When I was in my late twenties, I saw a therapist to whom I would constantly complain about my weight. This was in part because I worked in New York City and young women in New York City tend to be very, very thin. Even a medium-sized person seems obese. I would lament about the long hours I worked and how they did not afford me ample time to visit the gym.
My therapist was probably 40 years old, tall and lanky in slim-fitting business suits. Her voice was so soft I sometimes had to strain to hear her. “We don’t exercise to lose weight,” she said, using the royal we, as she tended to do.
“We don’t?” I sort of did.
“No, we exercise to have a relationship with our body.”
Wait. What? A relationship? This was possibly the most outlandish thing I’d ever heard.
It took me a while to accept her declaration as truth, but looking back I think this might be the single most liberating revelation of my adult life – certainly well worth the tens of thousands of dollars I’d ultimately plunked down for her counsel. That was 25 years ago and, in all honesty, I don’t think I’ve missed more than a couple dozen days of exercise since.
I am not a gym rat and I’m not ripped. In fact, I’m not even that strong. Sometimes I work out hard, but most of the time I’m just doing something – anything – that feels to me like exercise. Long before the Whole Life Challenge, my own personal time minimum was usually 30 minutes per day, but I’ve gone through periods after injuries or during particularly trying times where I would just take a brisk ten-minute walk around the block and that counted.
If I go to the gym, or go to a studio to take a class – between driving, parking, doing the actual exercise, driving home, showering and dressing for my day – I’m in for nearly two hours. For me, that’s not realistic every day…or even most days. The problem is, we sometime think, “If I’m not burning 750 calories when I exercise, why bother?”
I love the paradigm shift offered to me by my therapist. Once I separated Exercise and Weight Loss in my mind, exercising became a lot easier. Current research seems to bear this out. For most people, what you eat has far more to do with what you weigh than does how much you exercise.
The Whole Life Challenge requires 10 minutes of exercise per day. Not an hour; 10 minutes! I do not want to appear insensitive when I say this, but the days that you cannot spend 10 minutes doing some form of exercise should be few and far between. Yes, it’s cold out. Yes, the gym is a drag sometimes. I know it doesn’t seem like a mere 10 minutes will matter.
It matters. You’re telling your body it’s worth it. And that makes us more likely to treat our bodies well in other ways throughout the day.
Exercise does not have to equal boot camp. Do you have stairs in your house? Get up 15 minutest earlier, set a timer, put on some music and climb them. You're done.
When my kids were very young, I would walk them to the bus stop every morning. There were four or five moms at that bus stop and we would linger for a bit after the bus came and chitchat about whatever personal drama we were going through. My husband used to call us The 10 Minute Club, as we would come together and disperse over that period of time. At first glance, 10 minutes seems hardly enough to establish a relationship, but it didn’t take long before we were all very close. Those foundational minutes paved the way for us to meet for lunch or dinner or a movie. One of the women became one of my closest friends.
It does not take much to show up for yourself. But the message you’re sending is both loud and clear.