Like most things in life. when thinking about exercise, we can turn to kids to see how to do it right. If you’ve ever spent any time around children, you know that you frequently find yourself saying things like:
- Don’t climb on that!
- Slow Down!
- Sit still!
- No running!
Moving fast, keeping their bodies in motion, and burning calories is what kids do best. In fact, I often joke, I wish someone had to tell me to stop running so much!
Whether it’s participating in organized sports or just sprinting down the grocery store aisles, children have an innate need to move. They are constantly “working” on their physical fitness without even realizing it. Their exercise almost always comes in the form of fun and playing.
So when does that change? At what point does physical fitness become a chore for us? And how can we be more like children and approach exercise like play, rather than a necessary evil to reach a fitness or weight loss goal.
I myself am completely guilty of dreading exercise. It is usually an afterthought in my life and something I think of as a mandatory “have to” and not a “want to.” I have spent much time being jealous of people who describe exercise as their “me time” or something that they love. I wouldn’t describe myself as a couch potato, but I’m the furthest thing from a gym rat or marathon runner you will ever find.
But recently, something changed. After accepting a 30 day Yoga Challenge in January that has now turned into 70 Yoga sessions completed for the year (Namaste, y’all!), I kinda found my exercise groove. At first I was proud of my accomplishment, but then I told myself that my form of exercise doesn’t really count because I’m not doing hard core HIIT workouts everyday or logging miles on a fancy stationary bike. I was conditioned to the “No pain, no gain” mentality about fitness. When in reality, finding what works for YOU, what YOU look forward to, and what YOU have fun doing, is the best type of “working out.”
Maybe the key to approaching exercise like kids, is just a matter of finding what’s fun. Maybe we all will find ourselves moving more if we do it in a way that works for us, and not what works for everyone else. This process of finding a form of exercise that we actually look forward to can take time. (It took me about 37 years, people.) But, if we find ways to keep our bodies in motion because it’s an activity we look forward to, and not just for the purpose of attaining a specific fitness goal, we’re more likely to stick with it.
No one has to remind a kid to jump on a trampoline or ride their bike. They just do it because they love it. If you are a person that genuinely loves a sweaty, high tempo, tough gym workout, then go for it! But if you are a person who gets joy from a 3 mile walk on the beach while listening to an audio book, then do it and don’t feel anything less than proud of yourself. Moving your body and being happy about it is the goal. Find the thing that doesn’t feel like a chore. Find the thing that makes you feel like a kid. And, as my favorite Yogi instructor always says, “Find what feels good.”