A Simple Mindset Shift to Start a Consistent Exercise Habit

I've always been envious of natural athletes. You know, those people who can run marathons or triathlons or tolerate crossfit. People like my husband, who excel at every sport the first time they try. The ones who run towards the ball instead of awkwardly running away from it while waving their hands in front of their face.

That's not me. As a child, I was never good at sports. As I got older, I tried to start an exercise habit, but it never stuck. I'd go to the gym for a week, then not again for a month. I'd set out for a run, a stop after less than a mile, even though physically I knew I could run longer. I spent money on tons of fun workout videos, then only used them a couple times.

The problem? I hate exercise. Hate is a strong word, but in this situation, it's 100% accurate.

Yet, as I write this, I'm covered in sweat, hair wet in a ponytail from a long run. I just did laundry, not because I ran out of clean underwear (the usual reason), but because I ran out of sports bras and sticky socks. In the last six months, I've been consistent with either yoga, Pure Barre (<---Full disclosure - Pure Barre corporate and a couple studios are a client of mine) and/or running 5-6 days a week. Most importantly, I've actually loved every second of it.

Seriously, who am I??

I say all this not to brag (although I do want to brag a little bit, because hey, I'm proud!). I say this because I know many of you are in the same boat I was in. Hating to exercise, but knowing you should do it. So, you force yourself to the gym, sign up for bootcamps, and spend too much money on cute workout clothes in an attempt to get fit. But after awhile, when  your willpower fades, it's back to the couch.

The key for me was to stop thinking of exercise as exercise and to start thinking of it as movement. 

Exercise is something you force yourself to do. It's a means of burning calories or toning your abs. It's a chore to cross of the list. Exercise implies punishment. Punishment for eating a brownie or skipping your green juice or for having thighs that touch. Exercise is done out of fear, whether it's fear or weight gain or fear of the health consequences of being sedentary.

Movement, on the other hand, isn't something you do because you have to, but because you want to. While the results may be weight loss or a more toned body, you move because you want to feel great and because you enjoy the activity. When you move, you still challenge yourself, not because your self talk is screaming like a boot camp instructor, but because you're curious how far or how hard you can go.

As I shifted my mindset, I found myself doing more movements I enjoy. I discovered yoga, which was easy to be consistent with because I love it. By thinking about it as movement, I don't consider myself a failure for not being able to do a headstand after three years of practice, but relish in the fact that my form and flexibility have improved. When I started Pure Barre, I didn't let myself get caught up comparing my form to other women in the room. Instead, I celebrate the fact that I can hold a posture longer, higher and straighter with each class, even if it's not as long, high or straight as the woman next to me. With running, I finally pushed myself past the usual short 15 minute run around my (very flat) neighborhood by challenging myself with curiosity. I asked myself "I wonder how long you can run without stopping?" To my surprise, it was three times the distance.

To my fellow awkward runners and former last kids picked for the team, I challenge you to start changing your mindset around exercise movement. I hope you'll report back and tell me how it goes!