Yes, I quit the gym just last month. It was a big deal. I’ve belonged to a gym for most of my adult life. So why quit the gym now? In January, the season of new resolutions.
In 2017 several things shifted. The gym was a 15-minute drive away. That was 30-minutes I wanted to use in another way. (Sleep in a little later.) The classes at the gym were not working with my schedule. I am beginning to work in a variety of different places, and in the life I see ahead for myself I will not have proximity to a gym.
But most importantly I found Yoga with Adriene and Les Mills, online sites that have amazing videos I love that I can do at home or anywhere I go. The gym was $70/month and Adriene’s YouTube videos are free and my LesMills subscription is $120 for the entire year, so it was a better way to use my resources.
Now don’t get me wrong, the gym was awesome for me for many, many years. And 2018 may be the year that a gym membership may be awesome for you. So how do you decide what’s going to be best for YOU to find health and happiness in 2018?
It’s much simpler than I originally thought.
After much trial and error over the years and the expanding scientific research about mind and body health, I am absolutely convinced about and committed to a few basic principles.
Moving my body is the most important thing on my daily to-do list.
What I believe about my body has an impact on my physical and mental health.
I will honor and care for my body as the temple of my soul.
I want to feel good living there for a very long time.
With these as my journey touch points, I wanted to identify the other factors I’d thought about as I was shifting my strategy. I’ve been a student of fractals as a way to look deeper into an idea. This was created by Steve Bauer and Sixtus Oechsle, from the Tier 1 Group and founders of The Preeminent Growth Collaborative. This seemed the perfect structure to think more about my “Journey to Move” for 2018.
A DAILY HABIT
Research shows that there is nothing that helps with your capacity to learn new things, remember them, be highly productive and successfully manage stress than beginning the day with moving your body. Most of the studies refer to exercise, but if you dig deeper, it’s really about regular, daily doses of movement.
Yes, it takes time. But this will be the most important investment of time you make all day. It will impact EVERY other thing you do during the day, how you think, how you eat, how you interact with others, how you manage stress and your level of joy. (Yes, joy is possible!)
So I’m going to be a noble friend, and in my most loving voice, I will tell you, yes, you do have time. You really do. Oh, you may have filled every minute with activities, but if you want to have the best chances of living in your body temple, happily, you will make it a priority. I will also give you my most sincere Girl Scout promise that it will be worth every second after some initial training.
Structure with flexibility: I’ve found the key is to have enough structure with a dash of flexibility. Enough of a plan but also some choices so you have room when your rebellious teenager gets tired of the routine. I plan to do a video each day, but I get to select the one I want according to the way I feel each morning.
Seasons and Cycles: When it is winter I am not going outside much. In the summer I will be outside almost every day walking or hiking in the woods around me. Also, my body has different cycles, sometimes I am feeling really strong and want a challenge, or I’m super excited about a new workout or my favorite yoga teacher is back in the area. Other times some body part may need to rest. I need a plan that I can revisit on a regular basis to keep myself interested and engaged.
A 30-Day Practice: These are also called 30-Day Challenges. It is a structure that I learned about during my Positive Psychology training and have experimented with for the last few years. You decide on a practice to follow for however many days there are in the upcoming month. I like it because I keep track of the day of the practice as it corresponds with the day of the month.
I also know I get to change it up the next month. A month is enough time to really get a sense of the new practice and decide what I like about it or not. It is a serious commitment for me. Often, I will post what I am doing to my facebook community or tell a few close friends. Sometimes a few people will jump in to join me and this helps keep me accountable. For me, over and over again I’ve made changes much more quickly when I was supported by others.
Belief Check-in: This is a big one. There are messages that are being sent from a deep belief center within your mind that may not be helping you. One of the big beliefs of our US culture is that aging is a slippery slide downhill. You add more days to your life, things break down, you look and feel worse, and then you need to buy what they are selling. The media and our language reinforce these beliefs in every way possible.
Researchers like Joan Vernikos, who worked at NASA and was part of the team to send John Glen into space at 77 and Ellen Langer, a social psychologist who did a study called “counter clockwise” are showing us very different possibilities. Vernikos sent John Glen at 77 years old into space to study how that the gravity-free conditions of space, and the impact of that on the body, was very similar to the conditions of inactivity as people get older. These conditions were not inevitable, they could be prevented and when they did happen, as they did in space, even John Glenn at 77 could return, and reverse the impact to regain his health.
Langer’s study found that men who lived for a week as though they were 50 instead of 70 showed dramatic improvements in their hearing, memory, dexterity, appetite, and general well-being. Her work shows how we react to social and cultural cues matters and has a huge impact on our actual physiology.
How you think about aging, and your belief of what is possible has a huge impact on what shows up as your physical reality. Ponder the question “What do I believe about my aging and health? Am I deteriorating, or aging like a fine wine getting better with every season?”
Do you believe you could be healthier and feel younger next year? For many, this had been true. Why couldn’t it be true for you? Dare to dream of a different possibility for 2018. Having a destination helps direct the path to take. See it in your mind, find an image of exactly what you want that you can see every day.
One year I was browsing through a catalog in the winter and saw a picture of a woman jumping in the waves at the beach in an adorable swimsuit. I cut it out. I wanted to order the swimsuit, but more importantly, the picture captured the way I wanted to feel when it was time to head back to the beach—strong, healthy and happy. On the days I was about to skip my daily practices, I looked at her and reminded myself what was possible for me. My beliefs were critical to my success.
