The Ultimate Exercise Motivation (Arthur Did It. What’s Your Excuse?)

Whenever someone asks me what tools I use to stay motivated in my exercise program, I point them to this awe-inspiring video as one that’s on the top of my list:

When I’m struggling in a challenging pose…or otherwise tempted to feel sorry for myself due to some minor aches and pains…or just plagued with that general “Wah, Blah, I don’t really feel like working out today” kind of feeling…I think of Arthur.   And then I promptly shut my mouth, quit my bellyaching and do whatever I can that day, in whatever form that turns out to be.

One of the things I’ve started doing recently, which I learned in yoga class, is to set an intention for my exercise for the coming week.  And then act on it.   That doesn’t mean striving for perfection.  And it doesn’t mean killing yourself, in full blown Type-A fashion, to achieve some all-or-nothing, backbreaking fitness “end”.

So what exactly does “setting an intention” look like?

“Today, I’m going to try staying in wheel pose for five extra seconds.”  (May sound trivial, but anyone who’s learning to master wheel knows that 5 seconds feels like a crushing eternity.)

“Today on my usual 1-mile walk, I’m going to try to jog or run the first quarter mile, and then walk the rest.”

The point of setting an intention is to commit to doing something beyond your current boundary, and then acting on it, with 100% effort.  You may fall out of wheel after 3 seconds.  You may get winded a few paces into your jog and then need to stop, before starting up again.  The outcome doesn’t matter.  Only the willingness and effort to come right up against your normal edge, and then push past it, counts.

I leave you with these two quotes:

“A body at rest tends to stay at rest.”

Interpretation:  the more you lay around, the more you’ll NOT feel like exercising.  There’s no such thing as “waiting to get motivated.”  That day will never come.  In fact, when you first start working out, it feels like hell.  Am I right?  We’ve all been there.  Everything hurts, especially when you wake up the first few days.  You’re pissed and in a foul mood all day, thinking about the extra sleep you’re missing out on.  You secretly hope something will come up, like your boss asking you to work late.  Or that someone will accidentally trip the fire alarm at the gym…no real danger, just enough confusion to keep the fire trucks blocking the entrance at the precise moment you drive up, so you can gleefully turn your lazy arse around and head home.  The point is, no one starts off WANTING to exercise.  You have to force yourself to do it, until you start to see and feel the benefits, and your body feels more “off” than on, when you skip.  Sorry, but that’s the cold, hard truth.  Only movement begets more movement.  And the desire to move even more.  So if you’re sitting around waiting for fitness inspiration to strike, get comfortable with settling for exactly where you are today…for the long haul.

“If you can’t, you can’t.  But if you can, then you must.”

I’m sure he wasn’t the first to say it, but when I heard Baron Baptiste issue this simple cue in one of his power yoga DVDs, it was as if someone had poured ice cold water on my face.  At the time, I was hanging out in bridge pose (the precursor to wheel), doing my usual thing.  I told myself I wasn’t doing wheel today because my wrists weren’t strong enough.  But maybe that was just the “story” my mind had created and bookmarked, to be pulled up at every wheel opportunity that rolled around.   Truthfully, wheel had always scared me.  It was the very first yoga pose I’d looked at and straight away, without pausing, said, “Oh, hell, no, I’m not doing that.”  As someone who had suffered an isolated episode of vertigo years ago, the thought of my head being upside down, even for a brief period, stirred up “stuff” for me, all of it mental and centered on feelings of a total loss of control and orientation.  But really, that was a long time ago.  Besides weaker-than-average wrists (which were getting stronger every day), there was nothing physically stopping me today from doing it.  My mind was still caught up in yesterday’s script.  It’s not that I couldn’t get up into wheel.  It’s that once there, I felt tremendous anxiety at staying in the pose long.  Because I’d done it once or twice, though, I knew I could do it.  I just didn’t want to.

And I realized that wasn’t good enough.  While wheel was my first true yoga obstacle, it certainly won’t be my last (headstand, I’m coming for you).  So if not now, then when will my excuses end?  I have to begin safely navigating my personal “edge,” going beyond it where appropriate and possible, if I expect to continue to grow as a person.

If I can’t (do wheel), then I can’t.  But if I can (do wheel), then I must.”

After viewing Arthur’s story, there’s no way I can think or do otherwise.

What about you?  As we head into 2013, what physical fitness challenge will you actively set an intention for?  Please share.

Check out hotyogachick’s blog She Loves Gloves for more fitness-related posts.