It’s snowing again! Two of the most common questions I get on days like this are “How do I shovel snow safely” and “Does it count as exercise?”. Before I went out to shovel, I thought I’d answer them directly in this video. Happy Shoveling!!!
We all know why we should exercise. But do you know Your Why for Exercising?
Your Why is not the same all the whys we could list. It’s personal, only you can find it. When you do find it though, you know it, not just in your head, you know it in your heart.
Here is an example in a German Holiday advertisement. (Warning: have a tissue ready).
Now THAT is a Why.
So what is Your Why for exercise? It’s is not to lose weight. If that were the why you would not care what you could do or how you felt when that number on the scale magically flashed your ideal weight. Its a sweet moment but if you felt more tired, weak and mentally down, what would be the point?!
The header of this blog is a whole bunch of personal whys. The ability to ski with your kids, play on the floor with your grandchildren, perform in plays again, do all the excursions on a dream vacation, dance at your daughters wedding, have the energy to be a passionate teacher again… the list goes on.
When exercise is missing Your Why, its just a task that is most likely to get pushed down on the list when life gets busy.
When exercise is carefully planned for you to get to Your Why, each movement becomes a statement “I am not willing to live without this one thing in my life anymore!”
Your Why will change, so if you had a Why and it is no longer motivating your exercise routine, time to go back and rediscover your new Why or rethink what you are doing so you are confident it will get you to Your Why.
How do you find your Why for Exercising?
You ask yourself, what do I want from exercise that nothing else will give me?
Write down your answer.
Now, ask yourself:
Why is that important to me right now?
Write down your answer.
Keep asking “why is that important to me right now” 5-7 more times and write down whatever comes to you.
Now, look at your answers. What is the common theme that brings a tear to your eye and some excitement to your heart? What is the one thing in there that is so personally important to you, you are not wiling to live without. That is Your Why for Exercising!
The next step is as important as finding Your Why for Exercising. Plan what to do for exercise so you know it is going to prepare your body and mind to get Your Why. The most important part of this commercial is that this man did the exact movement for exercise that he wanted to do for His Why. If he didn’t, exercise would not have worked for him, and it would not have been motivating enough to get him out in the cold to do it every day!
Exercise works like that. The movements you do are the ones that will improve. Do you need to walk for that dream vacation? Then walk, even if it is just ten feet at a time to start. Do you need to be able to get up and down off the floor to play with your grandchildren, then learn the right way to squat and step up with one leg so your body is able to lift you to standing with confidence.
Do exercises that strengthen the movements that mimic what you want to do, not the ones that tone body parts. If your why has something to do with looking better, go back and ask why a few more times. While its great to look better, but that’s an external why. You need to find the internal, personal why below the surface of looking better to get that kind of motivation to exercise and guidance for what to do for exercise.
Choose a word or image that captures Your Why and keep that front and center so you see it when you are in that moment of choice about exercise. This will help ensure that what you are doing is strongly connected to Your Why for Exercising.
If you are a UMass Memorial Weight Center patient we can figure this out in a session together, so what you are doing for exercise to lose weight is motivating because you know it is the way to Your Why!
In ‘normal’ years, winter is a challenging time to stay motivated to exercise. Add a pandemic to that and it’s no wonder many people are struggling to do what they know they should for their health.
The things you used to do for exercise may not be available. You may have a different lifestyle, and gained some weight, lost some strength, stamina and mobility, and you may have developed some extra aches and pains. So how does exercise fit into that whole convoluted mess?
The answers are only found in one place. Right now, inside you.
In normal times it was much easier to be motivated to exercise by outside factors. We had social events, people next to us at the gym, weigh in’s at medical visits, and other social pressures that made us exercise. These are called external motivators. Studies show that on their own, external motivators do not lead to the kind of lasting motivation to keep you exercising during a pandemic winter.
Motivation scientists know that what keeps people exercising through winter storms and changes in their lifestyle is not some magic pill or genetic code, it is internal motivation. They do it because it makes them feel better in their body now. Their brain has made the connection between exercise and their body feeling better now.
So if your motivation to exercise has taken a vacation and left you at waiting for things to get back to normal so it will come back again, this is a great time to build your internal motivation. There are a few key factors to consider when finding something that makes your body feel better now.
