Monday, October 4, 2021

Guidelines for Making Regular Physical Activity Enjoyable (Rather Than Disheartening)


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Regular physical activity is extremely beneficial for health and well-being, in all sorts of different ways, and just about everyone knows it, too.

These days, as a result of a growing awareness of the importance of regular exercise and physical activity, there are all sorts of different avenues available for people of all ages looking to engage in a more physically active lifestyle. There are even toddler gymnastics classes you can enroll your child in for an early start.

Unfortunately, though, many people find that they struggle quite significantly with actually making regular physical activity a part of their day-to-day lives, without feeling stressed, disheartened, and frustrated as a result of it.

Although it is one thing to decide to start a new workout program or routine, it’s another thing altogether to stick with it over time – and the guilt of missing workouts or lapsing back into a state of physical inactivity is, unfortunately, something that almost everyone can relate to.

Here are a handful of guidelines for making regular physical activity enjoyable rather than disheartening.

Let go of the “one more rep” mentality – train, don’t strain

According to the strength and conditioning coach Pavel Tsatsouline, fitness culture in the Western world is rife with some pretty serious issues and mistaken ideas and concepts.

Out of all the different things that Tsatsouline believes are mistaken in the Western approach to training and fitness culture, he singles out the concept of “high-intensity training” and the “one more rep mentality” for special criticism, arguing that these things lead to chronic stress, injury, reduced physical performance over time, and various other negative side-effects.

The alternative approach that he recommends is to view training as practice, instead of a way of wiping yourself out. In other words, finishing each workout with something still “in the tank.”

Interestingly enough, this was an idea that was promoted by a number of fitness gurus from the past, including the famous strongman Charles Atlas, who emphasized that the right way to workout was to “train, don’t strain.”

By letting go of the idea that your workouts should demolish you, you can begin to step into a more positive, balanced, and uplifting relationship to physical activity and exercise.

Remember that physical activity comes in all sorts of different forms, not just structured gym sessions

A lot of people find that they can’t really enjoy their fitness routines, in large part because those routines have them doing exercises that the individuals in question just do not enjoy.

Some people may love going to the gym and running on a treadmill, for example, but many others won’t – and if those others believe that the treadmill is essential for “getting in shape,” they will eventually end up viewing physical fitness as a chore rather than something to do for enjoyment.

For the sake of having a more enjoyable relationship to physical activity in your life, it’s important to remember that physical activity comes in all sorts of different forms, not just in the form of structured gym sessions.

You could just as well get your heart rate up by jogging or going for a brisk stroll around the neighbourhood, or joining a dance class, as you could by spending an hour on a treadmill. And resistance training, too, comes in many different forms ranging from things like gymnastics routines to barbell exercises, to bodyweight training programs.

Always be on the lookout for ways of being physically active that you’re likely to actually enjoy.

Find ways to integrate physical activity into your normal everyday routines, so that it becomes a habit

It can be difficult to find room for physical activity in your day-to-day life, if you treat it as a distinct stand-alone activity that involves heading down to the gym. One of the keys for actually helping to fit physical activity into your life is to look for ways to integrate it into your normal everyday routines, and to turn it into a habit.

Among other things, this could include making a point of taking the stairs rather than the elevator when the opportunity presents itself, or fitting a yoga sequence into your morning routine, so that It becomes as automatic as drinking your morning cup of coffee.

Of course, you certainly can do more focused and dedicated training sessions in the gym, but even with these, you should focus on getting them established as habits first and foremost, so that they have a natural place in your day-to-day routine.

Utilising a habit tracker might be worthwhile to help to achieve this.

Look for opportunities to get physically active with others

As with many other activities, getting physically active alongside other people can often be a lot more fun and rewarding than engaging in physically active pastimes solo.

Whether in the form of joining a running group, participating in a dance or martial arts class, or simply getting your significant other to go for long stroll with you, turning physically active pastimes into group endeavours can add an excellent social element, and can help to make this activity something that you look forward to, rather than something that you view as a chore.

Support your physically active lifestyle with adequate sleep and nutrition

If you habitually fail to get enough sleep, and are either dramatically undereating, or are eating an unhealthy and imbalanced diet, it more or less goes without saying that you will have far less energy available for your workouts, and will feel far less motivated to do anything physically active, as a whole.

By supporting your physically active lifestyle with adequate sleep and nutrition, you help to ensure that you don’t end up burning yourself out, and that your workouts or physically active pastimes end up helping to support your overall health and sense of well-being, as opposed to adding excess stress to the already stressed out state you’re in.

Do more of your exercise and physically active pastimes in nature

Engaging in physically active pastimes in the great outdoors – and in natural settings, in particular – seems to be especially beneficial in a range of different ways, and can help to make physical activity more of a meditative practice than it would otherwise be.

In her book, “The Joy of Movement,” one of the points that the psychologist Kelly McGonigal makes is that the positive psychological and health-related benefits of physical activity seem to be heightened when exercise is performed in natural settings.

What’s more, she points out – quite amazingly – that regular physical exercise seems to have the effect of increasing the hope and optimism of individuals over time, on a psychological level.

When you put these things together, it seems like being physically active in nature has a range of highly positive effects with regards to your overall sense of well-being.

Just focus on the next step, to help keep yourself from feeling disheartened

Often, when it comes to things like getting through a workout, or dealing with household chores, a major part of the frustration and internal resistance associated with these activities really comes from our own thoughts about the activities, rather than the experience of the activities themselves.

Instead of allowing yourself to spend a lot of time thinking about how frustrating a workout may feel, or how much you’d rather be doing something else, just take the first step to get started as soon as possible, and then simply focus on the next step, and the next. 

This can be a very powerful way of keeping yourself from feeling disheartened, and it can also help you to generate a lot of positive momentum as a whole.

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