Working Out: Don't Sweat It

 
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The concept of "working out" means different things to different people. For some, it means lifting weights. For others, it means going for a long run, or attending a spin class or boxing session. And still for others (me), it means going on a hike, a long walk, doing yoga, or some low intensity toning moves.

And some people love looking at their workout as a totally separate part of their day from everything else. They set aside 30 mins to an hour (2 hours? Overkill in my opinion but, you do you) to go to the gym or a class, and just sweat it out. Others (me) prefer to have exercise fit more seamlessly into their day-to-day, without the stress of having to make time for the gym, and beating themselves up about if they skip. 

I used to be that person, who wakes up and plans their day around their gym session And I used to tell myself that I enjoyed it, thrived off it, needed it. But I was lying to myself. I liked the endorphins I would get after killing myself over a set of burpees or jump lunges, but I dreaded the idea of having to perform those exercises in order to achieve that high. But I, like many, believed that forcing myself to do something I hated was the only way to stay in shape and be healthy. 

Friend, I'm pleased to tell you that I was wrong-o.

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Being an avid health junkie and Instagram user, I also knew that there were people out there doing workouts they genuinely loved and got excited to do everyday, and were absolutely killin' it. Abs for days. Smiling 24/7. Truly happy.

 They're lying, it's all for publicity, I thought. But then I re-thought. I realized that I do, in fact, get that same endorphin rush after an amazing yoga session, and without dreading 90% of the process to get there. Yoga was my good-vibes-only workout. There had to be other ways of moving and conditioning my body that I enjoyed just as thoroughly, right? So I did a lot of experimenting.

Ultimately, I determined these basic exercise principles are what work best for me:

1. Just move. Walk as often as possible, take public transportation, don't sit on the subway unless you really have to, use a standing desk at work, go for a walk during lunch. Something is always better than nothing.

2. Do yoga as often as possible, as early as possible. Yoga is perhaps the best way to help get your body moving, warmed up, and blood flowing in the morning. The more I did yoga first thing, even just 5 minutes of stretching, the more I recognized that those few minutes did more for my energy than coffee ever could. It also puts my mind at ease, and sets up my day for success.

3. Focus on the burn and breath, not the sweat. My previous thinking went that a workout was only effective if I broke a sweat and couldn't breathe for most of it. No wonder I was miserable. In the past several months, I have shifted my focus to always having control of my breath, and to use that mind-body connection to carry out small, controlled movements that deliver a burn in places I didn't know I had. My go-to's are Melissa Wood Health flows and Pvolve Fitness workouts.

These three principles, together, meant one huge burden was lifted off my shoulders: I no longer had to make time. I didn't have to make time to spend an hour at the gym, and factor in the time to get to and from the gym. I didn't have to make time to get all sweaty, and factor in the time it takes to shower and change afterwards. I didn't have to choose between going to the gym, and eating dinner at reasonable hour. 

Instead, I found time. I found little moments throughout my day to stay active, to get my "workout" in. An example day may look like this:

Wake up, do yoga stretches for 10-20 mins before getting dressed. Do standing leg raises while brushing my teeth. Walk to work. Alternate between sitting and standing at my desk throughout the day. Get up and go to the bathroom or get a drink of water every 30 minutes. Go for a walk at lunch (or maybe even go to the gym at lunch!). Do squats in the elevator (if alone, of course). Walk home from work, or stand on the subway. Make dinner, and do a 20 minute toning session while it's in the oven. Do 5-10 minutes of calming poses before bed. 

This is not to mean that I never go to the gym for an hour. I do, because sometimes I just happen to have the time available, so may as well take advantage! But I don't force the gym time, and if I don't have an hour, I still do 20 minutes.

 And this is also not to mean that I don't ever go for runs or do more cardio, because I do. But the difference is that instead of thinking it was something I had to do, I only do it when I want to do it. Which makes it all the more enjoyable, the endorphin high all the better. And that mental freedom to not stress about any of it? That does wonders for your physical results. Trruuusst me. 

But hey, as I like to state as often as possible, what works for me may be totally opposite from what works for you. The biggest takeaway here is to listen to your body. If you hate the workouts you're doing, you're not going to be able to stick to them. It's just a fact. You hate them for a reason. So do something challenging that you love instead! Even if it doesn't seem like a real "workout," (who gets to decide that anyways?) it could just be the thing to get you in the best shape, physically and mentally, of your life.