You already know that working out can make you look and feel fantastic, add years to your life and even give your sex life a boost, but did you know that exercise is an excellent life coach?
As a psychotherapist, health coach and fitness fanatic, I’ve discovered that the lessons I’ve learned from exercising reinforce some important life lessons. Read on for some motion metaphors, and check back for a new lesson each week. And remember the most important theme of all, in fitness and in general: Balance is key.
Lesson #1: When you focus only on results, you miss the best part.
It’s tempting to think about how great you’ll look if you just buckle down and get through a certain number of workouts, but this makes exercise seem like something to be endured rather than enjoyed. By the same token, focusing only on your next goal in life robs you of the thrill of the journey itself.
o AT THE GYM: If you usually focus on “getting through” your workout, be mindful of how strong and healthy you feel as you do it, and marvel at how your body responds to the challenge. Besides making your sweat sessions more meaningful, a recent study found that mindfulness is correlated with long-term commitment to exercise.
o IN LIFE: Step back sometimes from focusing on how to get or do more, and remember that there is more to your existence than the items on your to-do list. Be sure to make time for the people you care about, and be grateful for simple pleasures.
Lesson #2: You're stronger than you think you are.
Think back to a time before you started running or lifting weights. You probably never imagined you’d be able to run as far or lift as much weight as you do now, but you stuck it out and your dedication has paid off.
o AT THE GYM: Tap your strength reserves by adding some sprints or challenging hills to your next run, and bump up the weights for a few sets of a strength session. If you’re a yogi, try that inversion at the wall for once when the teacher offers to spot you! You might be kicking up in the middle of the room sooner than you think.
o IN LIFE: When you need a strength infusion, think of times in your life when you ended up doing something you thought you couldn’t. You’ve already done what you thought wasn’t possible, so you can surely deal with whatever hurdles life throws your way.
Lesson #3: Sometimes You Need Someone to Share the Load.
If you’ve ever needed someone to show you how to do something new or spot you at the gym but were too proud to ask for help, chances are you either hurt yourself or simply moved onto something less challenging. Seeking support is equally important in your personal life: Like having a fitness buddy, it can help you stay safe while venturing out of your comfort zone.
o AT THE GYM: Next time you work out, ask a trainer or fitness-buff friend to assist you for a couple sets of at least one strength exercise. You'll be surprised how much more you're capable of when you have a little help!
o IN LIFE: Dare to ask for advice in an area that you normally don't. Usually tight-lipped about work challenges or relationship dilemmas? Ask a trusted friend for her take on a situation that's nagging at you. At the very least, you'll have a different perspective to add to the mix, and you just might come up with a solution you wouldn't have thought of otherwise.