A few weeks ago, I went on a long walk with a good friend of mine. I can't remember if it was 6,000 steps or 10,000 steps. Regardless, it was a LONG walk. It was a nature walk on an absolutely gorgeous but hot day. Not to mention... it was very hilly. So, naturally, my heart was racing. Because... walking is a form of cardio. Especially the kind of walking we were doing that day. I had all the signs of exercise. Racing heart, sweating, and so on. This is why it is important to think of this as an exercise.
However, it was also my day to do a workout. And it happened to be a cardio day for me. I'm really strict about my exercise schedule. Because... not only do I know it's important for brain health and my overall well-being but it makes me feel good.
So, of course, I start an inner battle with myself. Do I workout later or do I not? Does this count as my cardio? If I don't exercise will I be skipping a day?
I asked my friend, who is a personal trainer` if this counted as my cardio. I explained to her that it was a cardio day for me and I was exhausted from our walk. She told me it absolutely counted. No need for me to do a workout later.
Fast Forward to 3:30 PM
I was good with this answer, pretty excited about it actually, until an hour before my exercise routine. The inner battle was raging... I had to ask AGAIN whether it counted and if it was okay for me to "skip" the day.
I was just laying on the couch exhausted, watching a show (I can't remember what it was but probably Friends). 3:30 hit and I was having an inner battle again. I went into my partner's office and had to ask her even though I already had an answer! She gave me the same answer my friend gave me, of course.
Unfortunately, even after getting a second opinion, the inside battle I was having was not satisfied. So, I compromised instead. I settled on taking the cardio piece of my exercise routine out that day and doing abs, squats, and shoulder exercises. Those are the things I didn't get in that I "needed" to finish.
(I'm sure walking up and down hills works out your abs and legs, too...)
I had already worked out but I just couldn't give up my exercise schedule. I couldn't see my walk as a workout. It's become such a habit. This was a big eye-opener for me on my mindset about exercise.
What I'm saying here is exercise doesn't ALWAYS have to be "hardcore" or the conventional way that everyone makes it seem.
Mindset Tips... Because Exercise is Important
I have found that when most people think of exercise, they think of HIIT or lots of sweat. They may think of the time and how it takes too much or comparisons on who does more than who. The most recent one I've heard is I have to run this amount in a certain timeframe. It doesn't have to be like this... AT ALL.
You don't have to do the same thing everyone else is doing.
Those Nike or Under Armor commercials where you see others going all out. That's great and all but that doesn't mean it's for you.
In order to want to exercise, you have to do enjoy what you are doing. If you don't want to lift heavy weights, don't. Do small weights or even bodyweight exercises. If you don't want to throw that gigantic heavy rope around as fast as you can, then don't. Maybe do some jump roping instead.
Make your workouts something you enjoy. If you don't, you will drag your feet to go do it or not do it at all.
For example, my friend can run an 8-minute mile. She strives to make it to that. That's what makes her feel her best. I, on the other hand, would be passed out either at the finish line or before the finish line if I tried that.
I love jogging but I have no desire to run an 8-minute mile. I like to go at my own pace. Not to mention, I may have some PTSD when it comes to that. In college, we had to run an 8-minute mile and if you didn't make it you got cut from the softball team. Talk about pressure. I have no motivation to go back to those days.
I actually run a 14-minute mile... which would be considered slow to most. But, that's my style. That's what makes me feel good. So... that's what I do. I also don't do it at a steady pace. I do intervals. Walk for 2 minutes, jog for 5 minutes, walk for 2 minutes, sprint for 1 minute, repeat.
The thing to remind yourself of here is that you are moving! And that is truly what matters. Say no to being sedentary. That's not how our body works.
Go Unconventional- You're Allowed!
Exercise can be unconventional.
It doesn't have to happen in a gym. You don't have to lift weights. Training like an athlete may not be for you. Dripping in sweat seems disgusting... you don't want that. My friend over here exercises for an hour... I don't have that much time so I better just not do it. Any of these sound like you?
If so... be unconventional.
Hiking swimming, taking a walk with a buddy, biking (indoors or out) are all examples of exercise. Especially when it comes to cardio.
Gardening, playing with your dog, redoing a room in the house, CLEANING... all exercise. I don't know about you but cleaning makes me exhausted! I get hot, sweaty, and I'm tired by the end. Make cleaning your workout... turn on some music! Dance while you do it!
For example, I used to do Just Dance and count it as cardio. Because dancing gets your heart rate up and you are moving. Exercise for today--- check!
Obviously, as the story above tells, I am still working on this area. But just remember exercise doesn't have to be in a gym and it doesn't have to be like everyone else. Be unconventional.
Time and Job an Issue?
Many of us use time and work as an excuse. There will be days when both of these are an issue. But once you start using it as an excuse... that's where the problem lies.
Because... one excuse turns into another and another and another. Before you know it a year has passed and you still aren't exercising like you said you would.
If you are struggling with time or fitting exercise in because you have a demanding job, here are some great ideas you can use to incorporate while you are AT work. Remember to be unconventional and creative!
Take 5 minutes to stretch. Get up from your desk and stretch it out. Make sure to stretch your entire body, not just your legs. Arms, legs, back, hips, calves, all of it.
Place a yoga mat in your office (you can either leave it out as a reminder or roll it up and place it close to you and your desk). Use it for 10 minutes. Get a beginner's deck of yoga cards and do some yoga. Just 10 minutes.
Get up from your desk and run in place for a few minutes.
Get a mini trampoline (also known as a stamina trampoline) and jump on it for a couple of minutes. Build up your stamina. It may sound silly as you are reading this but I promise this is harder than it sounds. This really gets your heart rate up in a very short amount of time.
Check out this post for more ways to get up and move at work: 48 Ways to Move More at Work
These are all exercises! All of them are body movements. Moving your body is so important for your overall well-being. Get moving!
But Really... Why Is Exercise SO Important
Here's a list of the benefits of exercise:
Better cognitive abilities
Improves blood flow
Improves insulin ability
Better response to stress
Lowers blood sugar
Increases brain health
A better sense of well-being
Parts of the Brain Exercise Helps
Let's talk a little about the parts of your brain that exercise helps.
First, your prefrontal cortex. This part of your brain is the most involved. It makes up 30% of your brain and is known as the supervisor. It controls focus, forethought, impulse control, organization, planning, judgment, empathy, insight, and learning from mistakes. WOW!
When there is a problem with the prefrontal cortex you have a shorter attention span, make bad decisions, more impulsive, procrastinate, you have no filter, and you seek conflict.
Exercise can support your prefrontal cortex.
Exercise can help your cingulate gyrus which is your gear shifter. It's responsible for cognitive flexibility, shifting attention, ability to go from idea to idea, detecting errors, going with the flow, cooperating with others, and seeing many options.
When there are problems with the cingulate gyrus, you can become stuck, worried, hold grudges, have obsessions, compulsive, addictions, a need to argue, automatically say no, and road rage.
Exercise can help your cingulate gyrus.
Exercise can help your deep limbic system which is your emotional center.
If there is a problem with your deep limbic system you can feel sad, be moody, and have uncontrollable negative thoughts.
And last but not least your cerebellum, which makes up 10% of your brain. It is responsible for processing, coordination, impulse control, and organization.
Problems include coordination problems, slow walking, and talking.
To sum it all up, exercise can help more than 40% of your brain.
This includes the two biggest parts of your brain, the prefrontal cortex, and the cerebellum. That is a large area you can help by just moving and exercising!
Exercise leads to a healthier weight, healthier brain, healthier life. Get up and start moving!
Certified Brain Health Coach
Owner of SustainaBRAIN