Change Your Mind about Exercise to Actually Get It Done
Very active women see exercise as something they do to decrease stress, to have more energy, and as a way to be "better versions" of themselves. Inactive women view exercise the opposite way--as selfish, stressful, and requiring too much commitment. It all depends on your mindset. Notice how exercise helps you to be a “better” version of yourself to get it done.
Change Your Mind About Exercise
"How do I get myself to exercise when there are too many competing priorities on my To-do list?"
This seems to be the epic question I hear from women trying to juggle families, jobs, and their health. I was surprised to learn the answer while sitting in a children's heart surgery waiting room.
Exercise Lesson Learned
It's amazing how much you can learn about someone while in a pediatric surgical waiting room. There's a sudden and instant emotional connection with the people who share this life and death struggle of a little one.
I was beyond nervous for my daughter's second heart surgery. The first one had not gone well. We were now at one of the best cardiac surgery centers in the world to try again. Luckily, for me and my husband, the elderly couple sitting next to us struck up a conversation and kept us occupied during the long wait.
In children's hospitals, if you start out feeling sorry for yourself, it won't last long. There's always someone else with a longer and steeper road than your child has. And that family had been through it!
The spry, elderly woman explained that this was her grandchild's 30th surgical procedure. He had had a heart and lung transplant a year or two back. His parents had recently moved to the Boston area, so that they would be close to this premier hospital.
As we learned about their grandchild's harrowing journey, I was amazed to find that while the child was in surgery, his mother was on a run!
Talk about someone with competing priorities--taking care of herself versus taking care of her needy child. This devoted mom had realized that exercise was the only way to deal with her unrelenting stress and to take care of her child.
Exercise Can Be Stress-Relieving and Unselfish
So what is exercise? Is exercise something we should do, but it's ultimately selfish and causes us more stress, or is it a stress-busting way we take care of our families? Turns out its both!
Michelle Segar, PhD recently published a study that showed that women who weren’t currently active viewed exercise as selfish, taking time away from their families, creating stress in their lives, and requiring too much commitment.
Ironically, women who were very active, reported the exact opposite viewpoints in the study. They felt that exercise helped them take care of themselves, so they could take better care of their families. They found that exercise helped them feel better and deal with stress.
Change Your Mind About Exercise
Exercising daily is all about what's going on in your brain. Most women want to be active, and they know it's good for them. They're just thinking about exercise wrong.
So if you aren’t active, how can you change your mindset, so you can make exercise a must-do habit?
Turns out you can change your viewpoint about exercise by defining how exercise can help you with your most important roles in life and rethinking how you exercise.
Define How Exercise Can Help You with Your Roles in Life
1. Define how exercise can help you with your important roles in life-- The sub-conscious habit part of the brain is like a super-charged Administrative Assistant. She helps the thinking part of the brain (The Boss) juggle the brain's many tasks. She is responsible for 95% of the brain's work.
One of her daily tasks is to keep track of your goals during the day. At the top of your Goal List is take care of your family, and do your job (outside of the home and/or in it). Further down on the Goal List is exercise. It's a should-do, but not necessarily a must-do.
In our busy, fast-paced lives, we never get to the should-do's on our Goal List. We put off exercising for a mythical day in the future "when we'll have the time."
We can change things though. Start seeing exercise not just as a way to lose weight. Reframe exercise as an important way that you decrease your stress, increase your energy, and take care of your biggest priorities. Research shows that all these are true. It's how you become a "better version" of yourself. If you notice that you're a better mother and employee when you exercise, you'll move exercise up to the top of your Goal priority list, and it'll get done.
Find a way to incorporate family time as activity time--walking in the evenings, riding bikes, and swimming on the weekends. Also, try to incorporate activity into your work day--walking meetings, walking breaks to clear your brain, or a group exercise class with co-workers.
Exercise becomes a must-do goal.
Rethink How You Exercise
2. Rethink how you exercise. Remember the sub-conscious Assistant's motivators--get more pleasure, avoid pain, and be lazy? Your sub-conscious part of your brain will always strive to move away from pain.
How do we typically think of exercise? No pain, no gain. Go big or go home. We are taught that if we don't sweat buckets or we aren't so sore that we can barely move the next day, then exercise isn't worth it. But this is the wrong attitude.
If you make exercise too hard and unpleasant, your sub-conscious Assistant will sabotage your efforts. You'll find your brain coming up with all kinds of excuses why you can't possibly make that Super-Mega Interval Spinning Class.
Start Small with Enjoyable Exercise
Be sure to start with an activity that you enjoy in the amount of time that seems fun to you. You can always increase the duration over time. Check out this video to see how one of my clients found her exercise groove by walking only one minute a day!
It's possible to become someone who exercises everyday. Just remember that heart surgery momma. Exercise can help you with your most important roles in your life by decreasing your stress and increasing your energy. Just be sure to start small and enjoy it!
Until next time,
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