Humans are made to move. Our bodies are amazingly put together to allow us to run, jump, dance and play - all the things you see small kids doing all the time. What is it that happens to us as we get older that makes us stop taking joy in in the ways our bodies can move and start seeing movement as a chore? The cues we receive are myriad - from our parents telling us to sit still, to our teachers expecting us to be quiet in the classroom, to our first desk jobs, to a sudden shift in messages from everywhere as we get older that movement isn't about FUN - it's about being FIT, and that we should all feel BAD about not doing enough of it. I don't know about you, but guilt trips tend to take any possible fun out of something I'm doing and make it positively grueling. But these are the messages we receive as we move through our lives as Americans, and it's no wonder so many of us end up with exercise continually on the bottom of our to-do list, constantly feeling lousy about it, with health problems piling up because of it.
WE NEED TO LEARN HOW TO HAVE FUN MOVING AGAIN!
You knew how to do it when you were small. There wasn't any complication to it - your body was new and it felt good to move. Moving wasn't about health or looks or guilt. It was just fun. Now, you have the habits and the aches and pains and the attitudes of an adult. You're probably going to be a little hard to convince at first. But - would you rather keep your current attitude that exercise is a difficult, annoying chore and hate every minute of it, if you ever manage to make it a habit? Or would you rather try and get some joy from it if you're going to try and do it anyway?
So. How to start working on making movement a fun thing again when it sounds like anything but?
- Take cues from your kids. If you don't have kids, you probably know some. Kids love it when adults are willing to play with them - but you have to actually play. Run around, roll around, dance, jump, crawl, play! If your kids are already caught up in the video game or computer's maws, tell them you're going outside. Bring squirt guns, or balls and mitts, or a frisbee, or sleds if it's winter, and a determination to have fun!
- Let the dog take you for a walk. Don't just take the shortest route possible and go back inside - let the pup have an adventure and share the excitement.
- Indulge your silly side! If you're in a good mood and feel like skipping down the sidewalk, or dancing to a song you like, or running up a hill and striking a king-of-the-mountain pose, do it!
- Use your imagination! Yes, you're a dignified adult, but that doesn't mean your imagination has dried up and died. Sometimes, when I'm running laps on the track, I'm actually Batgirl chasing criminals. It's much more interesting than running in circles on a track, and it gets me done faster. Yes, it makes me a total nerd, but I'm a total nerd who can run for miles.
- Pair exercise with things you like. Listen to music that makes you want to move and use it to energize you. Work out in front of your favorite tv show. Put a comedy skit in your ipod and laugh through your routine.
- Take a fun class. There are all kinds: Zumba is latin dance aerobics. Drums Alive lets you beat on stability balls with drumsticks. Hip Hop Abs is pretty much what it sounds like. My own Sunday Kickstart class is largely spent giggling. If you're uncertain, bring a friend so you'll both be in the same boat.
Whatever you do, it has to be something that works for you. The more you focus on having fun, the less of a chore exercise will be, and the easier it will be to make it a permanent part of your life. You might be sore and tired at first, but remember, consistency is the key to getting rid of these symptoms. As they exit stage left, you can have even more fun!