Making Exercise Meaningful

This title can probably be taken lots of ways, but I’ve stolen it from an article called 5 Ways to Make Exercise More Meaningful on Appetite for Health and it sparked a little something in me.

I guess I was inspired because I’m at home for the Easter long weekend and have been eating way more than I need to and exercising less than I should, and I have to ask myself “why!?”

Despite knowing I don’t need anything else to eat, I went and had more. Despite looking at the size of my legs and getting frustrated with my inability to do Bird in a Basket – my weight clearly impeding the process – I still went at the chocolate…

Easter be damned! I know better! I am trained. I am actually really good at teaching, and training, and making programs. I know lots and lots. And yet I do not do what I know I need to do.

Yes, I want to lose weight, to look and feel my best, but:

Actually if you look at the data, exercise is actually a poor weight loss strategy. You only think something that superficial should be motivating because that is what American culture says. But it obviously isn’t working. You care about more than weight loss. You just have to find it.

Here are five things you can do to make exercise more meaningful:

  1. Come up with a list of reasons for why exercise is important to you. […]
  2. Take a look at the list and for each item, come up with a deeper meaning. Ask yourself “why do I care about _________”? […]  For whatever reason, “concern about health” does not carry as much meaning or value as “be with my partner and child as long as possible”. You aren’t just exercising for you. You are exercising for them.
  3. Come up with as many value statements and meaningful statements you can and review that list. These are your anchors – the things that will keep you grounded and focused on making exercise a priority. […]
  4. Open your calendar and schedule your workout time every day for the next two weeks. […] It’s better to schedule more than you think you will do – and take it off your calendar when you miss one than to schedule what you are used to.
  5. Use your anchors. Whether you write them on post-its, attach them to your workout schedule or just review the list daily, you need reminders for WHY you are doing what you are doing – and skinny jeans just ain’t gonna cut it. If it were that simple, everyone would be getting the exercise they need.

I’ve started this conversation with myself before, when thinking about Ideals vs Values. where I wondered if there might be a way of aligning goals and ideals with your values? Perhaps you don’t value fitness for health and well-being, the supposed ‘right reasons’, but you do value appearance or fashion or social status or any other number of things that may help you choose to exercise. Then shouldn’t you exercise for the reasons that you value, rather than why society suggests you should.

If it motivates you and keeps you going, how can it be wrong?

Personally, one of the times in my life I was absolutely the fittest and thinnest was after my divorce when I was angry. That anger kept me moving unlike any other motivator in my life, ever. The mantra that went through my head during that time: I’m taking back everything you took from me!

One of the times I ate best in my life, I realise now, is because it was something I could control in a time of my life when everything seemed out of my control. Life was a dizzying mess in so many other ways, but I had my nutrition down to a science.

Now, I don’t ever want to feel angry or out of control like that again, ever. But if I had a mantra, a reason, a meaning behind my exercise and good eating habits that drove me even half that much, I’d be thrilled to find it!

Anyway, I started the conversation, but never finished it. Perhaps it’s just a little too revealing or scary to actually go through the process of uncovering the real deep ‘why’ (what if my reasons are superficial, or don’t align with what I’d like to believe about myself?) But maybe that will answer the questions why do I eat more than I need to? and why do I not train as much as I’d like to?

And more importantly, maybe it will reveal the anchor I need to connect with my values and light the fire under my butt!

Perhaps it’s time to finish that conversation and reflect a little on what I really value, and uncover my ‘why’.

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2 responses to “Making Exercise Meaningful

    • Thanks marylouharris. It is nice to know that my own struggles are not unique.
      Asing myself why has led to some confronting answers “because it’s there, I’m bored, I’m empty, lonely and just want to!”
      Hmmm… my inner thoughts and I need to have a deep and meaningful conversation.

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