Priorities. Planning. We’ve heard it before. But I’m not particularly compliant. Being told to do a thing, and then being told how to do it, how to implement it? Where’s the freedom? Where’s the joy in that?
If it’s fun, you shouldn’t have to force yourself to do it. If it’s satisfying or rewarding – maybe it’s not always fun, but it shouldn’t have to be forced. However, you do need to bring yourself to it. It’s not like a movie, you can’t just sit back and expect to be entertained by your fitness or mobility training. It’ll be work, but if you’re doing something that’s actually good for you, in one way or another it’ll be worthwhile. It really is important not to overdo it, or shame yourself, because these behaviours consistently will get in the way of you doing stuff you like. And if the activity itself is useful, where’s the need for shame as a motivator? Shame only ever backfires. If it doesn’t work for you in the long term, what’s the point?
It’s easy to resent exercise – there’s this thing I have to do, other people don’t have to, why have I got to spend so much damn time working on this thing – strength, fitness, posture, mobility, my funky elbow – that other people don’t need to? It’s easy to resent the exercises that actually free you, that enable you to move better and do cool shit. Like live and have fun. Sometimes, hopefully, with less pain and better function. “Damn, I have to do this stuff, just to be able to function!” Or maybe, “hey – if I do these things, I function better!”
It can be part of your self-care ritual, but it’s your ritual, so who can tell you how to do that?
I work at a gym, so it’s easy to work out whenever the hell I like. But something that works for me is this: having a variable schedule, at the beginning of each week I will identify a couple of days when I’m going to be able to train. Let’s say Tuesday and Friday. I will allocate myself two back-up days. If some crazy shit comes up, like it does all the time, and I cannot train Tuesday and Friday, I dedicate myself to finding some time on Wednesday and Sunday. It’ll work out in the end. It doesn’t have to be much, it can be planned or entirely intuitive. Sometimes I have something in mind, and when I get into it, it just doesn’t work so I ditch that idea and do something completely different. It can be very interesting and stimulating to fail at a thing, or a plan, if you can consider the experience well without judgement. All experiences are valid.
The longer I’ve been training, the less it seems to matter what I do each session, or if I miss sessions altogether.
Duration is unimportant. Intensity is unimportant. The only thing that’s important is that you’re doing something that for you is useful or fun. Nothing else matters. Not a thing. Then, if you’re paying attention, you’ll learn something and sooner or later you’ll work out what you want to be doing, and you can progress in that direction. Educate yourself through reading, trial and error. Educate yourself through play.
All things happen exceedingly slowly. But if it’s useful or fun, that really doesn’t matter at all. You only need to be patient if you are fixated on some other thing than what you’re actually doing right now. I have advised and coached people to run, walk, lift weights, punch and kick, climb stairs, rehabilitate and strengthen muscles, juggle, throw darts, and do handstands. All activities have value, and some will set you up for cool stuff in the future. But if it’s worthwhile, it'll probably make you feel better in the moment.
Most of modern fitness-culture is competitive, and it sucks. It’s good for some people, but for others it only marginalises. Most people I know struggle with this crap on some level. We compete against ourselves, or we adopt training methods that have filtered down from bodybuilding or powerlifting, or other competitive sports. We are played off against each other, our beauty or strength or athleticism is second rate to this other dude at the gym. Men are taught to value badassery over character, and we wonder why competitive aggression has become such a problem. Women especially are told the only things of value are youth and beauty, and then are criticised and derided for getting plastic surgery, and are treated with contempt for ageing.
But whatever. Our training is not for them, it’s for us. When your self-worth is not built on the shaky foundation of being better than other people, you can be as happy for their successes as you are for your own, because other people succeeding at shit you struggle with doesn’t threaten your own sense of self-worth, pride or confidence.
It is all only for you. Do stuff that works for you. Only that.