Pep Talks to Myself: Exercise is not a punishment

Pep Talks to Myself is a series where I give myself (AND YOU) the tough-love advice that I need to hear. More ass-kicking here.

Two weeks ago, I committed to exercising every single day for the rest of the year. Yes, I had already been striving to exercise daily because of the 5 To Thrive, but I’d been missing a day here or there, and I needed to step it up. So now, I’m counting down to 2018 with my #exercisecountdown challenge.

To be clear, I’m not going full-out, drenched-in-sweat every single day. Those workouts are reserved for five days/week. Two days each week, I go on a thirty-minute “recovery” walk and follow up with some weight training. But the other days of the week, I am going ALL IN, pushing myself to the breathless, red-faced state that brings real change to a body.

Because here’s the thing: I do not care about being skinny. If I did, I wouldn’t be eating a #dailygrain or drinking wine or indulging in an office donut. I enjoy food way too much to care about the final pounds that really prevent me from having a totally flat stomach. Bodies are made in the kitchen so much more than they are made in the gym, and it’s very difficult to make a real change in your body without changing how you eat. Which — to be honest — I’m just not willing to do. Eating 100% clean to get ultra-skinny is NOT my style.

What I do care about? Like, a lot? Being strong. I want to be strong enough to move furniture, hold babies for hours at a time, and run from zombies (only kind of kidding there). Plus, I’ve found that consistent exercise is the only way to keep my wonky back in check, so I’m upping the consistency. Seven workouts each week. Period.

I’ve gotten mostly positive feedback after I posted about the challenge on Insta, but a comment I’ve heard a few times really bothered me. It didn’t hurt my feelings — I’ve got way thicker skin than that — but it made me really think about how exercise and fitness are perceived.

Several women — either via Instagram messages or in real life — have told me that they applaud my idea, but that they “don’t want to ruin Christmas with going to the gym” or that they “don’t have time to exercise during the holidays.”

Both of these ideas are TRAPS, ok?! Exercise is not a punishment. It’s NOT. Exercise is the most positive action you can take. When you think of exercise as a punishment and not a celebration, you are robbing yourself of the joy that exercise can bring.

If you’re rolling your eyes at me — I GET IT. I have been there. I used to hate exercise so much, so deeply. Some days, I still do. But I have seen the way that daily exercise has changed my life and my body for the better, and I cannot look back.

You know how they say that you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can help others? Consistent exercise is kind of like that. When your heart and lungs and muscles are working hard, you’re laying a foundation of success for every other aspect of your life. Strenuous exercise leads to mental clarity, higher energy levels, and fewer junk food cravings. Sweating your face off multiple times each week makes your whole life better. It is not a punishment, it’s a requirement.

Adding exercise to your day does not ruin it. It doesn’t. There are at least sixteen waking hours in each day, and you’re going to spend one of them exercising. If you let that one hour ruin your whole day, I think that there are bigger fish to fry than the actual exercising.

Maybe you’ve just never found an exercise that you actually like. That’s totally, totally possible. Until I found workouts that were fun for me, I couldn’t get over the plateau to actually get fit. I really, really do not like running. But for a long time, that was my primary form of exercise. WHY. Why did I do this to myself? (I was too cheap to try exercise classes and too lazy to research inexpensive options.) So yes, working out felt like a punishment in those years where I had to force myself to go for a run.

As far as a workout ruining Christmas? It doesn’t have to. Getting a workout in on Christmas will be challenge. That much is true. Your gym is likely closed, and it may be too cold to get outside for a quick run. BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. Can you do a pilates video on YouTube with your mom before presents? Can you play tag (like really play, running just as hard as they are) with your nieces and nephews for thirty minutes? Does the driveway need shoveling? Being active doesn’t have to include a drive to the gym or a sports bra every day.

And as far as not having time? That’s on you, girl. That may be hard to hear, but evaluate your life and really assess whether or not you have time to exercise. If you’re waking up only 30 minutes before you have to leave for work, you have time to exercise. If you watch T.V. after work, you have time to exercise. If you spend multiple nights each week at happy hour with your friends, you have time to exercise. (I’m sure there are a few of you that work two jobs and only get five hours of sleep as it is. You are the exception, not the rule, and I am not hating on you.)

