It's February. The shininess and sparkle of the new year has worn off. The groundhog says there are six weeks of winter left. I don't know about you, but I feel like February lasts forever even though it is the shortest month of the year. We have had nice days sprinkled in with the winter days, so it could be much worse, but man I really struggle with this time of the year.
The main thing that keeps me going this time of the year is exercise. The mental benefit of working out lifts my spirits and calms my soul. The problem is getting my exercise done. The less I run and the less I work out, the worse I feel. My legs are stiff, my back aches, my brain is cloudy. I want to sleep more but can’t figure out why I am so tired, as I am not working out nearly as much as I had been a month or two earlier. I know what will make me feel better, yet I can’t bring myself to do it.
From past experience, I know that I have the best chance of getting my workout done when I exercise in the morning. When I try to sleep in and head out for my run late morning or early evening, I find every excuse in the book to not do it. I am busy. My head hurts. Homeland is on.
I figured out that I was making a couple of critical mistakes that needed to be corrected in order for me to get myself out of this rut. First of all, I realized that I had been beating myself up for some decisions I made. If I woke up and decided not to run in the morning, I berated myself for the remainder of the day. I made a decision (with the help of my therapist) to live by and accept my choices. Move on and find something else to occupy my mind. I cannot begin to describe to you how much of a difference this has made for me! By giving myself permission to accept my choices, there was no further self-abasement or rationalization. No questions, no arguments, no berating. It is like I flipped a switch. Talk about freedom!
Additionally, I had been of the mind that if I didn’t run a certain number of miles or lift weights for so many minutes, it wasn’t worth the effort. I always tell my clients that something is better than nothing, so why couldn’t I follow that advice? It was high time for me to start! In an effort to help keep myself accountable, I began scheduling workouts with friends. One morning I didn’t have time to get much of a run in before lifting weights, but I decided to take the time when I otherwise would have surfed Facebook on my phone and hopped on the treadmill. I managed to squeeze in a mile, and the difference it made in my mental state was totally unexpected. It seemed as though I had run more like 4 or 5 miles judging by the way I felt mentally. After that brief one mile run, I had a fabulous weight workout, and my whole day gained a much brighter perspective.
Since that day, I have applied these lessons to my workout plans. At the beginning of each week – usually on Sunday afternoons – I schedule every workout for the entire upcoming week. And while I used to enjoy running alone, that approach isn’t working for me right now. So I run with friends. I went back to core class on Sundays. I lift weights. With my new perspective, I took all of the pressure off and focused on just moving. If I found I didn’t have “enough” time or if I only felt like doing so much, fine. The mental benefit I have gained from even 10 minutes of exercise is priceless. I feel good. I feel strong. I am exercising to get that mental benefit more than anything else right now, and because I am focused on that, the rest of it all falls into place.
I had to make the mental shift. Our bodies were made to move. Exercise is the best medicine. The key is finding what works for you. When in doubt, work it out.