Let’s face it: we’re physical beings in physical bodies. When we exercise we feel good, and have more energy and enthusiasm for life. Our minds can focus better, and our bodies fight off sickness more effectively.
Yet most of our modern day working lives are spent in a chair, behind a wheel, or in front of a computer. Exercise is uncomfortable, so therefore it’s undesirable. Our schedules are full, our days are long, and we’re overwhelmed with distraction, so we find plenty of reasons to let exercise slip off the priority list.
So what if we reframed our thinking about exercise—not as a chore, but as a practice, as important as brushing your teeth and meditating? Suddenly the challenges and excuses melt away. You might even find yourself enjoying the process.
Here are a few simple ways you can establish a ritual of exercise as a daily routine:
1. Switch your mindset. A workout is not a workout. Like drinking tea, it’s just another great way to practice meditation, mindfulness, and focus. I find the more opportunities I have to practice focus, the more productive I am, and the more I enjoy the little things in life. I become more present when I spend time with my family, and I’m able to think clearly and make sound decisions at work.
2. Start small. Remove all expectations. Sure, it’s nice to have the desire to lose 10 pounds, do the splits, or bench 300 pounds. But I’ve found goals often become too intimidating and cumbersome, actually deterring you from getting started.
Start as small as is humanly possible. Even just rolling out of bed in the morning and doing one sit-up a day is a start. Something is better than nothing. The key is regularity.
3. Remove excuses. I like to focus on simple bodyweight exercises, using the weight of my own body as a tool for exercise, with minimal equipment. This way you can’t say, “I would exercise, but the gym is so far away and I want to save on gas,” or “I would exercise, but the yoga studio is closed right now.” I use a simple combination of gymnastics, martial arts, and yoga that I can take anywhere: a park, airport, hotel room, playground, or at home.
4. Be comfortable with discomfort. Exercise isn’t just for the body; it’s an opportunity to cultivate courage, tenacity, and mental strength. Consider your workout a mental warm-up for the challenges you’ll face this day. The more you move forward and face discomfort, the smaller your obstacles will become. It just so happens that you’ll also develop a stronger and healthier body as well.
5. Create a simple habit. You reinforce habits by creating triggers to remind yourself to do your practice daily. The trigger can be when you roll out of bed: first thing in the morning, do 10 pushups, or 20, or 100. I highly recommend an app a friend of mine built, called FitStar. It’s an awesome way to customize a workout to fit your needs and schedule.
Here is an example of an exercise routine I do:
Warm up five minutes by jump roping at a medium pace, then do this circuit four times:
- 20 sit-throughs
- 10 pull-ups
- 10 wide-arm push-ups
- 10 leg lifts
- 10 Turkish getups, both sides
- 10 dives
No rest between exercises, then rest two minutes between sets. You’ll get a full body workout in less than half an hour.
Here are some additional exercises you can do anywhere, anytime:
- Kettlebell: Clean and jerks, lunges, swings, Turkish getups
- Push-ups: Clapping, handstand, inclined, narrow, wide
- Pull-ups: Wide, narrow, clapping
- Squats: Two-legged, one-legged
- Yoga: Ashtanga primary series, bridge/backbends, downward facing dog, handstands, side plank, upward facing dog
The book Convict Conditioning offers some great approaches to bodyweight training. If you want to get a little more complex, try using a kettlebell. The online site and print magazine My Mad Methods also offers some unique workout techniques for inspiration.
These exercises are recommendations from my own practice, but the important thing is that you create a small ritual that works for you. The more you reinforce the habit, the more your body will associate positive feelings with that activity. Push through the discomfort, and you’ll find yourself more present in the rest of your life, and better equipped to deal with life’s obstacles.