The Biggest Exercise Mistake You're Probably Making

exercise, working out, fitness, mindfulness

My original title for this article was going to be something along the lines of: “How I made yoga a daily practice after not doing it consistently for [x] number of [years].”

I felt like I’d finally cracked the code. Figured out a way to bust through the inconsistency. Developed a habit I’d been secretly longing to reacquire after letting it fall away a few years back.

Then, last week happened.

And, I didn’t “practice” yoga for four or five days.

I ran. I walked. I sat on my floor and stretched. But I didn’t technically do the whole physical practice of yoga thing. Because I didn’t feel like it. And because I just wanted to sit on the floor of my mom’s room and chat with her at the end of the night instead.

And, while I was mostly okay with it, there was also a part of my brain totally judging myself for not actually doing yoga. Because, somewhere along the line, I’d decided that doing yoga every day, for at least 20 minutes, should be a perfectly reasonable request.

This kind of thing happens to me often, so it’s not unusual.  My brain likes structure and routine, and I tend to latch onto ideas and patterns effortlessly. Especially, when it’s something that feels good. Which means, that when a particular form of exercise feels awesome, my thoughts immediately jump to trying to figure out a way to do it all the time.

I can run every day, for at least a couple of miles. It doesn’t take that much time, and I can go slow, so I can do it even if I’m feeling tired and fatigued.

Just 10 minutes of pilates. Just 10 minutes of pilates is totally practical.

There’s just something special about yoga. I should absolutely make it a priority to go through a full flow every day, because nothing else makes me feel like it.

While I know that everyone isn’t exactly as controlling as I am, I think a lot of us find comfort in predictability. We like knowing what to expect, because so much in life feels unpredictable.

And, probably, because it is so intimately connected to our physical bodies, exercise seems to be the perfect avenue to assert our control.

We get an idea into our heads about something we should do, because someone, somewhere said it was the best, most effective form of working out. And so, by golly, we are absolutely going to do it. We are going to follow the work out plan, or integrate those hiit workouts, or lace up our sneakers and do endless sprints. Because, you know, that’s just what we do now.

We take these ideas, which should really only be suggestions, as obvious truths. And, we turn them into expectations—which means that, naturally, we then put added pressure on ourselves to do these things.

But this just limits us. It binds us to a way of functioning that is disconnected from how we truly feel. It cuts us off from our intuition, and turns us away from the part inside of us that knows exactly what we actually need.

And, all of this attachment and rigidity just makes us feel bad. And, the last thing we need is to give ourselves more reasons to judge ourselves. We do enough of that already.

Oh, and here’s another thing. Our bodies are really smart. Like really freaking smart. And efficient. They signal to us all day long about what they need to function at their upmost, optimal level.

They also make it pretty dang obvious when they’re feel fatigued.

But too often we ignore them. We prefer to do what our minds insist upon instead. We listen to the words of other people, or the thoughts in our head, instead of allowing our bodies to do the talking.

Of course, if you have certain aesthetic goals, you’ll have to do certain kinds of workouts. And, maybe you need a trainer or workout class to keep you motivated. I get it. But, you should also be able to tune into your body to understand whether a particular form of exercise is really what you need that day. And if it’s not, you should want to find a way to let it be okay.

It’s not easy. I know, because it’s something I consciously work through every day. But it’s worth it.

It’s worth it, because I want to move through the world with ease. I want to be gentle with myself and learn how to “go with the flow.” And when I tune into how my body feels, and let that information guide me, I always end up feeling really freaking good.

Last night I did 45 minutes of yoga, just because I wanted to.

And while there was certainly a part of my brain still trying to calculate a way to convince myself to do it every day (because it felt so great), I’m going to continue to try to do whatever feels right in the moment instead.

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What are your thoughts? Do you get sucked into work out routines and find it difficult to break them? Do you listen more to the thoughts in your head than the way your body feels?

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!