How to move your body when your brain isn't cooperating

How to move your body when your brain isn’t cooperating

Six days a week, around 2 p.m., I exercise. It’s my midday pick-me-up (as opposed to another cup of coffee), helping me get my second wind and end the day. The intensity depends on how I feel. It could be a Peloton class or a heavy lifting session. Or it could be a more restorative practice like yoga or a long walk.

Seems like a fairly simple undertaking, fitted into my schedule and ready to go. There are many days, however, when I just don’t want to. I could be sitting in my gym clothes, my bag packed and by the door, forcing myself to get up and move my body. These are the times when I take a step back and assess whether to push myself, do something lighter than planned, or consider it a rest day and watch. rick and morty reruns.

It’s a feeling most of us are familiar with. There are days when you have the motivation, others when you have to have the willpower to move, and some when you decide to just take the day off. But the movement and the resolution to do Something even when you don’t feel up to it, there’s no need to get in shape or achieve a personal best in the gym. The best benefits of being active in some way are often the ones we don’t see on Instagram – like having more energy during the day, building strength, improving brain health and more. mental health benefits. Movement offers almost everyone and every body these benefits – no “perfect” aesthetics needed. And while someone navigating a severe bout of depression or anxiety probably doesn’t have the same intrinsic motivational capacity as someone whose mental health is stable, everyone benefits from moving in some way. or another.

So how can we structure our lives and our environments to ensure that we move, in some way, on the days when we find it difficult to do so? I spoke with several fitness experts to see how. Here is what they said.

Remember how good it feels to move your body and reframe what counts as movement

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends doing at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week, plus two days of strength training.

That doesn’t mean you have to hit your gym every day and push heavy weights or take a HIIT class. There is a difference between exercise and physical activity. The former refers to structured activity in pursuit of a fitness goal, while the latter can be anything that gets you moving – including going for a walk, taking a virtual yoga class, dancing around your apartment, playing with your kids or pets, or some light stretching. On days when you don’t feel up to your exercise routine, doing it more gently than usual can still be a way to hit recommended physical activity benchmarks.

We feel different every day due to the quality of sleep, stress, work, family obligations and our mental health. Saving tough workouts for the days when you feel good and modifying the days when you don’t allows you to take better care of your body in the long run. The pursuit of perfection is a sure way to burn out. You can deviate from the plan in order to find yourself where you are and to understand why you do not feel up to your usual standard. Is it a need for more sleep? Better stress management? Or more food?

“Any movement you can make will benefit your body, whether it’s in the gym or in structured exercise,” said Katie Heinrich, professor of kinesiology at Kansas State University. “So maybe you’re in your sports clothes. You’re like, ‘Man, I just don’t want to go to the gym.’ It is very good. Just move. Put on a song you like to dance to. Or do 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, and 10 squats. Even standing and moving is better than sitting.

Find a Responsible Buddy

According to Sami Yli-Piipari, a physical activity specialist at the University of Georgia, having friends who help you move your body can be the deciding factor between taking a few steps for the day or crashing on the couch. Making physical activity a group endeavor can foster a sense of community and make you feel like others are on your side – a powerful motivator. “Humans need to be self-sufficient. They need to be good at what they do, but they also need to feel that a connection exists,” he explained.

Also, it’s harder to back out of a pre-planned activity if friends or a coach are waiting for you before class. Yli-Piipari also noted that less simple things, like scheduling an Uber ahead to pick you up from the gym, can help.

Create an environment that promotes sustainable movement

Our personal environment can help or hinder our well-being – a complex reality influenced by a person’s various privileges and disadvantages – and this has a direct influence on our motivation to do something. Bringing your workout clothes to work, packing your gym bag the night before, laying out workout clothes ahead of time, or placing them on a chair you step in front of frequently are just a few tips from the experts I know. have spoken have proposed to create an environment that promotes movement. .

It is imperative to take stock of how you can incorporate periods of movement into your day. Maybe it’s with a standing desk or walking around your room every hour. For others, scheduling physical activity in a calendar or digital planner the same way you jot down a doctor’s appointment is effective. For those of us who like to cross things off a list, writing an exercise as a task helps too.

But it’s also essential to be realistic about when it happens. If you’re not a morning person, don’t schedule morning workouts. If you spend your evenings arguing with family obligations or want to hang out with your friends, then maybe a lunchtime session is best. And if a block of hours isn’t feasible, Heinrich suggests breaking it up into smaller chunks, which may work better for those with rigid or unpredictable schedules. Parents can also participate in workouts by joining their kids in running around the playground or doing a circuit while they watch their kids play. (A big selling point for home workouts is the fact that you can watch your kids, join a meeting, or cook a meal in the oven while you exercise.)

“Every minute of activity you can do creates physiological and mental responses in your body,” she explained. “And usually if someone is feeling exhausted, if you move your body, you’ll find that you feel better. And those aches and pains that you start to feel may just go away.

Know the difference between feeling lazy and actually needing to rest

Everyone I spoke to was clear that movement isn’t always the best solution to feeling jaded. Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to understand the difference between the need to walk and the need to rest your body. Fatigue can occur for several reasons. Sometimes you stare at your screen for too long and need a break from activity. Other times you might need a nap. If the fatigue is overwhelming or persistent, your body could be signaling that there is an underlying medical issue that needs to be addressed. And of course, if you have a fever, pain or injury, that’s a clear indication that you need to focus on your recovery.

But Brittany Brandt, fitness and wellness coordinator at West Virginia University, said if you’re just feeling tired and want to skip the day’s physical activity, that’s fine too. . Try not to blame yourself for “breaking a streak” and instead allow yourself some grace, she said. Adding a little something everyday – whether it’s a walk around the block or a quick stretch before bed – will do much better for your body than stressing out about not moving the way you planned for the day. .

“People sometimes get into a box of, ‘Oh, I have to train Monday through Friday,’ or only on certain days, and if they go off the rails, they’re like, ‘I’m just going to try again on Monday,'” she says. “But there is no stigma on it. You can move every day.

Julia Craven is a writer who covers everything she thinks is cool, and she’s the mastermind behind it Make sensea wellness newsletter.

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