For years I had the same New Year’s Resolution: Work out regularly. And every year life got too crazy. Three little kids. A full-time job that requires a LOT of energy. And, you know, life. But after literally years of trying, I’ve finally got this one down. The topic with Jill Conyers and Jessica Joy this week is: How do you simplify active living to make it a sustainable lifestyle?
I think the key to simplification is flexibility. When I think that “the way I exercise” is to go running, or to exercise in the morning, or to run 9 minute miles, or whatever, I’m closing myself off to other possibilities. The more you think outside the box, the easier it is to fit active living into a busy lifestyle.
4 Ways Flexibility Makes an Active Lifestyle Sustainable
Flexibility in Your Sport
I’ve always been a runner. For much of the past decade, for me exercise = running. But last year I trained for my first triathlon. While it was definitely time-consuming to train for three sports, it pushed me outside of my comfort zone of “I’m a runner.” I bought a bike and figured out how to bike. I jumped in the pool for the first time in almost 10 years and started swimming laps. This opened me up to so many more possibilities for exercising around my family’s schedule. When my kids were in swim lessons, I was in the pool swimming laps. I’d poke my head up every few minutes to gasp for air watch them, cheer them on, wave at them, and then get back to business. I didn’t feel guilty exercising instead of watching their lesson, and I could squeeze in an extra half hour of cardio that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Since moving to Alaska I’ve added not only biking and swimming, but skiing, ice skating, Zumba, strength training, yoga, and boot camp as well. Each one of these opens up new possibilities for when and how I will stay active.
Flexibility in Your Timing
I have always been a night person. And because of that, I was always hesitant… well, okay, maybe downright hostile… toward the idea of working out in the mornings. I’ll spare you my proselytizing about the glory that is morning workouts (unless you want to read it here), but let’s just say that I’m so glad I was finally willing to open my mind to a different possibility. It wasn’t until I actually tried morning workouts that I realized just how much more sustainable it was for me.
And, on the flip side, even though I now workout in the mornings, when I get the opportunity to do something fun after work, I’m all over it. Don’t get trapped in the mindset of a certain time that you do or do not work out. Try different things. See what works. Be open to the possibility of change.
Flexibility in Your Location
I’ve run laps around the soccer field during practice. I’ve run laps around the playground while my kids play. I’ve run on vacation more times than I can count. I run up at our cabin, I run at the gym, I run on trails, and I run on the good old sidewalk. When the opportunity comes up, I’m on it. I don’t have the luxury to wait for my favorite location. I just run, bike, or swim wherever I am.
Flexibility in Your Thinking
One thing that I would love to change about myself is my fixation on the numbers. I get annoyed when I can’t run the pace I want to. I get annoyed when I can’t get my miles in. I’m mad at myself when my legs feel like lead and I don’t have a good workout. But I’m trying to let go of that and remember that I’m not a professional athlete – I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I’m a teacher. I have a body that needs to move, but it also needs to rest and heal. I want to stay fit and healthy, but I also want to cheer for my kids when they score a goal, and go out with my friends and eat too many desserts. To stay active through the busy times and seasons of my life, I need to prioritize and juggle lots of things, and staying active is just one of those things.
The funny part is that as I let go of my expectations of what “running” is supposed to look like, and replace that with a vision of long-term fitness as a working mom, my running has become better than ever. Exploring different sports has made me stronger. Working out with my friends and kids has made me happier. I’m not fast, but personally, I’ve never been faster. But most importantly, becoming more flexible in my thinking has helped me to know that working out regularly is no longer just an elusive New Year’s Resolution.