Mindset matters: This one dovetails with your beliefs. In her work about mindset, Carol Dweck explores the Fixed vs. Growth mindsets. Do you think things are fixed, set and nothing you can do will change that? So you’ve never been a runner or done any resistance training. Do you think it could be possible at middle age to learn to run or begin a weight training program if it were of interest?
The Growth Mindset outlines that with effort, many things are possible, if you allow yourself to be a student, take setbacks as information about how to move forward and know you can take life a little less seriously and get back up to keep moving forward.
Build from here: Sometimes it hard to reconcile where your body is right now. But knowing what is and accepting it you can be ready to safely build from there. It takes a humble spirit and courage. You are here, now. There is time for positive change. John Glenn not only trained and went into space at 77 years old but returned and recovered at the same rate as the other, much younger, astronauts.
With help from a personal trainer or a program that starts slow, and builds, like Adrienne’s new 30-Days of Yoga Practice, called TRUE, you’ll start slow and build day-by-day. There are apps for going from a couch potato to running and very short simple home workouts. But don’t blaze out the second week in January or go too hard and get injured because you went out to fast.
There are fabulous instructors at your gym or YMCA or yoga studio that can be your health Sherpa. Let them guide you so you can safely enjoy the journey and make it to your destination.
If you are still with me at this point, here is where we go beyond the nuts and bolts. This one I put at the top because while I am a pragmatist much of the time, I will share this is where I discovered the golden ticket.
John O’ Donohue is one of my favorite writers. He writes “Your body is the home of your soul on earth.” The body is not a machine; it is a miraculous set of constantly shifting, interconnected systems. The care of the body is not just about administering food and water and taking a walk now and then. It is something much more ephemeral.
Accept + forgive: After too many years of 4:30 am mornings to the gym, (and yes, I felt so superior and proud of myself for waking up before most people) I finally admitted I was not getting enough sleep and the benefits of the gym were eclipsed by the crankiness and fatigue that followed. No doubt that is what lead to the assorted injuries and pains. I’m a slow learner sometimes.
By last spring I had pain in my left hip, for six years. I had moved from calling it my cranky hip, to calling it my special hip. Acupuncture had helped for a while, moving helped, sometimes. I could not drive more than about 15-minutes without searing pain. It mostly hurt when I drove so I explored many different setups in my car, but any extended sitting also hurt. I was getting really frustrated and impatient. And it continued to hurt. A lot.
Over the last few years, I have softened. Many things in my life have changed. I was getting more sleep and began to realize that I held a pretty harsh demanding attitude toward my body.
A deep shift began to happen. For years my body had been whispering and then shouting at me. I tried many things and truly I thought I was helping my hip to heal, but I was just pushing in another way.
At a yearly well visit my doctor noted I had mentioned this hip pain two years earlier. She gave me the name of a physical therapist who she thought could help. I’m so happy to say she did. (Thank you Jackie!) There was, however, one other significant factor in the pain subsiding.
I was invited to be a practice client for a few Somatic Therapy sessions at a part of a training program. In the second one, the practitioner suggested I ask my hip what it needed from me. Since I was out of other options and the pain has been especially bad the week before, with absolute compassion, I asked that question. Yes, I was talking to my hip.
And in a flash, I got the message. “You push me too much, and sometimes I am just going to be tired, and feel pain, similar to life. Sometimes things just hurt. I need you to be able to just feel that and be with me in those times. Not push that away or try and make it different.”
It was like a good friend being really honest with you. It felt bad, yet also liberating. I don’t like pain or any sign that my body is not in optimal health. At some level, it scares me, like some sort of primal survival of the fittest. If I am not in great shape I may just get left behind by the tribe. And die. Alone. I was resisting what was and was making it worse.
That day I said okay. I said I am sorry to my hip. I accepted right where I was. I sat with that. I felt the pain. Really felt it but with no stories, just compassion for myself. A few days later, and more sessions with Jackie, things shifted and my hip began to feel better and only on occasion has any pain now. When it does, I sit with it. It is like in the mindfulness practice, we allow what is, not pushing it away. Not making more stories, and more often than not, it passes.
An Attitude of Gratitude: At that point, I started focusing on the time when my hip was not hurting. I started focusing on what was working and celebrated that. I stopped whining about not running and was full of glee when I could drive for an hour with no pain. When I appreciated what was working, what was good, the good seemed to appreciate, as my teacher Tal Ben-Shahar says. As I did more and more research, I began to realize it is actually nothing short of a miracle that our bodies work well most of the time.
A Promise to Listen: When I made the promise to really listen, I could hear that voice asking for rest, or a softer yoga practice or a slow walk to enjoy the woods or time to just sit and do nothing.
I became a “noble friend” for myself. A noble friend is a friendship where the friend will not accept pretension but will gently and very firmly confront you with your own blindness. It is the capacity to be a good listener to your own softest whispers for care balanced with the wisdom to know when you can be nudged a bit further toward your dreams.
A Plan for 2018
For me, it is winter so I will not be walking outside much and I have a lot of writing this month which requires a lot of sitting. Therefore, I am choosing more cardio, break-a-sweat kind of workout videos to do at home this month. Here is the plan I have made for myself for my 31-Day Practice for January.
What might your “Journey to Move” look like for 2018? I’d love to hear about it. Happy New Year!