This Sunday marks an important milestone (and also my mother’s birthday which I am excited to be able to celebrate with her in person for the first time in a LONG time!) – it’s my five year anniversary of barre!!! It is no exaggeration to say that barre has changed my life – it has become an important part of my identity and was the impetus for so many of the other healthy habits I have formed, things I have accomplished, and invaluable relationships that I have formed throughout the years. Since this time last year, my lifetime barre stats have increased to a total of 2,479 hours of taking or teaching barre, which translates into an average of almost 496 classes annually or 1.36 barre classes per day, everyday for the past 5 years. In my own life, I can’t think of any other healthy habits which have been as consistent, longstanding and rewarding for me. Last year I shared four of the best lessons I have learned from barre (applicable both in and out of life in the studio!) but this year I wanted to share some of my top tips for creating a healthy and long lasting relationship with exercise.
I recently read a book on marriage by Dr. Terri Orbuch which outlined strategies for taking a relationship from good to great based upon her longitudinal study of married couples over 22 years funded by the NIH. Although I read this from the lens of improving my relationship with my husband of course, interestingly I also quickly recognized the fact that many of these ideas could be applied to a variety of other aspects of life, including creating a healthy and long lasting relationship with exercise – something which many aspire, but struggle, to do.
1. Reset your expectations ::
According to Orbach’s research, the number one reason that marriages fail is frustration related to unmet, unrealistic expectations. I have also read a lot about this concept as it relates to building a happier life in general. When it comes to health and fitness, it’s important to understand, as is the case with anything, there will be ups and downs. Yes of course you should get stronger and better over time and with practice, but there will always still be days when you’re not feeling at the top of your game or that you really just don’t want to do it. That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or that you should give up, it means you’re normal. Getting discouraged or frustrated is all too common, but creating a healthy and long lasting relationship with exercise requires being realistic about your goals, expectations and progress. Everyone has a different starting point and path and everyday is different which leads me to my next point…
2. Learn to communicate ::
Creating a healthy and long lasting relationship with exercise requires your learning how to listen to your body. Communication is key to any relationship and when it comes to working out, it’s critical to ensure that you learn the difference between pain and hard work. As someone who has pushed myself into injuries in the past, I am still learning this one, but it is important to pay attention to what your body is telling you. On the other hand, I have also seen that quite often our minds will give up before our bodies do and we can push past the discomfort that a good workout entails if we put our minds to it.
3. Shift your focus ::
In order to make exercise a sustainable part of your regular routine, you need to be working towards something bigger and better than losing 10 pounds, fitting into your skinny jeans or having visible abs. Finding your own intrinsic source of motivation completely changes the way that you view working out. As opposed to punishment for what you ate or something you loathe but have to do, the habit of exercise becomes a reward in and of itself – a treat that I look forward to daily since I am no longer focused on the mirror or a scale.
4. Build on your strengths rather than nitpicking at your weaknesses ::
If you pick the right workout regimen, you’ll still have areas for improvement no matter how much experience and expertise you accumulate. You may not be able to hold a 90 second plank yet, but rather than allowing yourself to become frustrated by that – celebrate that you got through an entire arms section without dropping your weights! It’s always best to compare you to you and start to pay attention to the small incremental changes over time which really, really accumulate.
5. Find something you love ::
This cannot be overstated in my opinion. Regardless of whether you barre or do some other type of exercise it’s imperative from my perspective that you choose the workout that works best for you. Before I found barre 1,825 days ago, I really did not enjoy exercising and was very inconsistent. I thought I should run on a treadmill, because… well… what else was I supposed to do? But I didn’t like it and as it turns out running is not the best option for me personally biomechanically speaking either. I can’t encourage anyone enough to invest the time to find a form of exercise that challenges you, wherever you are, that you actually enjoy! When you love what you do, five years will fly by just like that!