Exercise And Perfectionism Don't Mix

I definitely feel better when I'm exercising. But there's no greater mood killer than feeling like you have to exercise. I've seen a lot of articles written about finding exercise that you like to do, and I think there's no better advice.

But the other thing I've struggled with on the exercise front is being a perfectionist about having an exercise routine. Perhaps because you hear so much about the importance of getting into a routine to form habits. However, there can be a step too far.

After I got better enough from my RSI/postural problems to start regular exercise again, I got a little crazy (this happens to me often). I probably could have been mistaken for a general planning a war exercise with the way I made up spreadsheets, tables and maps for all this exercise I was planning to do.

One of the specific things I wrestled with was my determination to keep a weekly swim in my routine. My gym is right next door to my office, I like swimming, it's really good exercise, and if I didn't do it every week, what was the point of doing it at all? Ah, the all-or-nothing trap. It's a fail safe way for any perfectionist to get paralyzed.

But finally, I wised up. I also admitted to myself I need some routine. I have my Monday tap dancing class. I go to yoga on either Saturday or Sunday – at whatever time works that week. I also attempt to fit in one other dance or aerobics class during the week (right now I'm a big Zumba fan). I really love dancing and I like yoga – or at least the mind and body benefits I get from it. But the thing I do that keeps me the sanest is walking. Although some people think isn't 'real' exercise, I have a lot of time for walking (it probably merits its own post). When I have a pain flare up it saves me as I know it's something I can always do. Also, if I'm too busy for other exercise I know I can still fit in about 25-30 minutes of walking a day – usually on the way to work or home. And that's enough exercise to get the necessary health benefits.

And swimming? Now I reserve that for when I feel like it. Sometimes there's nothing better than going to the pool after work, swimming for as little as 20 minutes and then stretching out in the sauna. In the winter when it starts getting dark at 3 p.m. in London, my gym turns on colored lighting in the pool area and pipes in music that I can only describe as 'light techno'. It's weird, but strangely calming.

I also try to avoid this idea that you have to do a certain kind of exercise a certain number of times per week. At Bikram Yoga the teachers always say that you should go a minimum of twice per week. Why? In the past, someone saying that would have made me fall in line like a little lemming. Now I know that my body can only handle Bikram once a week. But it's still helpful to me, and I can even see changes in my body from it. I try to ignore all the noise from people who don't know me very well. Please remember, it's your life – and you're the expert.

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