As the new year starts a common mantras is “I need to exercise more”, which is just second to “I need to eat better”, which comes right after “I need to lose weight”. “Exercising” brings the first-of-the-year-no-membership-fees gym membership Gyms see over half of their annual memberships starting at the beginning of the year. This is OK, I’ve got nothing against gyms, except that 4 out of 5 people don’t even use their newly minted memberships and they’re expensive, loud, and filled with folks multi-tasking as they “run” on the treadmill, read the Wall Street Journal, and watch CNN on the overhead screen.. But, if that’s your thing and it gets you going, then bravo.
The word “exercise” often comes tethered with images of starts and stops, medicine balls (whatever they are), big metal pulley work-out machines, and before dawn wake up alarms. Why not shift your mindset and think of “moving” rather than “exercising”. Movement comes in so many forms, shapes and sizes. Think tai chi, rowing, swimming, running, fencing, dancing and, of course, yoga. What about golf or tennis?
Here are a few ideas:
Tai Chi or Qi Gong – This is a meditative practice that builds strength and balance through slow, deliberate movement. It can counter stress and be done alone without equipment or fancy yoga pants. According to Energy Arts “the goal . . . is a feeling of relaxed power. Relaxed power comes when the muscles, rather than ﬁghting and straining to do something, just loosen (open up) and allow the energy to ﬂow through”.
Running, Cycling, Tennis – If you need to lose weight, you’ll need to move more often and bring your heart rate up (get a heart rate monitor). Walking and running just requires a good pair of shoes and maybe a sports bra. Increase the value by calling your buddies to join you.
Walking – That’s it– just walk. It’s universally accessible, lubricates joints, builds muscles, increases lung capacity. Need I say more? It can be done solo or with 100 of your best walking buddies. If you want to expend more calories (i.e., lose weight) the pickup your pace or find an hill.
Yoga – Yoga is so much more than just exercising, but you can substitute it for trip to the gym. In yoga we use our own body weight as resistance. Holding poses longer and taking them deeper can build strong muscles. Heat up the room and increase the pace and you’ll get a cardiovascular workout. Don’t forget to balance it with a long, relaxing savasana!
Movement with others – Add a secondary and incredibly important component to your movement: relationship. More beneficial and healing than “getting in shape” is our connection to others. Think team sports, like golf or soccer. Take salsa lessons, join a walking group or find a Zumba class.
Is the need for quiet and alone time more valuable than kicking a dirty ball around a soccer field with a bunch of rugged teammates? Find a tree-lined single-track trail for a vigorous hike. Create a private space for dance or qi gong or shadow yoga.
Decide what movement suits you best. It can be structured or organic, sweaty or not, rhythmic or frenetic, expressive or introspective and team-centric or a solo affair. You have lots of choices. It’s not all about the gym.