Author | DIAKADI Trainer Polina Smith A client recently wrote me a text after our session that read, “I hate running, but after exercise, the whole world opens up. I have a window of time where I’m insanely mentally, emotionally and physically on fire.”
A Christmas card from another client read, “If some had told me a year ago that exercise would be the path back to my writing, I never would have believed them.”
I share all of this because I believe that exercise can be a powerful path to self-transformation—to living the lives we dream of. In our culture, we are bombarded with messages that exercise is something that is ‘hard,’ takes a lot of discipline and will power, that we are somehow failing if we are not doing it, and perhaps most dangerously, that we will only be happy when we have six pack abs and the body we dream of.
I want to invite you to re-frame this belief. To stop seeing exercise as drudgery that must done so that ‘one day’ we can be happy when the weight has been lost; but, instead understand exercise as an access to direct happiness in the here and now.
My own re-framing with exercise began seven years ago, in my junior year of college when I found myself in a period of lethargy and depression, unable to get back to my usual upbeat, vibrant self. I went to therapy, talked to friends, did activities I loved—but nothing seemed to help.
This all changed one afternoon when I decided to go for a run. I hadn’t run in years and, literally, a week before had said to a friend, “you’re crazy” when he explained that he wanted to start running every day.
But now, with what I can only attribute as an act of grace, I got the impulse to go for run and felt the cloud of lethargy, fatigue and sadness lift as I ran. The next day I went for a run again—for no other reason than it felt so darn good. Pretty soon, I was running every day, getting up to 12 miles without ever consciously meaning to. People started commenting how happy I seemed, how great I looked-- I lost weight and got toned without consciously meaning to and gained the confidence to take on projects that before felt impossible.
When we discover the joy of exercise—the pounds will naturally drop-- but more importantly, we will have a tool that can give us direct access to happiness, energy and a new perspective at any given moment. When we begin to exercise regularly--our whole lives begin to change--we gain confidence, let go of anxieties and long held dis-empowering beliefs. Our bodies change on the inside and out as we gain access to new levels of energy, inspiration and tap into the parts of ourselves that have been lying dormant for too long. Often, I have seen clients transition careers or get promotions, re-discover passions that have been untouched for years, tap into their creativity and take their relationships to new levels, all while learning to love to run and do push-ups.
Anti-depressants are the most widely prescribed pharmaceuticals in this country-- isn’t it time we found another way of accessing our happiness?
Logically--the million dollar follow up questions is, "How do we learn to love to exercise?" Like so many aspects of life--the path for everyone is different—but I encourage you to try a form of exercise you’ve been intrigued by—whether it be yoga, zumba, kick boxing or pilates. Go for a workout with a friend or seek support from a trainer. And most importantly, keep tuning into how you feel from exercise rather than how you look. If you feel even a bit of a positive difference—great, keep doing it! But If you feel agitated and are hating every moment, try another style of exercise until you discover something that lights something up inside of you—the process is so worth it, I promise.