If the phrase “women’s fitness plan” makes you want to scream, then this blog is for you. Mobility is so vital for our bodies and minds as we age, but we get why it can be a hard sell. There always seems to be a million things standing between us and good exercise; there’s not enough time in the day, aches and pains make the thought of moving unbearable, and honestly, sometimes we just don’t like it! As it turns out, we’re actually programmed to resist strenuous exercise. Still, mobility is no less important and impactful on our health.
Why Do I Hate Exercising So Much?
On top of the aches and pains in your body, mental drain, and pandemic that serve as barriers to exercise, there may be biological reasons why it is so hard to get up and move. Daniel Lieberman, an expert in studying human evolutionary biology, suggests that we are not wired to exercise for health’s sake. Instead, he looks back at our hunter-gatherer ancestors who had to spend their energy very wisely. Back then, food was scarce and if you didn’t hunt for food, you might go hungry; moving was a necessity in order to survive. Now, with an overabundance of food and things like airport people movers, we don’t need to exert that much energy to fulfill our needs to eat. In fact, we may still be hardwired to choose the route of least resistance! It’s easier to understand then why so many of us view standing in a large room picking up a heavy object over and over (hello weight training) as such a waste of time.
Having a bad relationship with exercise can also influence how and when you exercise for now. Exercise when done “performatively” can cause anxiety and take all the fun out of moving and exploring your body’s capabilities; you have to lift 100 lbs, do 50 squats, lose 20 lbs, score 12 points, or you’ve failed. Additionally, many people fail to find the real reason they’re exercising – it’s not so you can fit into a pair of jeans, it’s so your heart is strengthened so you have the energy and stamina to achieve your larger goals in life like traveling and climbing the marble stairs that lead to every museum and monument. Focusing on these long-term goals will help you to start and stick to your health plans.
Take for example one woman I connected with – she played sports in high school and college and started to develop frequent nausea and vomiting after over-exerting herself and felt embarrassed in front of her teammates. She tried not eating before exercise, only eating certain foods, eating at certain times, etc. but nothing seemed to help. It got to the point where any time she started to break a sweat she would panic and get anxiety attacks, worried that her body would betray her. Naturally, she became less and less active which made the barrier to being active even bigger.
That was until she found play-based rather than performance-based women’s fitness plans.
6 Playful and Fun Women’s Fitness Plans
Even if we might be hardwired to avoid unnecessary exertion, we’re also biologically designed to move but with purpose. When we move, we’re literally feeding our brains; oxygen rushes to the brain which helps it to release hormones that grow new brain cells and forges new cell connections. The hardest part is getting up and moving and trusting that it will be a positive and healthy experience.
- Calisthenics: If you have an idea of what calisthenics is in your head, don’t let it make you afraid to do it yourself. Many people who do calisthenics like to show off their crazy “human flags” and other moves, but at its core, calisthenics is just playful movement and bodyweight exercise. It doesn’t require any equipment and just because it’s considered a bodyweight exercise it doesn’t mean you have to do 200 squats in a row. Instead, it encourages you to break out of linear mode and experiment with the space around you by doing different playful movements focusing on weight shifts, balance, and control. There are plenty of video tutorials for beginners to help you build initial strength and begin to explore the possibilities.
- Walking and Hiking: Walking is good for the body and soul, especially now that cabin fever is setting in. It’s also a less daunting way to break into exercise and warm-up for other routines. It’s all about your setting, so don’t be afraid to explore or visit the great outdoors to help take your mind off of your body’s performance and onto your surroundings. Take your dog, have fun, and don’t discount your mobility just because it isn’t tied to a performative goal.
- Yoga: Many people don’t put yoga in the same part of their brain as linear “exercise” because it is more calming and holistic, but it definitely is a workout! Similar to calisthenics, it only uses your body weight and encourages creative movement, flexibility, and control.
- Dance: There are no rules when it comes to dancing. Music and movement can help you connect your brain with your body in an authentic and playful way. You can take a dance class on its own (like salsa or a Zumba class), add in a class between visits to the gym, or just get the speaker blasting at home to help you get up and get your heart pumping.
- Swim: Not only is swimming incredible for relieving joint pain during exercise, but it can also be very freeing and fun. I know personally, I relate swimming to when I was a child and could spend all day in the pool. In my mind, it is a form of play, but it’s a form of exercise for your entire body as well.
- Ride Your Bike: Spin classes from home are all the rage right now, but if that seems like a lot to start out with, you can take the bike out for a ride that’s good for your heart and mind. The same is true of kayaks and canoes! Surrounding yourself with fresh air and nature will help ease your mind and take the focus away from hitting PRs.
Lastly, remember that you don’t have to pick just one! In fact, we recommend that you have a healthy mix of any or all of these playful forms of exercise. It’s easy to get burnt out on doing the same exercise at the same time every day. In general, you want to reshape your mind to view exercise not as a chore with a clear start and stop, but as an opportunity for creativity, strength, and self-care. No matter what you choose, trust in your body to tell you your limits, and listen. You, and nobody else, is in charge of your health.