What sort of movement practices do you engage in? Do you look forward to them? Do you dread them? Do you feel like they are serving you or are you merely going through the motions?
I believe we were designed as a species to move often and vigorously. Living out in nature we would have had to have been fit enough to climb trees to forage fruit, run from predators, create shelters, and so on. Our bodies were our only mode of transportation and we relied upon them heavily.
Over time we have gravitated towards motorized vehicles that carry us around, chairs that support our bodies and a whole society that operates around making things “easier” for humans to get what they need to survive. Unfortunately these innovations have also lead to the steady decline in fitness amongst the human race. As a species we are more unhealthy than ever and growing lazy and unaccustomed to moving our bodies.
Cultivating an Attitude of Play
We have the ability to change this declining trend. We can learn to truly enjoy moving our bodies and experiencing growth in our fitness. We can cultivate an attitude of play towards something that is often referred to as “working”-out and look forward to our play sessions each day.
From a young age I was always interested in sports, playing outdoors and moving my body. Perhaps it was because we did not have TV in my family growing up, but the thought of being inside while the sun was out seemed like a waste of a day. Needless to say, I grew up active. Yet I noticed that as I got older my attitude towards attending sports practices or going to the gym wavered and sometimes it would feel like a forced chore rather than a fun activity. (Sound familiar?)
When I became aware of this trend creeping into my fitness routines I decided to put a stop to working out and learn how to play once again. What I found was that by shifting my perspective I could enjoy a whole range of fitness activities, both new and old.
So how can we learn to cultivate an attitude of play in our fitness routine? We can begin by shifting our point of focus to our desired outcome. This outcome could be anything from being able to do 10 consecutive pull ups, to mastering a front handspring, to learn to salsa dance, or to look and feel great in your body.
Set Yourself Up for Success
It’s time to reorganize your brain and get inspired. Get ready to let go of old patterns of thinking about your work outs and make room for the new. Start by think about what your fitness goals are, write them down, and allow yourself to get excited about how it will feel to achieve them.
Keep your goals present in your mind. Put your list in a place that you look at regularly such as on your desktop or your refrigerator. If you are a visual person, find an image that inspires you with your list of goals. If you work well when you are held accountable, recruit the help of a supportive friend that will check in with you on your progress and remind you of your motivations.
To stay on target with your goals, it is important to know how you are going to achieve them and to have well-formed motivations for doing so. Make sure your goals are set with your best interest in mind. Educate yourself on the topics that pertain to these goals and incorporate this knowledge in your plan for your path to success. When you have good reason for pursuing something and you have educated yourself about it, it is much harder to fall off the wagon.
Set yourself up for success; make it so not only the idea of succeeding sounds good, but go a step further and pre-pave a path to your goal that is just as appealing and exciting. Do this by setting up fun checkpoints for yourself along the way. Checkpoints can be fitness related or otherwise and you can schedule them at whatever intervals will serve for holding your attention. The only tip I suggest is to not make your checkpoint rewards counter-productive (for example I wouldn’t reward myself for reaching 50% of my weight loss goal by eating an unhealthy meal).
Here are some examples of checkpoints similar to those I have used:
Goal: Achieve a full dead-hang pull up
Checkpoint: 5 dead hang pull ups with the smallest resistance band
Reward: Treat myself to a massage
Goal: Fit into a size 1 pair of jeans
Checkpoint: Fit into a size 3
Reward: Get rid of my old yoga pants and buy myself a new, smaller pair
Goal: Attend Crossfit consistently for 3 months
Checkpoint: 3 weeks of 5 classes per week
Reward: My growing strength and fitness will be enough reward for me! Oh but heck I’ll treat myself to a day of “freedom to do no work” if I want it.
Goal: Run 10 miles with relative ease
Checkpoint: Run 4 miles
Reward: Take a trip to Narragansett, RI and run the 4 mile seawall
Checkpoint 2: Run 6 miles
Reward: Run the Barton Springs 6-milke Loop
Goal Achievement: Buy myself a new pair of Merrell Minimalist Running shoes and get rid of my old holey ones with no tread
The rewards can be small, big, frequent, or otherwise. What they should be is relevant to your goals and to what motivates you.
Get Out and Play
The most important thing is to find something that is fun for you and to get out and start doing it. Most likely at least one or two activities sound initially enticing even if you have not fully cultivated that attitude of play yet. Remember, movement can be anything from walking to dancing to playing a sport to chasing around your kids to snowboarding to building a tree fort, and so on.
So once you choose your activities and set yourself up for success (in whatever way that takes shape for you), get out and start moving! And be consistent about it. That doesn’t mean that you have to start doing a new activity 5 days a week, but make it a point to find a way to move every day, and be sure that you are practicing the activities your goals are centered around at least 3 times a week.
Once you get yourself set up for success, it’s time to get out there and make your fitness goals a reality!
Bonus Tip For Fitness Lovers: Diversify
Want to get maximum gains in your fitness?
A lot of people tend towards a certain exercise or two and end up neglecting the other areas of fitness. However, to have great, well-rounded fitness it is important to concentrate on all aspects. We are only as strong as our weakest link, so if you want to improve your overall fitness, it is a good idea to focus on the areas you need the most improvement. Applying this theory to my fitness regime, I have begun focusing on incorporating more strength training in past 6 months and I have seen impressive gains in all areas of my fitness because of it.
OK, all of that aside, let’s get back to basics.
Movement is essential for health. Health is essential for happiness.
Find joy in your daily movement. Choose practices that serve you.
Cultivate an attitude of play and see how it opens up the world around you.
Set goals, stay motivated and get out there and have some fun!