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by Catharine Hannay
When I was in grad school, I was having trouble figuring out a good workout routine, so I asked a professor,
"Have you found some kind of exercise that you like?"
She told me,
"Every night after supper I use my treadmill for exactly fifteen minutes while I scroll through the news headlines."
I probably should have guessed the answer to my follow-up question:
"And do you enjoy that?"
"Well, I DO it!"
O-o-o-ka-a-ay. The question was about whether you enjoy it. And I guess I'll take that as a no.
More recently, a young teacher I was mentoring looked rather sheepish at our monthly meeting.
"So how've you been?" I asked. "Were you able to fit in any exercise in the past few weeks?
"I'm so sorry," she said. "I didn't do any of the videos you told me about."
"I hope you know that I mean this in the nicest possible way," I said. "But why should I care?"
It turned out that her sister had recommended a 30-day challenge from Yoga with Adrienne: my young mentee was actually doing something much more challenging and much more regularly than what I'd suggested.
I'm always happy when someone finds a type of exercise they like to do. For example, I get a big kick out of hearing one of my cousins talk about the latest workout trends. She was into spinning for a while, then boot camp, and now something called 'Orangetheory,' where everybody's strapped to heart rate monitors.
She's healthy. She's vibrant. She's having a great time.
And I would be utterly miserable if I forced myself to join her.
I hate going to the gym, and I try to avoid having electronics strapped to my body. I don't even own a smartphone.
I also get bored very quickly when I exercise, so I like to try out a lot of different types of exercise with different instructors. And rather than doing one long workout, I prefer to do a few shorter routines put together.
- My favorite instructors on youtube are:
- Jessica Smith
- Lucy Wyndham-Read
- Patry Jordan (Gym Virtual). This way, I even get to practice listening to Spanish while I exercise. (She's also got an English channel.)
- I sometimes start with the Easy Warmup from Fitness Blender, and finish with the Upper Body Stretch and Lower Body Stretch from Spark People.
- After I've done the same video a couple of times, I'll mute the volume on the workout and open a second youtube tab with instrumental music: usually jazz, baroque, or classical guitar.
More importantly, I am not remotely qualified to tell you what kind of exercise is appropriate for your circumstances and physical condition.
All I'm trying to do is give you a point of reference: figuring out why you don't like something can be the first step in finding something you do like.
Maybe you'll think:
I really like this instructor, but I need to find a more/less challenging video.
I don't really like jazz, but I like the idea of working out to different types of music. Maybe I'll try some electroswing/world beat/K-pop/Celtic folk.
All of these instructors are white women. I'd rather find an instructor who looks more like me.
Working out at home isn't my thing. I really need to find a basketball court/hiking trail/ice skating rink/ Bollywood dance class.
Rather than thinking "I really should be getting more exercise," can you find something you enjoy? I mean, you may not be ecstatically happy the whole time, but it's an appropriate level of challenge and something you like doing. That way, the chances are a lot higher that you'll exercise regularly. And without feeling like it's just one more burden you have to bear, like the professor who kept trudging with grim determination on the treadmill she clearly loathed.
One of my main goals here at MindfulTeachers.org is to support educators and other helping professionals as you dedicate yourself to your students and clients. Figuring out what type of exercise you enjoy is an important part of a realistic self-care plan that can sustain and nurture you in what I hope will be a long and rewarding career helping others.
Rainbow Walk: A Mindfulness Activity to Move the Body and Rest the Mind
Realistic Self-Care: How Many Minutes Have You Got?
Realistic Self-Care: What Does Your Body Need?
Self-Care Videos: Gentle Yoga, Mindful Movement, and Indoor Walking
Self-Care Videos: Chair-Based Yoga and Stretching Routines