Friday, July 4, 2014

Fitness Freedom

The summer may be the season of bikinis and skin showing, but the spontaneity is throwing me off kilter. Summer is a time to enjoy the season, relax and enjoy. In fact, I just got back the other day from vacation in Montreal, Canada. And yet today I want to be lazy and lay by the pool. Bruno Mars had it right in "The Lazy Song" - "Today I don't feel like doing anything." After all, our bodies and minds need to relax and there is nothing like the warmth of the sun to move us to tranquility. Freedom to enjoy the summer is what I want, strawberry shortcake and all.

However, I also want to feel my best. In Montreal my husband and I ate a lot of food. Very little of it contained vegetables. We probably ate dessert twice a day. It was a food fest. Delicious. But that kind of routine is only enjoyable for so long. And I think a week is the max for me. I can honestly say I started to miss my spinach. After a while, loose eating habits shackle you. I started feeling kind of gross, heavy, sluggish. In fact, I literally caught a mini-cold.

Have you ever heard of the book "Decisive" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath? It was recommended by my Operations Management professor and even though I'm just getting started, I will second his recommendation. This book discusses the 4 Villains of Decision Making, one of which is narrow framing. I'm going to take the advice of this book and expand the scope of my fitness decision. I do not need to decide whether I should enjoy the freedom of summer or enjoy the freedom of feeling my best. Rather, I will ask how can I maximize my health this summer with freedom to enjoy, relax and feel good?

1 - Try new activities and foods: It takes a little more effort to schedule in new ideas, but when your regular schedule is already thrown off, it may free you up to try something new. My dance schedule is thrown off, but that gives me some opportunities to try some things: piloxing and yoga on the water are two ideas at the top of my list. The summer is a great time revitalize your interest in smoothies or whatever else screams out "summer" to you.

2 - Plan a social event: What is your reason for being on this planet? I bet it is related to people. I'm here to love others. Being social is both enjoyable and productive. