Examining the "Why" - Why Do You Exercise and Is It Working for You?
Why do you exercise? Do you work out to look good? Do you do yoga because someone told you it would reduce your stress? I encourage you to stop for just a moment and answer these questions honestly. Then ask yourself if what you are doing is working and are the results lasting?
This past weekend I attended the three-day Landmark Forum seminar. The Landmark Forum is a personal training and development seminar to help attendees live a more fulfilled and present life. At first I was a bit skeptical and it felt like something I had to do because lululemon sent me there since I am part of the lululemon ambassador program. However, by the second day of the Forum, I really got some insight into areas of my life where I was perhaps being inauthentic and not taking full responsibility.
In my years of self-exploration through yoga and meditation, I discovered stories that I held onto and did a lot of work in releasing old hurt and forgiving those I needed to forgive. This was nothing new to me as I was exposed to this type of deep work at the ashram. During the Forum, though, what really set in for me is how much of our conversations, internally and externally, are just a story and a perception of what happened, as opposed to the actual facts of what occurred. This made me think about the choices we make based on our stories and perceptions.
For example, you may know of a bodybuilder who was bullied as a child and started lifting weights as a way to prevent it from ever happening ever again. Or you may know a yogi who took up yoga because he or she needed to reduce stress, but is still working eighty hours a week. Perhaps this person learned from hsi or her parents that in order to be successful you must work many hours. What about the runner who was called fat growing up and runs daily to keep weight off rather than for the pure enjoyment of running? Anything that gets someone to exercise is a blessing, but we must truly take a look at our lives and ask ourselves, "Why?" and, “Is it working?”
It is important to embrace the past with acceptance and stop living in the stories we have created that shape who we are today. I used to run to keep weight off because as a gymnast and springboard diver there was a lot of pressure to be thin. When I was fourteen years old and at the peak of my gymnastics career I stepped on a scale and it read 117. I was horrified and started to monitor my weight frantically. It was through meditation as a teenager that I began to examine my mind, and in college that I finally started to accept my body. Today I do yoga and meditation to keep my mind and body balanced and clear.
We must take responsibility for all of our actions. After attending a yoga class, do you get in the car and speed home, cursing the drivers in your way? Unfortunately in Los Angeles this is a reality! Yes, I believe that sixty to ninety minutes of peace is better than none, but is it possible to hold onto it and bring it into daily life?
Do you do yoga because your doctor told you it would reduce your stress? (By the way, it will!) But what happens before and after yoga class? You must take responsibility for your life to produce lasting balance. Adding one more thing to your plate such as yoga may stress you out more until you make space for it by cutting out the old, unhealthy, stressful habits.
If you are truly honest with yourself and in assessing your motivations you realize that you workout to look good, then explore the possibility this may be guiding other areas of your life too. You may find you stretch the truth to look good or commit to things you don’t really want to do because it you may feel it would look bad to say no. Can you simply say you are sorry and take full responsibility when you are late for an appointment rather than making an excuse and blaming something or someone else?
Maybe you run to feel good about yourself, but does it last long after the run? In many cases it does, but let’s take it further. Are you eating in a way that feels good? Are you honestly creating connections that feel good and support who you genuinely are? Life is too short to live a life that doesn’t authentically honor you truly are rather than living in a way to prove yourself to someone else.
Whatever your reasons for exercising, I encourage your to make a commitment to engage in life fully. There is more to life than the treadmill, weight room, and yoga mat. Maybe explore something new this week. Perhaps you choose to add yoga to your weightlifting routine or join a running group to connect with others. Whatever you choose, make an effort to become present to the reality that life is much fuller when we stop making excuses and let go of the old stories. Go live your life because you are awesome just the way you are!
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.