days to a new you”, churches or even spiritual gurus. What we need is a mindset shift from success without sacrifice and results without process, to a love affair with the victory and the fight.
So how do I do this? I’d love to say I have the magic bullet for you (and me, for that matter). One thing I often say to my personal training clients is: “If it were easy we’d all be doing it,” which may not be helpful, but it’s true. Something I do find helpful to remind my clients is this: “When you know why you do what you do, things become easier and you move towards your goal quicker.”
I’ve heard that when we choose to do something, it’s 90 per cent down to the ‘why’ and 10 per cent ‘how’. If you have a good reason for why you’re doing something, the ‘how’ will simply follow.
So here are a few questions to help you find that ‘why’, and keep you moving towards your long-term health and wellbeing goals:
- What does it look like for you to achieve these goals?
- How will you feel once you’ve reached them?
- What potential barriers are in your way from achieving these?
- How can you help yourself move through these barriers?
- Who can keep you accountable to these goals?
- Which three areas can you instantly make healthier choices in to start moving through the fight, the process and the sacrifice to the victory, results and success?
- How will you celebrate once you overcome these barriers and reach your goals?