Updated: Dec 11, 2020
“Be there for others, but never leave yourself behind.” ~Dodinsky
Sometimes, when we’re feeling stressed and running around taking care of everything and everyone else, the healthiest thing we can do is stop and consider how we can take care of ourselves.
While this seems obvious to some, too often women forget to prioritize themselves and make time for their health and wellbeing. The idea of putting ourselves first is a huge struggle. Maybe there is a feeling of guilt for taking time out to focus on you. We were raised after all to think we should always put others before ourselves and ignore our own needs. Or maybe you just feel too tired because you have put everything else ahead of you. Whatever the reason, it has to stop!
One critical way to start putting yourself first is through regular movement (a.k.a exercise). Why? It not only reduces your risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and some cancers, but it also gives you more energy. This means more energy to dedicate to your kids, partner, family, friends, job and colleagues. Here’s the best part. When we as women place #1 focus and priority on ourselves and engage in regular exercise, research shows that we are better able to manage depression, anxiety and improve our overall mental health outcomes.
Movement doesn’t have to be this exhausting high intensity interval training (HIIT) sweat sesh. It can be something as simple as getting outside for a 20-30 minute walk every day or gardening on the weekend. I always do what my body feels like doing each day. Some days it’s a hike at a local trail to soak in nature and ground myself. Some days it’s the HIIT sesh, yoga or a killer spin class.The key is to pick something you love to make it a sustainable practice.
It all sounds so simple, right? So, what the hell is holding us back? Here are some common rationalizations that I often hear:
I don’t have time
I’m just too tired
I am lacking motivation
I don’t like to exercise alone
I’m not comfortable in my skin and feel self-conscious
How do you overcome these barriers and get active? Here are some strategies I like to recommend to my clients and found to be successful:
Rationalization #1: “I don’t have time”
Have you ever heard of the five “P” rule? The five P’s represent “prior planning prevents poor performance.” Using this rule, look at ways in which you can fit movement into your day, like actually scheduling it into your calendar like an important meeting. If you don’t have structured time available in a given day, make an effort to take a 10 minute walk over your lunch break or body weight circuit in the kitchen while dinner is cooking, or head out and kick the soccer ball around in the backyard with your kids after dinner. I firmly believe that we make time what is important to us, and remember, every bit of movement counts!
Rationalization #2: “I’m just too tired”
With our constant go-go-go nature, becoming easily fatigued seems just an ordinary part of life. This is particularly true if you’re a parent juggling a job, children and a partner. One of the best strategies that proves successful is to establish a good exercise routine before the insanity of the day begins. I do this personally because it really boosts my feel good hormones and provides me with the energy I need to focus on and tackle what’s ahead for the day. Still not sure about an early day workout? Some studies have shown that early morning exercisers are more consistent with their exercise routine than their evening counterparts. So set that alarm and get moving!
Rationalization #3: “I am lacking motivation”
I’ve had those low mojo days too. The key is to just “do it” like Nike says. Action precedes motivation, as Robert McKain wrote. To overcome the mojo barrier, try setting your exercise clothes out the night before or schedule a walking or jogging date with a friend to keep you committed to get moving, which leads to the next rationalization…
Rationalization #4: “I don’t like to exercise alone”
As mentioned above, exercising with a friend can be a solid motivator to sticking to an exercise routine or plan. There’s no doubt it can make it more enjoyable and can also be an exciting way to meet new people that have common interests. Some fun ways to find a new workout buddy or two is to:
Find local activity groups in your community, like a running club
Participate in group fitness classes at the gym
Take on the challenge of participating in a fun run or charity event, like Ride for Heart
Rationalization #5: I’m not comfortable in my skin and feel self-conscious
When trying a new activity, it’s completely normal to feel a little (or a lot) self-conscious. If you do feel self-conscious and are struggling with body image, choose an activity that you love or give strength training a try. Research has shown that strength training helps improve body image in women. Explore a variety of movement options to find out what gives you joy and do it. When you do what you enjoy, you’ll stick to it.
It’s so important that we love and value ourselves. A regular exercise program is one of the greatest self-love gifts you can give yourself. Taking time away from our busy lives and schedules to incorporate movement into our day is essential to our happiness, overall health and wellbeing, and simply living a balanced life.