By Shannon Sexton, Yoga+
Studies show that people who exercise regularly feel more confident, capable, and able to handle life’s challenges than those who don’t. Yet surprisingly, only fifteen percent of Americans work out on a regular basis. Need some inspiration? Here’s some expert advice on how to get the most from your exercise plan.
3 steps to better exercise
Forget the old muscleman adage “No pain, no gain.” It won’t get you to the gym regularly. Ayurveda tells us that exercise should be fun, suited to our nature, and always comfortable. So choose an activity that inspires you, something you’ll do, day after day, because you love it. (If you’d rather have a root canal than step onto a treadmill, don’t step onto a treadmill.) Maybe horses are your first love—how about riding? Love to dance? Do it!
Reconnect with Your Center
Many of us reach for the Walk-man when heading out for a jog. But if we’re doing two things at once, how can we pay attention to either? Ayurveda urges us to be embodied when we exercise; when you’re grounded in your body, you’re less likely to overdo and injure yourself.
So leave your headphones behind and pay attention. What does your body need right now? Is it time to stop? Time to step up the pace? Are your shoulders relaxed? Knees hurting? Are you breathing comfortably through your nostrils, or panting through your mouth?
You’re on the right track when your body and mind are content and you’re attending to the present—the rhythm of your feet on pavement, birdsong sifting through the pines, the glitter of the rising sun on snow.
You’ll get the most effective, energizing exercise when you learn to recognize your breaking point, which comes when you reach fifty percent of your capacity. For most people, that’s when sweat forms on the forehead, under the arms, and along the spine. Stop here—any exercise that causes discomfort or strain is considered harmful, because it gives your body extra repair work to do. (For example, if playing tennis for an hour exhausts you, stick to thirty minutes.)
Next: How to find the exercise practice that is best for you