I feel like everyone is always telling me to exercise because “exercise is good for you.” The thing is, I have no interest. So as much as you might recommend it to me, you may as well be talking to a wall. Exercise is something I did in high school. It has not been part of my life since my early adult years. I mean sure, there are times when motivation will strike and I’ll pack up and go to the gym. But that only lasts a few weeks and might happen once a year.
What Others Tell Me
According to my brother, “walking is not exercise,” at least in his mind. His thing is that one needs to get the heart rate up for at least a period of 20 minutes at a time a few times a week. Sure, that sounds doable in theory. The problem is, once again, that I have zero interest. The exercise that I get is pretty much walking my dog three times a day for about 15 minutes, 20 if I’m really motivated. This is a benefit of having a dog.
The truth is, everyone isn’t always telling me this. I think I have to remind myself of it sometimes. My brother helps by gently suggesting it every couple of months and I appreciate it. It comes from a place of loving care. My Mum struggles sometimes in getting enough exercise in. I think most of us struggle with this, particularly given the average American sedentary lifestyle. Sorry, Americans. I think it’s a stereotype but there must be some truth in it. I don’t use a bicycle to get to places. I drive. Even if it’s to the dry cleaners across the street. Please don’t judge me for that.
The bottom line is that it’s a choice. In not exercising I am making a choice. I am saying to my body, “I know you have curves and your stomach is not flat, and I like you just the way you are.” Don’t some people call these things “love handles?” Well, I say, bring it on! I am going to accept my body the way it is. I am also kind of telling my body that “I have other priorities in life and you are not important enough for me to spend time on.” I mean, it’s not the nicest thing to tell someone, particularly to yourself. But in not exercising, that’s essentially what you’re saying to yourself. And I’m okay with that.
Give Yourself Credit
Some of us are mothers. Some of us live in the big corporate world. Some of us are students, some of us have chronic pain or heart conditions, and the list goes on. Let me just say this: walking is exercise, especially if you are just starting out. Give yourself credit for that 10-minute walk and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Just don’t go eating a half gallon of delicious ice cream afterwards as a reward. Rewarding ourselves in healthy ways is important and it can increase motivation.
There are plenty of ways to reward yourself. You could watch your favourite show, you could dip those carrots in some ranch dressing instead of having them plain, you could take a hot bath. There are so many things you can do to say “thank you” to your body. Acknowledging our body’s existence by giving it some attention can be rewarding in itself. A little bit of gratitude can go a long way.
A Story About Annoyance
May I tell you about something that is really aggravating? It’s when the same person tells you the same thing over and over again. Like my former acupuncturist, for example. The point of going to see her was to reduce my stress. At the beginning of each session, I would give her the update about what was going on in my life and about the latest thing which was causing me grief. Then I would tell her I haven’t been stretching enough and that my muscles ache. Do you know what she would say? “What’s getting in the way of you doing that?” I’m sure she was just trying to be helpful. But she repeated this questions at least three times within a month. Eventually, I figured I didn’t need her any longer and stopped seeing her.
Yoga. The Zen of all Zen practices. I think I heard at some point that yoga has been practised for thousands of years. Maybe I’m wrong. But it has been practised for a long time in human history. There are innumerable benefits to doing this practice, of which I could tell you none. Once again, great in theory, not so great in practice. I have this story that I tell myself in my mind which is that is that yoga is difficult. The times I’ve tried it, I couldn’t keep up. I’m sure it’s just that the class was too advanced and I might have a more pleasant experience if I did a beginner’s class. There is a yoga studio within a 10-minute drive from my home. Heck, I could walk there in 30 minutes! But I don’t.
How am I supposed to reconcile all of this “not doing?” If I think about it too much I might begin to feel shame and guilt. That would only make me feel worse, and that’s on a good mental health day. So maybe the answer is that I don’t have to give myself any answers now. No one is putting pressure on me other than myself. I am accountable to no one but me and I am in charge of my life. I make decisions about how to lead my life and if exercising is not something I have the bandwidth for right now, then so be it.
There is Always Hope
I can focus on other aspects of self-care, like not drinking alcohol and distracting my mind when I feel like harming myself. I can be my own mother and tell myself that it’s all going to be okay. Because in the end, it’s always okay, even if that not-okay part lasts a long time. Everything always gets better eventually and there is always room for hope. If you cannot hold that hope, someone else will be holding it for you until you are ready. Love yourself for who you are in this moment, right now.