Your New Year’s resolution was to be more active, and perhaps you were, for a bit. Is your determination wearing off? It may be time for some assessment of your exercise preferences. You may have heard that the key to staying active is finding activities that you enjoy, and that is true, but there’s another element at play. Do you like to engage in those activities alone? With a buddy? In a group? On a team? Let’s analyze the possibilities and how they work best for different people:
For some, exercise is meditative. It is precious alone time, in which you commune with your body and its needs, tune out from the world, and engage in “me” time. People who prefer exercising alone may enjoy walking, running, or hiking outdoors. They may like turning on the TV and exercising with the aid of a television show, DVD, or an exercise-intensive game on their gaming console. They may also enjoy plugging in to their MP3 players at the gym and hopping on the treadmill, working their way through the weight room, or swimming their laps in the pool.
Some people find motivation in working with an exercise buddy. They may participate in many of the same activities listed above, but with another person. In some of these cases, having a knowledgeable exercise buddy can ensure you are moving safely and effectively; there is someone there to watch your form. Your exercise buddy may be a spouse, partner, family member, friend, co-worker, or even trainer. If you have a hard time staying motivated, people who are intimately aware of your plans and goals can help cheer you on when your will to move starts to wane.
Group activity classes provide an environment that some people find fun and motivating. Whether it’s the company of other people having fun, or the healthy sense of competition you can feel when others around you are working hard too, classes can keep you moving when other options may not. These classes are also taught by knowledgeable instructors, so you are able to participate in many kinds of activities safely and effectively. This option can be easier to face as part of a busy day than that of exercising on your own.
If you find the group environment fun, but that a drop-in style activity class is not enough to hold you accountable to a regular schedule of activity, consider signing up or trying out for a community sports team. You will garner many of the same benefits of the activity classes, but have the added motivation of a team depending on you. Look for activities in which you’ll get a lot of full body exercise. If the team holds practices as well as regular games, all the better!
So how do you know which style works for you?
If you have not tried all of these options at least once, I encourage you to do so. Continue to assess how well you are able to fit each option into the rest of your schedule, whether or not each is providing you with the amount and variety of exercise you need, and above all—how much you enjoy it. That, always, is the key to maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle.
At the time of this writing, Heidi Stevenson was a certified group fitness instructor, currently teaching yoga, Pilates, and aquatics for the HPER Department and Recreational Sports program at Northern Michigan University, and also taught a wide variety of group fitness classes in Michigan and Pennsylvania over the last 15 years.
Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2011 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2011, Intuitive Learning Creation. All rights reserved.