Please savour exercising as a special experience — the stretching, the twisting, the poetic rhythm, the ‘aha!’ feeling… Talk about how it has benefited you, your fitness, your self-confidence. Hail it as an event, as your saviour. Praise and be raised.
“Why?” you may ask. Why not? If you can admire a work of art, why not admire a work of heart? There are far too many people having a negative perception of their body. To exercise seems a “waste of time”, insinuate these wet blankets. They are so busy criticising their body, so rapt in responding to compliments on their toned look with a “Oh, but I haven’t lost any weight”, that they literally think themselves out of exercising. In fact, most often, it’s not the body that lets you down, it’s the mind.
Don’t you see? Wrong thinking, not savouring, actually erodes trust and good intentions that are so vital to the experience of exercising. When you don’t trust, your mind fills with grey negative formations. And you find yourself literally yawning and wishing you were elsewhere while working out. No, don’t turn a beautiful stress-busting exercise into a boring stress-filled activity. Get a grip on your mind. Trust the process of working out as a healing one, trust your body, trust the biological laws, trust your sense of discrimination to know what’s truly good for you. When trust soaks your spirit, stress topples over, meaning enters, your sense of purpose strengthens.
If you’ve led a sedentary lifestyle all along, it’s easier to sit than stand up and exercise. And when you do work out, the old tendencies resist. To engrave the new habit of exercising in the brain, use the etching tool of savouring. If you enjoy the activity, the brain willingly grooves it in its circuit.
Yes, after a long break from exercising you may have to force yourself. That’s okay. Forcing yourself powers your self-regulatory sinew, your will. To empower your will, follow this research-tested method: In an exercise-journal, write the date and ‘My goals for this week’. Write down everything. If you plan to walk this week, write down the time, distance, destination, all kinds of details. For example: “I’ll walk to the next bus-stop. I’ll start 10 minutes early. I’ll pack my office-footwear, medication… I’ll do a few warm-ups with music. That’s my starting cue. I’ll switch off my mobile so that I don’t get distracted. I’ll take the stairs for a bit of extra cardio and sprint through the back gate to avoid small talk with neighbours…”
Journaling serves a dual purpose: *In stating your intentions, you strengthen them and get motivated. *In taking measures against being distracted, you nimbly skip over the humps where the temptation to not exercise lurks. Writing helps turn your promises into plans — you think ahead and effectively find ways to keep moving.
It helps to promise yourself a reward after you’ve acted on your plan. Say, a tasty, sugar-free energy bar or a nice, low-fat smoothie. More on savouring:
Observe how good you feel after exercising and discuss it at length.
Bask in the sense of accomplishment of seeing yourself through a beautiful cardio session.
Enjoy the reward - it’s the icing on the cake.
It’s also an effective savouring practice to build up your anticipation: Anticipate getting into an outfit two sizes smaller. Anticipate how sleek you’ll look. Such anticipations aren’t just temptation-busters, they are powerful enough to actually form a habit of exercising.
Alongside, journal the positive differences in you: Eating with more discrimination and, so, feeling healthier; being more productive due to increased stamina; feeling calmer in tense situations; exhibiting patience with colleagues and relatives; reaching out for credit cards or cigarettes less often…
In fact, exercise is referred to as a ‘keystone habit’ — meaning, its positive effects spill over to bring on other good habits. There’s no doubt in my mind that exercise is a transformative force. I’m not claiming to be perfect because I exercise, but I am definitely better in every way — physically, mentally, spiritually. I still get the occasional sore-throated cough but I have this deep trust in the biological law that “this too shall pass”. And it does.
Each of us has two sides to our personality — the loner and the social dude. So, create two habits: One, exercise at home when you need solitude and silence; and two, join a gym/ class where the people are friendly and there’s healthy synergy. I know that human connection is more healing than a state-of-the-art treadmill. When exercising satisfies a social need, when your savouring factor gets a boost, you just cannot not exercise.
Most importantly, please conserve your willpower energy. For example, don’t fritter it on stuff like answering every email, taking every call with a whiner on the other end, arguing, fuming, and so on. Savour your exercising life, don’t squash it.
The writer is co-author of the book ‘Fitness for Life’.