Here we are less than 20 days into 2018. I know this because I am 16 days into the newest 30-day yoga series, TRUE, from Yoga with Adriene. It is part of my 2018 resolution, along with being more consistent with my blog.
The question is, how are you doing with your resolution?
Did you just shrug and mumble an answer to that. An answer that sounds a lot more like a ‘whatever’ than hell yeah.
It’s okay, I get it. We all get it. Resolutions are a lot like diets- easy in theory, harder in practice. And there are millions of ‘reasons’ we encounter that can discourage and throw us off course. For me, I was never really athletic, so getting into a routine of exercise wasn’t a natural inclination. I grew up with many other kids, my siblings included, who were naturally athletic and played sports from the time they could walk. For them, active sports were as natural as breathing.
As a child, I was an imaginative bookworm who preferred to read or create characters out of pencils and inanimate objects rather than play with dolls. I wasn’t athletic due to other reasons. While my mom was pregnant with me she got deathly ill, to the point that my father recalls the doctor telling him had he not brought her to the hospital when he did she likely wouldn’t have recovered. As a result, I was born very weak with underdeveloped muscle tone. For the first year of my life, I had to sleep upright in my baby chair as when laid down my lungs would fill with mucus that would bubble up through my nose and mouth. I recall my mom describing how she rarely slept that year. And, because my muscles were underdeveloped I didn’t walk until I was almost three years old. I had to wear these black and white corrective shoes through much of my younger years, which I remember vividly since they gave me a reason to be quieter than I already was. Thus athletics was not in my nature.
In middle school, I played volleyball for a year or two, but my lack of muscle coordination was pretty evident. I simply wasn’t a natural athlete, and I was reminded of that often. Once I graduated from high school I realized I needed a change in my life. Instead of listening to everyone tell me what I may never be able to do, I just went out and tested my limits. During this time I was in the best physical shape of my life, running stairs on the weekends, getting up at 5 am to run on the treadmill before work or school, going to the gym pretty regularly. In fact, I got to the point that exercise consumed most of my time and became a routine – 5 am treadmill for 20 minutes each day, 20-minute workout at lunch each day, 1 hour at the gym 4 times per week, and over 600 stairs on the weekends. It was a routine, but it was also becoming an obsession.
I didn’t want to have boney, skinny legs anymore. I wanted to look more like the girls who were naturally athletic, always perfectly fake-and-baked, with perfect hair and makeup.
The issue that arose is maintaining that routine simply wouldn’t work, as it just wasn’t me. Being healthy and fit is one thing, but trying to become something you are not and not valuing who you are in the process is the opposite of health.
I see this all the time with women, myself included. We are always pinching at skin as though it is fat, finding fault with our appearance compared to others, thinking we are not enough, believing that outward appearance is more important than character or intellect. I guess it is something we all have to go through in order to learn where our focus should be and what we should value.
Nevertheless, it is a struggle that continues generation after generation. Even with all the self-love, embrace who you are, everybody gets a trophy mentalities- this continues to be a struggle for so many.
And as women, aging doesn’t make it any easier. I believe I have heard something along these lines before though I am paraphrasing here: In our society, men age with value, women just age.
Our metabolisms change, our hormones change, our skin and bodies change. The same is true for men, but we don’t judge men by their appearance as often as we do with women, so the changes are less noticed, and as men age their wisdom and leadership are valued instead.
Do not read that as some feminist rant. We created this society and allowed those stereotypes and generalizations to exist, so until we evolve further, we have to find a way to put ourselves back at the forefront even if or when others don’t. That’s the ultimate point of this article. When I was younger I listened to what others told me I couldn’t do or be when it came to health or exercise- then I got to a place where I could prove otherwise. But, in doing so, I took it too far as I was trying to prove something, instead of just finding what fit my needs and a healthy way to make exercise a natural routine in my life.
So, if you find yourself struggling to maintain that health-related or exercise-related resolution, perhaps you just haven’t found your fit.