First, what your body tells your brain is much more powerful than what the logical side of your brain tells your survival brain. Even if you know you will feel better knowing you exercised, if your body does not feel better from what you did, you will not build internal motivation. The key to internal motivation is listening to and trusting your body.
Second, be open to new types of exercise. Go on a search for all the possibilities for exercise that might make your body feel better now. That can be a challenge because of limited equipment, time, space and a body that feels different than it did eight months ago. It means thinking outside your usual go to types of exercise and knowing that the things you never thought you would enjoy might actually be enjoyable.
One patient told me how surprised she was that the group exercise classes offered only through her company are actually really fun. She was never a group exercise person before, but for some reason it has the right mix of what her brain needs to feel better now.
Do a google search, ask friends what they are doing, look at the resources in these blogs on finding online cardio and strength programs online.
Start with short bouts. Only doing it for 5-10 minutes at a light intensity to start. Its much easier to get started and its enough to make you feel better physically and mentally. Listen to your body and make sure your body is feeling good from what you are doing.
In this new lifestyle you might find several shorter bouts a day work better for you. You might find you are a morning or noontime exerciser. You may discover you are a pretty good dancer or that you like strength training when you can do it at home.
Who knows what you will discover but the fact is, when you stay curious and open and listen to your body, you will find something that makes it feel better now. When you do, you have strengthened the kind of exercise motivation known to be much more likely to stick around, even through a pandemic winter.
With rates of COVID-19 rising, flu season and the deconditioning that may have happened over the past year, chances are you have found yourself wanting to start exercising again, but worried about getting injured, feeling more tired or not being able to find the motivation.
How do you restart exercise after an injury or illness without causing a setback?
First, listen to what your body is saying about what it needs most right now. Often the loss of flexibility and increased stiffness is most limiting. Taking a week to do some light stretch breaks throughout the day can be a great way to prepare your body for doing strength and cardio again.
Second, start small. Short bouts of exercise spread out throughout the day is much easier on your body than one longer bout. The benefits are similar, but your body gets the extra recovery time it needs. If that is not possible, start with every other day so your body gets a day of rest.
Third, listen to your body. Yes, this bears repeating! As you start and progress, your brain will overestimate what you could and should do. Your body will tell you the truth about what it can do and what it needs right now. Stay present. Pushing through pain or fatigue only makes more work for your body which slows the healing process.
Lastly, keep track of what you are doing and how you are feeling. This may seem tedious but it is a great way to help your brain listen to your body more clearly. Keep a journal of what you did, how you felt immediately after and how you felt the next day. It can make a huge difference in seeing that you are in fact making progress, and help you see clearly how to best restart exercising after an injury or illness.
Happy New Year! I am re-posting my New Years post from two years ago. Little did we know we would need A LOT of help with motivation in 2020! Although it’s a new year, getting a fresh start will be extra challenging this year. We need these three simple tools from motivation science more than ever. When it comes to exercise, it boils down to this:
– Small steps lead to big and lasting changes. When what you do feels good now, your brain wants you to repeat it. If you have not been exercising, restart mindfully so you avoid the trap of trying to push for faster results.
-Cut yourself some slack! Its been quite a ride this year, and we need to forgive ourselves for letting things go a bit. Use the same words of encouragement and kindness you would use for someone else and your motivation is more likely to stick around past January.
– Find the motivation inside you – there is no magic out there. The only one who knows how you feel and what is most important to you is YOU. Take time to find the ‘why’ for exercise that is most motivating for you and you will be your own best source of support.
Ahh, that fresh start feeling of a brand new year. Your mind is now free of that holiday to do list and your body is ready to get back to healthier eating and sleeping. This wave of motivation feels great and hopeful. Let’s give it a boost and talk about what science says about making that New Year’s motivation last!
Create a habit loop: Neuroscientists have spent decades studying the brains of people in many different scenarios and have come up with a simple explanation for habits. As described in this TED talk by Judson Brewer, MD PhD, the brain is hardwired to do what leaves you feeling better and avoid what makes you feel worse. This gravitation toward instant gratification is there to keep us safe. Avoiding plants that gave you a stomach ache and traveling to get to a safer location was what helped our ancestors survive. Using…