Until you see exercise as the most important task of the day, the task that gets rescheduled or cancelled as an absolute last resort, you won’t have time for it. But once you see exercise as essential, it becomes hard to make time for oversleeping or watching mindless T.V. (though, btw, you can still watch Bravo on the treadmill in most gyms).

My advice? Go get your planner or open your Google calendar, and plan your workout for tomorrow. Where can you fit 30 minutes or an hour? Could you change your happy hour plans to a long walk with friends? Can wake up an hour early and dig out a dusty exercise DVD? Once you’ve planned for tomorrow, KEEP GOING. Plan for the rest of the week. Once you start, you cannot stop. Make it a habit, not something you do occasionally when you remember.

I’m trying a new class at work tomorrow, so I’ll have to leave early for the office and eat lunch at my desk to make it work — but I’m making it work! Scheduling life is a puzzle — figuring out how to make the pieces fit is up to you. Some weeks, I’m jamming two pieces together with a closed fist, but I’m doing it.

I hope this tough love kicked your butt a tiny bit. I hope you exercise this week. I hope it’s more than once.

There are only 21 days left in 2017!!! Are you going to start 2018 on the way to being your best self, or are you going to show up January 1 the same you that you’ve always been? It’s up to you❣️, but I’m here to help. Leave a comment or message me on Instagram so I can spread the encouragement!

How do you fit exercise into a busy week?

Caitlin

Caitlin

Hi, I’m Caitlin! Thanks for reading. If you're new, here's a little about me: I'm a writer, editor, eater, and reader living in the Kansas City area. When I'm not working my 9-to-5, I'm cooking without a recipe, exploring the city, and probably procrastinating. I start from scratch each morning: progress is way more important to me than perfection.

Connect with me on Instagram and Pinterest, and subscribe to The Fruitful Blog for tips on intentional living, meal planning, and more.
Caitlin

Author: Caitlin

Hi, I’m Caitlin! Thanks for reading. If you're new, here's a little about me: I'm a writer, editor, eater, and reader living in the Kansas City area. When I'm not working my 9-to-5, I'm cooking without a recipe, exploring the city, and probably procrastinating. I start from scratch each morning: progress is way more important to me than perfection. Connect with me on Instagram and Pinterest, and subscribe to The Fruitful Blog for tips on intentional living, meal planning, and more.

7 thoughts on “Pep Talks to Myself: Exercise is not a punishment”

  1. Caitlin —

    I totally agree with all you said. I exercise every day — some days not to sweating level, but I’ve been trying to step that up over the last month to where there is sweat most days. I am not a peer of yours — I’ll be 64 this month, but for me, it’s “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” It gets me up and going. I have a small gym in my home, so no excuses!

    Thanks for the pep talk!

  2. I’ve been trying to wake up close to the time Drew does and workout before work, but it can be hard to motivate myself when I don’t HAVE to start working at any specific time. The flexibility of self-employment is awesome but can make disciplining myself harder when I’m feeling lazy or tired. At the same time, the flexibility allows me to take a random hour out of a slower afternoon to hit the gym!

    I’m totally with you on this back stuff. Consistent exercise is good for my back (and my knees!). It can be disheartening to fall out of a healthy rhythm (like me just getting back from a week long, no exercise trip👎). I have to catch up now, but I know where I need to be and how I got there before. I just have to put in the work!

    💓💓💓 Thanks for the tough love, girl!

    1. I’ve read about self-employed people making an “appt” for exercise in the morning and kind of tricking themselves into thinking that they can’t cancel, just like you can’t cancel a client appointment. Motivation is all about tricking yourself! Lol. Thanks for commenting, Brookie!!!

      1. Love the appointment idea! I also recently talked to a counselor about adding meditation as a to-do on my work day checklist so I can’t constantly be shrugging it off and saying I don’t have time.
        You and I both know if something is on our checklist, IT MUST GET CHECKED OFF!! 😉

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