In my previous life, when I woke up and actually showered and went to work in clothes unsuitable for yoga, exercising necessitated two rounds of hair and makeup — one in the early morning and one after the gym to prepare for a late night reenactment of Sex in the City with a cadre of first-year lawyers only slightly less glamorous but equally impressed with themselves.
Let’s just stipulate that today I’m lucky if I shower each day, particularly if I can do so without my three-year-old enabling our bathroom’s “water feature,” a bidet with a ten-foot vertical spray. You can imagine.
After kids, getting to the gym for a “real” workout seemed impossible. When it wasn’t impossible, it was just really hard.
So I stopped.
I’ve posted before that I’m hiking in the woods … a lot. After one particularly lovely but insane friend revealed he’s logging 18,000 steps on his Fitbit, I had to do that. Some friends actually nicknamed me “Nature” because I spend so much time in the woods by myself. (Hear that crazy murderers, sociopaths and errant bears! Not afraid of you!)
But how did I get here?
I changed dramatically my notion of exercise.
I started by choosing an exercise that was so ridiculously easy that failing would be nearly impossible. I would actually have to work to fail. This was my absolute minimum exercise requirement.
Five minutes of walking, five days a week. Rain or snow? I could walk around my dining room table. Even with a toddler and a codependent dog.
A week later, I had evidence that I had indeed met my exercise committment.
So I repeated it for several weeks. Often I did much more than five minutes. And sometimes it was only five.
The success here was not miles around the dining room table I had walked (thirty-two), but the stunning change in the way I thought about myself.
I was a walker. An exerciser. Dare I say … an athlete. So I moved my walk out into the woods and kept repeating that.
I was a hiker. A long distance hiker.
Psychologists call this “self perception theory.” Just as I make judgements about others based on their observable behaviors, I observe my own behavior and make judgments about myself. Observing myself meeting this minimum exercise requirement allowed me to see myself, to identify myself, in a different way — ultimately as a hiker and athlete.
So, how to start?
My client puts on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack and does one minute of bicep curls after she gets out of the shower.
My friend does ten jumping jacks each time she finishes peeing. (Those of you who have given birth can appreciate her timing.)
You’re training your body.
You’re training your mind.
Try five minutes. Or two.
Tell me how it goes!
© Liora Powers