How to Exercise
A lot of people feel challenged with getting started with exercising.
I know I did.
I’d been getting what I felt was a fair amount of exercise through recreation and lifestyle, but I didn’t know how to get started with a more structured exercise practice that could help me move toward a goal…and help make up for more time spent indoors and on the computer. Basically, the kind of exercise practice that could make the difference between diminishing capacity as I age, or increasing my capacity.
If you’ve struggled with your own exercise practice you might enjoy this list of what I’ve learned thus far about exercise.
- Having both big reasons and reasons that motivate you now will help get you to show up when you don’t feel like it.
- When you start to make measurable progress you get excited to see more measurable progress.
- Measurable progress involves a number. Number of seconds, repetitions, pounds, inches.
- There’s also hard to measure progress, like feelings, which are also important, but because they’re more subjective we can get into second guessing whether they’re happening, which can get us questioning whether any of this is worth it.
- Slow adaptation over time is real and reliable. It is, in fact, inevitable, which is comforting when we’re trying to use it to progress in the direction of our choice.
- Something that looks impossible to us, has a starting point. So we don’t have to push ourselves to do the impossible. We just have to choose the starting point that’s right for us and keep showing up. The rest will be the result of slow adaptation over time.
- When we get fluent or proficient with something it gets boring. So to keep exercise interesting we keep progressing it.
- Once we have a starting point, we show up and practice until the thing gets easy, or maybe not even quite easy, just doable and slightly less challenging than it was when we started. When it gets doable we add more complexity, or more weight or slow it down or speed it up or do it in a different way that increases the challenge, and then we practice with that until we can do it.
- To see clearly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that something that you couldn’t do 3 months ago is now something you can do is an amazing, positive, transformative experience. It’s an experience that you want to keep having. This is a big part of the motivation to show up day after day.
- Progress can happen fast, from one day to the next or one week to the next.
- I know that having a streak (not missing a session) can motivate some people. Whatever works. But I don’t think about streaks. Every time I show up feels like choosing a new beginning. The moment I show up I’m making a choice to move in the direction of my positive future. So missing 4 days or a week doesn’t feel like a defeat. It’s something that happened, for whatever variety of reasons, but today I’m making a choice to move toward the future I want.
- Likewise having to regress (to make easier) an exercise is not a defeat. Sometimes it happens for an identifiable reason, like having missed four days, or switching back to doing an exercise after a period of working with a different one. But sometimes it happens for no known reason. One day I could do something and the next day it feels too hard.
- If you find in the moment that you need to regress an exercise, you just do it. It would be unkind to tell your body what it should and shouldn’t be able to do. It’s telling you, and it’s kinder to listen to that.
- Being weak one day doesn’t mean that progress isn’t happening. The days, and even weeks, can have ups and downs, but slow adaptation over time is inevitable.
- The only way to know if you’re doing an exercise “right” is to feel it from the inside. You can get the rough form of the exercise by following cues to put your body in the right position, but feeling it from the inside is the essential skill that tells you whether it’s right, whether it’s work, whether you can do it or need to make it easier, whether your body is coordinated or disorganized, whether you’re injured or risking injury.
- When things feel “right” they feel like work, but you feel solid and coordinated, like your whole body is working together. Sometimes you feel strong.
- You don’t feel strong more often during your practice as time goes on, because you keep practicing harder and harder things. When you get to feel strong are unexpected moments when you’re doing your other activities.
- One result of strength (or increased range and resilience or increased capacity) is that, not only do actions become easier, but the path that was not a path becomes an option. So, paths that you couldn’t see before (because they were impossible or had undesirable consequences) become visible. This is also thrilling and motivating.
- What it means to do an exercise “right”, is to get the work into the part of your body that you’re trying to get the work into. So there is more than one way to do an exercise and there is also more than one way to get work into a part of your body.
- There are places in your body that you don’t want to put work, or force. Avoiding or knowing how to go around those places is also part of getting the work into the place you want it.
- Since there are a lot of options for where and how to put work into your body, you can trim down those options and make easier decisions as well as making faster, measurable progress, by having a goal.
- Having a goal that feels a bit out of reach is a nice size goal.
I’m curious which of these sparks your interest? If you’d like to cut and paste it into a reply and tell me what comes up for you, I’d love to hear about it, and to explore the idea further. There’s more to say about each of these things, and I’m sure I’ll continue to learn new things as I continue along.