With so many of us locked away and unable to go to the gym, I thought it might be a good time to think a little bit about the relationship between our physical energy and our mental energy.
If we are going to live the life we want to live, it is always going to be important to think about our physical health and activity levels. We all know that being sedentary and inactive is bad for us, but it’s also bad for our productivity, our decision-making and our leadership as well.
Many of my clients tell me that they don’t have the time to do any form of exercise. When I broach the topic, generally early in our working relationship, the usual response is that are hoping that coaching will allow them to make some progress first and then create the time to do it. That having the time to exercise is one of the things that they are hoping to achieve through having a coach.
Unfortunately, this is the wrong way around.
Although you may feel tired immediately after a workout (and usually I hope you do, at least a little), doing exercise increases your metabolism. Someone who exercises every day is able to release more energy than someone who doesn’t. This means that you are able to concentrate better when you have a regular exercise regime. People who exercise regularly are also less stressed than those who don’t. I think we all know by now that stressed people are more likely to make bad decisions than those who are more relaxed.
So, if exercise helps you to concentrate more and make better decisions, it seems pretty clear to me that it really needs to be something that you make time for in your day; with or without a coach. When you add in that it will also mean that you are healthier, happier and that you may live longer, I think the case has been made.
The question then becomes how you will manage it?
I want you to remember that not all exercise is created equal. I realise that this is the point that some people might start advocating the latest celebrity workout plan that they’ve fallen in love with, but I hope you know me better than that by now. The best kind of exercise for you is something that you actively enjoy doing. Forget the details of weight vs reps, resistance vs cardio or the best HIIT options. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, you’re not going to stick to it and, even if you do, it’s almost impossible to really give it your all.
With that in mind, here are my tips for making exercise a part of your life.
Think about what you enjoy. You may prefer something with an aspect of meditation to it, where your mind can be elsewhere. This doesn’t have to be along the lines of yoga or tai chi (although it very much can be). Lifting weights can be meditative, if you approach it in that way. Alternatively, you might only enjoy exercise if you also learn a skill in the process. Dance is a very common form of exercise where you are constantly learning a new skill, but rock climbing or trapeze might suit the more adventurous (when Coronavirus allows!) Whatever your preferences, try to find something that you actively enjoy and that suits your exercise style.
Schedule it in… in ink. If you are struggling to find the time, make sure that you include it in your diary or journal. Whilst exercise might feel like a luxury, it is absolutely necessary, especially at times of high stress. Include time for exercise in your daily plan and try not to let it slide.
Remember how to play. Not all exercise has to be formal or structured. An acquaintance was telling me recently about how exhausted she was from walking her young puppy. Knowing she was a fitness instructor I was surprised, until I realised that she was turning every walk into an extended playtime, playing fetch and racing the dog to see who could get the ball first. When your exercise feels like play, all the benefits for your energy, mood and wellbeing go into overdrive.
Obviously, the current circumstances mean that many forms of exercise are not really possible anymore, especially the more social ones. If you’re normally very active, I’m sure you’re already making plans and finding alternative outlets for that energy. If you don’t normally exercise, start small but do try to incorporate at least some extra activity into your everyday life.
You’ll be amazed at the results you can achieve over the long run!