An exercise practice is individual in nature and I don't believe there is one perfect workout for all of us. Instead, I believe we all like and benefit from different things. It's important to love (and smile about) the movement you choose to do.
Exercise is a wellness tool that can increase your quality of life, improve daily function, clear your head, strengthen your body and mind, and so much more.
I'm passionate about exercise because it's been an amazing constant in my life. It's one of the few things that can instantly clear my head, remind me of a bigger purpose, and focus my direction. It calms, grounds, and strengthens me.
Exercise is an unbelievable tool in my self-care toolbox, but it's just one tool.
I used to define myself by the gym, the number of workouts I accomplished each week, the intensity of a given workout (how much I sweat), or the amount of rest days I took. I quickly realized I was a miserable, unhappy person when my self-worth depended solely on the breadth of my exercise practice. I lost touch with the fact that exercise is simply one tool of many that should be used to increase my quality of life.
When you do take advantage of this amazing tool known as exercise, I ask that you don't try too hard. I know this is likely different from a lot of fitness advice out there and no, I'm not saying you don't need to push yourself out of your comfort zone to get results. What I am saying is to be careful not to push yourself or your body too much too soon. If you can keep your exercise practice fun and treat it almost as play or a chance to explore human movement, then you will accomplish things beyond what you thought possible
An exercise practice done right has the ability to bring out the inner kid in you.
As fitness trainer, Jonathan Angelilli, says “Decide that learning about the body and what it takes to nourish, strengthen, and heal it is a lifelong process, adventure, exploration, and privilege, not a burdensome obligation, nor a military operation."
As you bring the play back into your exercise practice, and begin to explore body movement with no specific goal, you begin to bring another sense of creativity to your day. Not only is creativity great for weight loss (as it stimulates pleasure and the relaxation response), but it's great to get a feel for how the body optimally moves.
Before you begin incorporating curious or playful exercise into your weekly workout routines, you want to build a solid and strong foundation within your body. You want to progressively increase muscle strength, balance, coordination, and basic fitness level so as to decrease the risk of injury (and increase how much fun you can have exploring!).
I use FreeBody to sustain my foundation, but I'm not going to claim it's the only way. Any exercise program that incorporates the following elements should develop a fantastic foundation for which to build upon: full body strength training, core strength training (specifically of the transverse abdominus*), cardiovascular training, mobility training (through specific stretching/flexibility work), and balance practice.
*The powerhouse (also known as the core) is the group of muscles in the center of the body, specifically, the abdomen, lower back, hips and butt. An important piece of this mighty powerhouse is called the transverse abdominus. This transverse abdominus is like our own internal weight belt, connecting to our spine and pelvis.
Generally, we exercise to increase our quality of life and better do the things we already do every single day. These things are called "activities of daily living". In order to improve our movement efficiency and live with more ease, it's helpful to have a fair amount of body control and awareness. We need to be able to move the way we want to and the way our bodies are intended to move - through full ranges of motion. With this exciting body control and awareness, we can begin to add creativity and playfulness.
We can play with (or explore)...exercise variations (through advanced poses, flows, etc.), tempo of movements or flows, rest between particular movements (i.e. incorporate more a flow type practice), breath control during movement to increase flexibility, and anything else that feels good to our bodies! All in all, we can start to think of our arms, legs, core, fingers, toes, etc. as pieces of a puzzle.
Curious movement brings these pieces together in many different puzzles.
Even if you have no desire to get creative with your movement in an exercise format, think about getting creative as you move through daily life! Add spontaneous movement whenever you can by dancing while vacuuming, skipping to the mailbox, balancing on one foot while watching TV, running around with your kids, swimming, etc. There are so many different ways in which we can creatively add movement to our daily lives. It doesn't have to be formal and it doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you.
Encourage your kids to get creative while they play with toys, run around the yard, or dance to a favorite song. Chances are they already do this! They're already exploring movement, pushing boundaries, and bringing the play back to exercise.
If exercise isn't quite as appealing to you as it is to me, that's ok! Start by thinking back to when you were a kid. What movement did you enjoy then? The playground? Trampoline? Soccer? Swimming? Start with those.