Last night I was working with a client who made a comment to me that she has hated exercise, and exercising, for most of her life and that she wished that she was one of those people who loved it, which got me thinking this morning on my hike up the mountain. It was a bit of a drizzly and cloudy day and I managed to sneak out early, while most were asleep, and get out into my happy place. As I headed up into the clouds (literally), I started thinking how anyone could hate this: the smell of the fresh mountain air, the sounds of the rippling streams, the noise my shoes make as they climb over the roots and rocks, the birds chirping and the fact that for an hour I won’t see a soul.
That’s when it hit me. When I am in my happy place, or doing any sort of activity that I love, I forget how hard it is. I stop listening to the heaviness in my breath and I no longer feel the burning in my legs. It is not that those feelings go away, it is just not something that I am focused on. But this wasn’t something that was learned or just happened to me. It was a shift in my own attitude that I had to make. Consciously.
Flash back 18 years to when I first started running which is now one of my favourite ways to escape. I hated it. I hated how I was tired. I hated how I couldn’t keep up. I hated that it was work. On my runs I would tell myself that I sucked, that I should give up, that it shouldn’t be this hard, that I am out of shape. Then, when I would look at others who were running around me, making it look so easy, I felt worse and I felt like I would never enjoy this. I was like this for years, not hating being active, but hating how badly I sucked at it and how it never got easy. I looked forward to getting out and accomplishing my runs each week but I dreaded the pain of it. I would actually pray each time we were approaching a stop light that it would turn red so I could rest.
So how did I go from someone who hated exercise to someone who now thrives on it? Someone who would source out some of the toughest races and take on some of the toughest of challenges? How did I start inviting the work and loving the pain? How did I get to where I am now, and how can my client start to love exercise?
You have to believe in yourself. You have to take those negative thoughts that come into your head when you are exhausted, and wanting to give up, and turn them into something positive. Being tired is not a bad thing, it means you are pushing yourself. It does not mean you are out of shape, it means you are becoming stronger. It does not mean you are worthless but rather the complete opposite as you are challenging yourself to grow.
When you look around, no matter where you are exercising, every single person is feeling exactly how you are. Exhausted. Sure, the girl beside you who has been doing spin classes for 15 years is pedaling faster than you and on a higher gear than you but her effort level is the exact same as yours and she is just as tired as you. Trust me. But where the difference lies is in her attitude. She knows that when she feels this way it means she is getting stronger. She knows that she will be able to overcome this challenge and any other challenge that follows. She is comfortable at being uncomfortable.
How do you get from the place of hating exercising to the place of loving it? Here are a few of my favourite tips.
1 – Be kind to yourself. If you are having a rough day and you are extra stressed and tired, then lower your expectations of what you expect out of yourself and your workout. Guaranteed you will surprise yourself at how hard you can push.
2 – Set intentions. Don’t go into your workout without a plan or a goal. Maybe your goal is to not stop for your entire 5km run. Or you finish the entire workout you have planned for yourself.
3 – When you feel ready to quit force yourself to find a little bit more. If you continually allow yourself to give in each time you want to, then you are never going to learn how to push through.
4 – Keep a journal. Write down a quick note after each workout. Record how you felt both physically and emotionally as well as what went well in your workout and what may not have gone so well.
And remember I am always just an email away if you ever need a serious kick in the ass to get motivated.