Bringing Mental, Physical & Spiritual Together for a Healthier Resolution
I needed to find a way to encourage and build upon my resolution, or goal, in a way that suited me. So often we try to do what our friends, siblings, or idols are doing- and, too often, we give up because we are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
One key to the longevity of any practice is being true to your needs. Just because your friend can spend hours on a treadmill doesn’t mean you need to huff and puff alongside him/her. I remember, back when I was 19, and as I mentioned, I got into running stairs at our local high school football field. One day, my brother Bryan joined me. After a few rounds, he stopped and said, “I feel like I am trying to run after eating a bunch of fast food.” He wasn’t out of shape, and he had a wall of track medals to prove what a natural athlete he was. The problem was- he was a sprinter- and 300+ stairs in one pass is more in the category of climbers or distance runners since you can’t run all your fuel out in short spurts. It simply wasn’t a fit for his training.
If, like me, you are trying to nurture a fitness routine that truly fits, here are a few suggestions. I know I have mentioned them before, but below are specific routines and series that just may be what you need to revive your resolution.
Whatever it is you take from this, the one thing I hope you decide is not to give up on yourself or the value that you inherently possess.
If you want to build slowly with strong foundations, my favorite Youtube-based yoga instructor is a great place to begin. Adriene is gentle, works at all levels, and always knows exactly when you are clenching your jaw, trembling through prana, or cursing at her for holding that plank just a little longer than your arms want to hold out. She has a number of series as well as individual routines that are specific to muscle groups or fitness goals.
Start slowly and gently then build into strength at your level- TRUE (and who cares how many days in we are, just start from Day 1 and move at your pace)
Stronger practices if you are looking to challenge yourself from Day 1- Revolution
Beginning in a safe, slow foundations series. This is old school Adriene, but worth the time for beginners who are just building their vocabulary in yoga or for those returning to the practice after many years away from the mat.
Adriene has built a community of 3M amazing followers that support one another in their own journeys and encourage each other. Even if you struggle they will be there to support you- and when you have an exercise epiphany, as I did below, they’ll reach out with loving, relatable comments.
If you need some squats with your salutations, check out Mandy Ingber’s Yogalosophy routines. You can get a taste of her yogic style, which will get your heart pumping and muscles toned with her ‘Feel-Good, Feel-Strong Yoga’ on Popsugar. To go deeper into her beautiful collaboration of yoga, pilates, and traditional exercises, check out her best-selling book and downloadable DVDs Yogalosophy.
Learn about Mandy’s Yogalosophy:
If you love pilates but don’t love the pressure of doing them in public or hooked to machines, join Robin Long to learn the basics, build your endurance, and embrace those poses in reasonable doses. Most of her series routines are 7-10 minutes but are packed with challenging moves. So, if you are a beginner, start with her Beginner Series, and for more intermediate and advanced, check out Pilates Body.
Pilates for Beginners
Prenatal Pilates– which is a great way for true beginners to start and embrace a Pilates practice as it is gentle and builds slowly.
Robin also has a more recent series that focuses on foundations and form in pilates- which is critical to your love of the exercises. If you understand how to do the poses and routines correctly you are less inclined to injury and more likely to see results.
For those who are familiar with Pilates and prepared for a 30-day challenge, try her Pilates Body:
Some of us need more traditional forms of exercise as they are what our muscles know. If your version of exercise is burn or bust baby- sites I have suggested before may be the best match. Popsugar and Rebecca Louise offer a variety of routines that focus on sculpting, cardio, and strength building.
Popsugar routines range from 10 – 60 minutes so you can build as you go. But just know, they invite some of the most well-known fitness experts in the world, so the routines do come with intensity. Fortunately, they break down routines on their Youtube page by levels (beginner, advanced, etc…) and by the style or muscle group. This makes it easy to start slowly and build based on your needs. For me, I am not a HIIT kinda girl, I like cardio in yoga routines (see the Mandy Ingber suggestion above), but if you are, you’ll find all of that on these channels.
Lovers of HIIT
I use routines from each channel depending on what I need for the day, and I’m still building my practices so if I can do this you can too. Just build intelligently, with strong foundations and realistic goals.
To be quite honest, both the ideas of and words resolutions and diets should be banished from our vocabulary. We should focus on and have attainable goals, and we should eat in a way that reflects how we value ourselves. We should make healthier choices because we have value and appreciate this life we were granted while still managing to enjoy it. Life shouldn’t only be about sacrifice and starvation (of the body, mind or spirit). It shouldn’t be obsession or overindulgence that only makes us feel bad about who we are. Find balance by finding a healthier lifestyle and routine that fits your needs, and never allow anyone else to decide what you are capable of becoming.