Sunday, 31 August 2014

Fitting your workout or dance practice into your busy routine.

In August 2014, the Yahoo Contributor Network was shut down. All the copyrights to articles thereon were returned to their authors, so I decided to publish certain articles of mine, originally written for Yahoo UK on my own blogs. This is one of them.

Are you struggling to keep up your daily exercise regime? Is life getting in the way of your good intentions? Do other people seem to be managing while you simply cannot? As a yoga and dance teacher I regularly speak to students who tell me that they simply cannot maintain their commitment to regular practice and conditioning. Here are some ideas to get you out of that rut.

1. Understand your sticking point

Why are you unable to find the time to exercise? Is it a true logistical lack of time, rather than a lack of motivation, or too-high an expectation of what you feel you should be doing? Be honest with yourself. Ultimately, your friends, your personal trainer or your teacher are not deeply affected by your practice regime, this is for you, and you need to appreciate that.

2. Working out is a necessity, not a luxury

Often it is a matter of priorities. We all (usually) find time to eat, wash, dress and suchlike. When your workout is viewed as another important task to aid your daily function, time can be found to incorporate it. If you aspire to a more healthful lifestyle, fitness should take priority. A morning run, circuit or yoga session will leave you just as prepared for the day as a sit down with a cuppa, it just requires a slight alteration in mindset to accept that choice.

3. Living your yoga practice

Pranayama can be practiced pretty much anywhere. Just the same as pelvic floor exercises! Sitting on the bus, or locked in a toilet cubicle at work for 5 minutes. Any time I feel tense, stressed or overwhelmed is a good time to take a short break, and focus simply on the breath. Taking lunch in the park and putting aside a few minutes for some quiet breathing to centre is a lovely way to break up the working day and recharge for the afternoon.

Also good posture can be practiced at all times. A general mindfulness of balance and posture when standing or seated is vastly beneficial, and in my mind more valuable than the occasional long session of asanas. This can begin by simply asking oneself "how am a sitting right now? Am I upright, are my feet on the floor? Does anything ache?" and making a habit of "checking in" regularly, to catch bad posture habits in the act!

4. Honour your workout window

Regularity and routine will help any form of exercise, become more of an automatic part of your life. Just like remembering to brush your teeth at certain times of day, a short practice can be part of the daily routine.

It's good to keep your practice at the same time of day, studies have shown athletes perform better if their race is at the time of day when they usually train, our bodies come to expect it.

My advice would be to try and fit in an early morning session, first thing when you wake, before you are awake enough to come up with a reason not to. If this means getting up slightly earlier, the vitality provided by the practice will make up for it. Drink a glass of lukewarm water, get straight into your workout clothes, then start with some simple asanas with pranayama. A sequence of asanas in earnest can follow (alternatively another preferred physical activity), then a brief relaxation. This can take between 10 and 30 minutes and is adaptable to each day. Actually practicing something, rather than skipping it because a full 30 minutes is not available, is vital to maintain the routine. If one day all you can manage is a few deep breaths and a sun salutation, that's fine, you are still working.

I actually practice in the evening, because my children are early risers, sometimes I don't start until 10pm, but I sleep better afterwards.

If you are unable to complete your workout, perhaps due to illness, fit in an alternative practice, whether it be breathing exercises, meditation or study. Never simply allow you sofa time to intrude on your workout time, it will become habit.

5. Something is always better than nothing

Long practices are great but 10 minutes a day is better than nothing. Equally a short fast run, or intense circuit set can easily be completed in less time that it takes to catch up on your favourite soap. It is much less of a trial to find time for, and accomplish, this, than holding out for an hour long workout.

Once you establish your regime, and adjust your mindset to accept that this will be a part of your day now, it is much easier to stick to, and expand upon your exercise programme.

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