You know when you read an article and you want to share it with everyone you know because it gives you a new way of looking at things that's like the cartoon lightbulb going on over your head, totally speaks to you and just generally blows your mind with its accuracy and simplicity? And then you lose the article link and no matter how many different ways you try to Google it you can't find it? And then weeks later you find that it's still on an open page on your iPhone browser that you had thought you'd closed and you do a little happy dance in public because WOOHOO!? Yeah. That.
This great article from Jessi Kneeland on Greatist puts a new spin on how to look at exercise and healthy living.
Her premise, and what caught my attention, is that most people are comfortable with the idea that they practice yoga for a lifetime of improvement and benefits, but when it comes to other forms of fitness and wellbeing they look at it as something with an end goal in mind and that you have to 'get right' every time in order to achieve those end goals.
How many times last year did I dread going out for one of my training runs because I was afraid that I wouldn't hit my pace or be able to do all the intervals I was supposed to be doing that day? But when I run for enjoyment or do general fitness, I'm much more gentle with myself and try to tell myself that as long as I'm out there, enjoying it, pushing myself, doing something great for my body and mind and generally getting better, little by little, that it's okay.
It's that sort of thinking that Jessi says we should all take on board and use when we think about fitness and health.
This is a perfect quote to sum up the longer article if you don't have time to read it:
"Calling something a practice takes the pressure off doing it perfectly. What if not doing it "right," (missing a lift, having an unexpectedly slow and difficult run, etc.) was just part of getting better at fitness? Thinking you have to do something perfectly makes it more likely you won't do it at all. I often see clients approaching fitness with the idea that they must succeed in a specific way, and it inevitably leads to them feeling like failures—all it takes is one not-so-great workout to leave people unmotivated to try it again. On the other hand, “practicing” something seems harmless. Fun, even! I think approaching fitness as a skill to be developed and improved would increase the likelihood of people getting started, while increasing motivation for continuing."
So next time you're heading for a workout or starting a new healthy eating kick, while it's great to have those end goals of a bikini body/faster 10k/lower blood pressure in mind, try to keep in mind that every time you do something good for yourself, you're practicing the willpower to keep doing it as well as getting better, step by step. And, as I reminded myself just last night, even if I have fries for dinner one night (yeah I did! And they were DELICIOUS) or don't run as fast as I was pushing to during a workout, the practice of achieving health isn't wrecked -- it's just practice and day by day we're all getting better as long as we keep at it.