You know what is amazing? Strength. And even more amazing than the strength itself is finding it unexpectedly inside you.
Lesley and I have been “live blogging” our goal reports to you weekly. We were inspired to do this because we were commended by a few readers when we announced we met a goal, and we thought that it might be a fun journey for you to take with us…because although the achieving is great–the journey is always…interesting. Also, posting publicly our goals is not only a follow-able journey, but it keeps us honest and on top of things we deem important. Things we need to work on to make ourselves stronger.
One of mine is fitness. I believe I wrote in my original post in January that my fitness goal is to find something I stick with and will make a habit of, as I am one of those who will work out for a bit doing one thing and will get bored and will just stop doing it. I want something I can practice regularly and keep doing.
Among the three things that seem to have stuck are Sun Salutations. I started just doing 4-5 every morning. This in itself was a struggle for a few reasons:
I’m out of shape and my upper body strength sucks
I’ve never been good at Downward Facing Dog
I LOVE waking up slowly: having a cup of coffee and just sitting for an hour or more in the morning.
If I’m working, I set my alarm until the last possible moment I can so I get all the sleep I want.
This was the beauty of sun salutations. A few can take as little or as long as I want. If I want to, I can do them quickly while my coffee is brewing and they don’t take any of my precious “Me” morning time, or my getting ready for work. Contrarily, if I want a more intense workout, I can stretch longer and deeper.
Now, any of you who have taken yoga know that Sun Salutations can take on many forms, with different poses in between. I generally have a plank pose in the middle of mine (prayer pose, down into a bend, lunge one leg back then the other to meet and go into plank, then lower down before pushing up into cobra or up dog, then push back into down dog, then waddle my way forward into half bend, then up into prayer pose. Repeat).
Back in college I took a few semesters of yoga, and I remember being extremely proud of my pectorals (aka, I had perky boobs and they were even better with strong muscles underneath-hey, I never said I wasn’t vain!) and loved yoga because of this. I also loved yoga because I could do it. I’m tall and strong, but wasn’t physically fit. And I loved that I could do yoga, be challenged, and was getting stronger without too much sweat or pain.
I chose to dive back into yoga this year, at least minimally because it works with my schedule and I can be the master of my own workout. I can go at my own pace–whatever that is that morning. And I can work as hard as I want to.
Again, my goal this year was to find something I would stick with. An addition to walking my 3 mile average that I walk daily in NYC. Something a little extra that I would want to do and can keep up with regularly. Losing weight and health and gaining muscle, blah blah are great–but my ultimate goal is to find something I’ll stick to. Something I won’t cringe at doing. Something I’ll just DO. So my body doesn’t go into rigarmortis before I die.
And it’s working. I’m doing 5-8 sun salutations in the morning. I aim for 8, but if I’m not feeling it when I first start, I do what I can and come back to them later. When I first started doing them, my body was like: “GURRRRRL. What do you think you’re doing?!?” But this morning, I found myself holding plank for 10 seconds each time without shaking arms, and holding down dog without wanting to cry–something that even at the peak of my previous yoga tenure, seemed to happen regularly. In other words, this morning I found myself stronger.
After only practicing a minimal amount daily, I’ve gained strength. My practice is maybe 10 minutes. I don’t really push myself. I don’t strain or hurt. Which is good because a lot of times I’ve stopped whatever workout because it hurts or I’m tired. And then I get out of the habit.
This may not be a surprise to a lot of you, but the secrets to getting stronger are:
1. Do something you can do regularly if not daily. If you can fit it in your schedule, you’ll keep doing it. Gretchen Rubin says in her book about habits is that it is easier to keep doing a habit then it is to not do it. So to quote the famous Nike ad campaign: just do it.
2. Find accountability–I think what gets me through the hump is that I blog about my progress weekly. I know people will read or will ask and therefore I am more willing to commit and stay accountable.
3. Make it convenient–I do my yoga in my living room while the coffee is brewing. Practice instead of staring at the percolation process pushes me to do it and get through it. I also like the challenge and the blood pumping!
4. Go at your pace–I know I like to feel successful about working out, so I start low and when I get confident I add more. I started with 5 sun salutations every day. I’ve added three more, and spend more time in each pose. Some days I add push-ups or add a Warrior or Triangle pose. When I feel good, I want to keep going. You could be the opposite–and that is fine. Do that. Go your own pace. No one else’s.
5. Know your goal. Maybe this should be first, but know what you want out of your pursuit. I would love to be skinny, but I know that “thin” isn’t a strong enough motivator for me. There are just too many amazing things to eat and too many things I would rather do than exercise. Therefore a “health” or anti-stagnant goal is great for me. Know what you really want so you can know what your focus is.
6. Don’t expect results or be upset if they don’t come right away–results will come, don’t get me wrong. But it might come in different forms. I lose weight in the three places I feel fattest in, last. And it never fails that I always feel larger/fatter within 3-5 weeks of working out. It just happens. Part of it is because I’m looking more closely. Part of it is because I’m expecting my body to lose weight. When I don’t expect my body to do things, it shows me results. Like being stronger.
Knowing these things will help you focus on creating and sticking with a habit that will eventually grant you the strength you slowly will work up to. You’ll get there!