It’s October. The days are shorter. That early morning chill begins to bite, along with the sound of the 5:30 a.m. alarm clock. The holidays are on the horizon. With November and December quickly approaching, the ability to make it from your bed to the gym becomes more and more of a challenge. Holiday season aside, only 35% of U.S. adults over the age of 18 engage in regular leisure-time physical activity, according to the 2009 Center for Disease Control and Prevention National Health Interview Survey. So what gives? Where’s our motivation?
When I began my three-week intensive yoga training last summer, my teacher asked us all a seemingly simple question – “Why do you practice yoga?”
To my surprise, everyone who answered the question had a unique reason for their own practice that was completely unrelated to physical fitness:
“It helps me to stay present.”
“It helped me get over my addiction to drugs and alcohol.”
“The yoga mat is the only place where I feel I can be myself.”
“It gives me a sense of confidence and control over my life.”
“It helps me to pull myself together.”
While yoga is most often acknowledged for it’s positive effect on cardiovascular health, flexibility, and overall physical fitness, what keeps students coming back for more is not the promise of abs of steel (which is certainly a possibility), but rather the mental stability that comes with each retreat to the yoga mat. When it comes to physical fitness and diet, these students were some of the most committed individuals I’d ever encountered, and the impetus for their diligence was not vanity.
Perhaps there’s something to learn from this. It’s easy to skip a sweat session at the gym if you’re going because someone else thinks you “should.” It’s easy to become frustrated during a group fitness class because you’re not as flexible as you’re neighbor. It’s easy to get caught up in the needs of your family and friends, and sweep your fitness routine under the rug for a few months. It’s easy to lose motivation. But maybe, just maybe, if we set aside the reasons for exercise that are purely driven by physical appearance, we can begin to harness those that are driven by self awareness and mental well-being. In other words, do it for YOU!
5 Ways to Feel Fit for Yourself:
- Try the elliptical for a mood boost: Many studies have shown that those who exercise regularly feel a positive change in mood and lower their risk for depression. “Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity,” according to an article on WebMD.com, “When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.” In fact, the article goes on to state that these endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain, reducing your perception of pain and triggering a positive feeling in the body.
- Use yoga to stretch it out: Weekly yoga practice is an ideal compliment to a running and weight training routine. Take the hour-long class for yourself and actively forget your troubles for an added perk.
- Punch it out: BodyCombat can be a great way to relieve stress. Need a little push? Visualize a target before you punch (no one will know that you’re secretly punching your neighbors barking dog, or your boss).
- Reward yourself: Squeezed in a 5:30am jog? Good for you! Reward yourself with a cup of your favorite tea from a café or a new scented candle. Squeezed in a 5:30am jog every day for the past two weeks? Treat yourself to a new pair of running sneakers!
- Indulge in a guilty-pleasure playlist: Create a playlist on your iPod that’s exclusively yours, exclusively for the gym. Listen to anything you want*
*Note: All guilty-pleasure playlists must include Justin Beiber, Paula Abdul, and Hall & Oates.