“The outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to reflect their inner beliefs.” ~James Allen
I recently participated in a 21-day online fitness support group. I needed some external motivation to help re-establish a daily habit of fitness activity. My lazy butt was so reluctant to start this! Nevertheless, by the last day of the challenge, I was enthusiastically back into the habit.
We all know it takes three weeks of daily repetition to form a habit, so my success may not surprise you. What surprised me was why I ultimately met my goal.
It turned out that nothing about my success was about the physical aspects of daily exercise!
When I retired a few years ago, somehow that translated into retiring from regular fitness activity. Retirement meant I could rejoice in not having to do anything. No expectations. No shoulds. Just do what I want to do, every minute of every day.
We’re constantly told we “should” exercise—30 minutes daily, or 3x/week, or 10,000 steps a day, or blahblahblah.
Yes, but I also have a lifetime resolution to eliminate “shoulds.” My attitude toward exercise had become resistance-based because of all the “should” advice. I’d given myself permission to avoid it. Hey, I’m in charge of my own body, right?
But now, a few years later, my body has begun to show the deterioration symptoms of being ruled by my retired, lazy butt. I needed to put a stop to that. I decided I “should” exercise.
Gradually, this 21-day fitness commitment reminded me that my lazy butt is a mental state, not a state of butt!
First, I realized how easily I’ve been letting anything—whatever—thwart my exercise plans. Any excuse was a good one. Grocery shopping to do? Well then, I certainly can’t fit in that aqua-fit class! Rain? Yay, I don’t have to go for that walk!
By the end of the first week, the long-forgotten physical benefits of exercising began to show up, in spite of my daily resistance. Reminding myself about these benefits had been the whole point of my making this 21-day commitment.
Then one day, with my key motivation still being the obligation to report in to my online exercise buddies, I went to an aqua-fit class eagerly. I had the best class! It was fun! I put out more energy than usual. Magically, I didn’t feel any of the usual achy aftermath. Instead, I was refreshed, energetic, and buzzed all day.
A light bulb went on! My attitude was what had been holding me back from enjoying fitness activity.
My retired self had decided that exercise was an externally-imposed “should” and therefore something to avoid. This headspace had made me feel completely grumpy every time I thought about doing a workout.
There was more I had yet to learn about myself and exercise. Something more spiritual.
Since Louise Hay published You Can Heal Your Life in 1984, I’ve used her ideas about the mind-body connection to help heal my body. Whenever there’s anything untoward going on with my body, I explore possible non-physical causes.
During this 21-day challenge, my sciatic hip pain began telling me to stop all this walking and working out. Louise wrote, “The hip carries the body in perfect balance. Major thrust in moving forward.” Ah-ha! It made sense. My hip was certainly showing its resistance to moving forward into a lifetime of daily exercise.
Rather than cutting back on my workouts, I began saying Louise’s suggested hip affirmation to myself during all exercise: “Hip hip hooray, there is joy in every day!”
I said the affirmation instead of complaining about the pain or giving in to my lazy-butt attitude. It seemed to be speeding up the healing.
The mind and the body are so very connected!
Then, in week two, I hit another wall.
It was the inevitable Lazy Butt’s Last Stand. It was the wall of “What was I thinking?! I really don’t want to do all this exercise.”
I spent all morning sitting at my computer, resisting activity. It certainly hadn’t yet become a habit. My intellectual appreciation of the positive effects of regular exercise hadn’t become any kind of emotional or physical enthusiasm.
However, I knew I had to report my day’s exercise to the group. So I pulled out one of my mind-manipulation tricks, telling myself, “Go for just a 10-minute walk today.” That gets me going, and then I always end up enjoying the walk and wanting to continue longer. Isn’t it funny how we can fool our own minds over and over again with the same trick?
On that walk, as I chanted “Hip hip hooray, there is joy in every day,” I realized that if I was going to stick with daily fitness, I would absolutely need to put more focus on the benefits to my spirit, joy, energy, mood.
Forget about the body; I needed an attitude workout!
Within a few days, this focus led to my next insight. I began to recognize that the most significant benefit I was getting from this daily workout was not physical. It was the huge improvements to my whole outlook on life.
I felt lighter, happier, more energetic. I wanted to eat better. I was increasingly more creative, inspired, and had begun planning new art-craft projects. I felt more open to making other plans and other new commitments.
I was re-discovering the fitness of Kate’s Inner Self!
Not just my body, but also my mind, mood, emotions, and spirit had switched over to acceptance rather than resistance.
I had let go of the bad energy that comes with resistance.
Suddenly, this commitment was less about daily physical activity and more about truly recognizing how much this daily activity influences and improves everything internal.
My key to success finally became apparent. I was reviving and renewing and re-integrating my Mind! Body! Soul! Joy! Enthusiasm! Energy!
My biggest obstacle? ME!
ME is the person who creates clever excuses, justifications, rationalizations, for not getting off her butt. ME is the person who resents the fact that she has to stay fit to stay healthy. ME is the person who often says, “Just give yourself a break; there’s always tomorrow!” ME is always trying to sabotage my good intentions about physical fitness.
Those 21 days helped me discover my “cure” for the obstacle-called-ME. The cure was to fall back on what I know absolutely works for me—a focus on the more internal, spiritual aspects of self-improvement. I needed to convince myself that I’m not actually doing those physical fitness “shoulds”—I’m using my body to help accomplish a mental, emotional, and spiritual workout.
I need to let my Spirit, my Higher Self, be my physical training coach!
If the mind is in it, the body will follow.
Maybe it’s just a mind game. But it works for me. Whenever I need a boost of energy or spirit, I can use my body to help me get there. And now I’m happy to have a habit of doing this daily, no matter what.
I’m looking in the mirror these days and seeing a more radiant, positive person from all this activity. I’m feeling grateful to myself.
Keeping fit is a true gift to Self. It’s no longer an externally-imposed should.
And you? How’s your mirror looking these days? I’m not talking about size or shape or weight. I’m asking about your radiant, energetic self. Is she or he there, in your mirror?
Photo by dyozi
About Kate Britt
Kate is a retired teacher, editor, and technical writer living in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She blogs sporadically at http://ponderthepreposterous.wordpress.com/.