By Cara Rae Jacobs
I really love working out. If you knew me 10 years ago you would have a hard time believing that. I was into art and journalism in high school. Not that you can’t be athletic in addition to being good at those kinds of things, but I certainly wasn’t. I didn’t care about sports and I wasn’t that concerned about my overall level of fitness. It didn’t even cross my mind to try and get in shape for my wedding when the time came.
My introduction to fitness was gradual after I got married. It was mostly a way to spend time with my new husband, but I came to find that I really enjoyed exercising my body.
It became a wonderful time of exploration with no pressure or expectations. I tried some things that I liked and others that I didn’t. To put it simply, I just stopped doing the things I wasn’t crazy about, continued doing what I enjoyed and never stopped trying new things. So you can run with that, or read on for my more in depth tips for enjoying every workout.
These tips are about honoring your strengths and weaknesses, your desires and, most importantly, your body. The biggest thing that holds so many of us back from truly enjoying our workouts is the fact that we’re not listening to our own internal wisdom. Instead we take cues from fashion magazines, our aerobics instructor or our girlfriends. By doing the things that our bodies crave when they crave them, we can enjoy every single workout.
1. Do What You Love
This makes sense right? To enjoy every workout, you have to be doing something that you actually enjoy. It seems like common sense but I can’t count the times that I forced myself to run miles, or do some HIIT when I didn’t have the energy. What this results in is burnout. For a time I completely stopped running because it became something that I had to do rather than something that I did just because I loved it.
2. Mix it Up
Yoga is my favorite. Not just my favorite exercise, my favorite thing to do. I love everything about yoga, every style and variety, and honestly can’t imagine my life without it. This is part of the reason why I don’t do it every day. If I practiced yoga six times a week instead of three, I wouldn’t look forward to class the way I do now. And that goes for all types of workouts I do. Running a couple of times a week becomes a special time to get deep into my thoughts and enjoy beautiful scenery rather than a daily grind. Your body will thank you for mixing it up, too. It’s great for different muscles to get worked throughout the week and to allow yourself some recovery time between similar types of workouts.
3. Sync it With Your Cycle
OK, I know this sounds weird, but just stay with me. If you are not currently taking some form of hormonal birth control, the hormones in your body (mainly progesterone and estrogen) are fluctuating throughout the month in an ebb and flow that makes you primed for certain forms of exercise during certain phases of your menstrual cycle. During your period these two hormones have dropped, and it’s likely all you want to do is lay on the couch and watch a “Sex and The City” Marathon. A five-mile run or hour-long cycling session would be forced and probably wouldn’t feel very good. So honor your body by taking a long walk, doing some stretching and resting.
After this phase and before ovulation (which often happens around day 14) estrogen production increases and you’re getting your energy back! This is the time for something fun and new, like a salsa class or learning some new weight lifting routines at the gym. During the third phase, ovulation, we see estrogen production continue to increase and testosterone peak and fall, which means you are ready to work! This is when you’re body is craving a long hard run, a power yoga class or some HIIT, you would feel restless if you tried to limit yourself to a scenic walk.
After ovulation and on to the time when lovely PMS tends to hit many of us, we feel the urge to slowly start winding down again. This is when vineyasa yoga, pilates, or some time on the elliptical are completely enjoyable and exactly what your body wants. By cycling exercises like this with the natural rhythm of your body, you can get a variety of exercise in, as well as a time every month set aside for recovery. By exercising like this, I never have to force myself to do intensive cardio when my body just isn’t up for it, which definitely adds enjoyment to my routine.
4. Look into Ayurveda
This one is more like extra credit, but some people swear by it. If you’re not familiar with Ayurveda, it’s basically an ancient system of looking at the body and healing sickness holistically. In Ayurveda there are three different body types or Doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. There are lots of sites out there to help you discover your type with some simple quizzes. Once you know your type, there are certain exercises that some believe really benefit each body type.
Vatas are thought to be airy and benefit from grounding movements, things like yoga, dance, and biking. They also shouldn’t spend too much time in cold water (if swimming) or outdoors (in winter).
Pittas are thought to be fiery and love a hard cardio workout or something competitive. Sports are great as well as challenging movements like rock climbing. It is also helpful for Pittas to balance that out with some more calming and relaxing movements like a scenic walk, as they can be prone to stress.
Kaphas are thought to be earthy and thrive doing anything that breaks a sweat. Aerobics, cycling and running are all great.
The biggest key to enjoying your workouts is honoring your body. If you shoulder is injured, it needs a break. If you’re feeling run down and worn out after an hour at the gym instead of more energized, you’re probably doing too much. As women it is so tempting to get caught up in a pattern of using exercise to punish ourselves or make up for eating an extra treat, instead of using it as a way to reward our bodies. We think of it as a chore we have to get through instead of looking at it as time that we can spend just on ourselves, not worried about taking care of anyone else.
By listening to simple cues that we have become great at ignoring, like pain or a low energy level and honoring what our body is telling us, our workouts can become more enjoyable and more efficient. Once you feel comfortable with that it can be completely liberating to work with your body’s natural ebb and flow, taking advantage of times of high energy and giving yourself rest when you’re body truly needs it. Ayurveda is just another way to add this balance into your workout routine by doing something that is unique to you and your body. So let’s free ourselves by letting go of movements that we think we have do even when we don’t enjoy them, and embrace the movement that our bodies crave.
For more information on cycle syncing I highly recommend “WomanCode” by Alisa Vitti. “The Yoga Body Diet” by Kristen Schultz Dollard and John Douillard has a wealth of information about Ayurveda and eating and exercising for your dosha.
About Cara Rae
Cara Rae is a 24-year-old wife, living with her husband and her cat in a 5th wheel somewhere in the middle of Oklahoma. When she’s not traveling around the country, she finds her home in northern California. She spends most days sewing, practicing yoga, baking and compulsively adding things to online shopping carts. Most of her evenings are spent playing pinochle with her husband or reading a book with a glass of wine by her side. She adores traveling, Harry Potter, any book by N.T. Wright, and eating lots of ice cream.
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