Yesterday a client sent me a lovely message, direct from her holidays, to say how being more active had brought new found happiness. How she had felt comfortable getting involved in running races and being active with her kids whilst on holiday in a way she had never felt before. Not only that but she’d conquered a fear of heights and explained how she felt ‘like a kid’ running high above the tree tops on a ropes course. She felt like a different person.
What had made the change? After a couple of years of ‘dipping her toe’ in the fitness and activity waters she’d finally committed to our Saturday morning Run Club, completed her first ever 5k and in doing so overcome a huge fear of running. She’s also now attending Pilates classes regularly and ensuring she gets a walk or jog in every other day.
It’s a lovely message to receive, when a client articulates the most important message behind being more active and getting fitter: that it can make you enjoy life more and bring you happiness. Right now.
I’ve been struggling with a conundrum recently. How even though really smart people know all the messages about increasing their activity levels, they can be doggedly stubborn about not wanting to be on the fitness bandwagon.
Regular exercise can prevent lifestyle cancers; it can prevent and potentially reverse Type 2 Diabetes; it can stave off Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis; it gives you more energy; and it has a vital role to play in managing mental health disease like anxiety and depression. These are scientifically proven virtual guarantees. Even if you have hereditary pre-dispositions to major illness, activity can help manage them. Movement helps with chronic back pain. We know now that staying still and inactive is quite probably worse for you than smoking.
But still we stay still.
Why is that?
Is it that social media and our abundant information has made us too greedy for shocking headlines, so the important messages are getting lost?
Is it fear? Fear of looking stupid or finding it difficult?
As our attention spans have dropped through technology and the digital age, have we also lost our ability to commit to stuff?
Or is there some stigma attached to fit types that they’re in an exclusive club, fueled by isotonic drinks, distinguishable at some distance by an aromatic cloud of sweaty manmade fabrics and the glow or lurid, fanny hugging leggings?
Whatever the reason, I have some very simple, good news for you. Especially if you are stuck in the stubborn ‘out of the fitness camp’ camp.
It only takes 30 minutes.
You see in all our doing, it’s like we’ve forgotten about being. And the best motivation for exercise is being happy. It’s such a ‘present’ activity. Whilst very few of us could be as fast as Mo Farah or Usain Bolt or as ripped as a fitness model, we can all experience the happiness of activity. Not the quick fix of gobbling a Jamaican Patty or a hot chocolate but a soulful joy.
You don’t have to do HIIT. You don’t have to sign up to a class. You don’t need to join a gym (people are always surprised when I don’t mention the G word) – in fact DON’T join a gym – they’re horrible places for the uninitiated. You don’t have to do Zumba or grow a Crossfit beard. You don’t need to go vegan/plant based or do a pushup challenge. You don’t need to do a triathlon or swim the channel. You don’t need to spend hours clocking up miles, exercising until you vomit or getting boob chafing.
You just need 30 minutes.
Put on a pair of comfy shoes, if you have children or family in your care, let another adult know you are leaving the residence, open the front door and stand on the other side (the front door bit is the hardest bit). Then walk for 30 minutes. You could cycle, or swim, or run or sprint or pull a 3-year-old up a hill on a scooter (as I did this morning) but all you need to do is SOMETHING more than you are currently doing.
You can make all the excuses in the world for not participating and being a bit lazy but in the end, it’s you who misses out.
In September we’re running a 30 minutes for 30 days challenge. We know that after the school holidays it can be hard to get motivated again. If you’re anything like me, activity levels have dropped due to having kids in tow. I’m eating more and drinking more since I’m not teaching as much and it makes me feel a bit bleurgh! So September is a brilliant month for getting back on it.
The challenge is very simple. You commit (COMMIT) to doing 30 minutes of exercise every day for the 30 days of September. For you.
- You could track it with a tracking device or write it on a wall chart (reward stickers anyone?).
- You could do it with a friend who needs a little bit of a nudge.
- You could try a new activity or mix it up.
- You could split it into 3 lots of 10 minutes or do it as a 30 minute ‘head space’ chunk.
- You can do it in secret or share your achievements.
- You could measure your fitness levels at the start and the end or you could just go with the feel good vibes.
- The point is, that you for now at least, you change your motivational focus from weight loss or even long term health benefits to feeling better. 30 days is a great way to create a habit. No one is asking you to climb a mountain or wear lycra, just to commit to a 30 day challenge for you.
You cannot measure how much you’ve prevented illness, today. 30 minutes a day for 30 days may not even cause you to lose weight, if that’s your goal (although it probably will). But it will change your focus from the extreme or seemingly unattainable. It will improve your ‘being’ by creating an activity baseline which works for you. And, if you’re anything like my client, it could quite possibly bring you happiness and child-like joy.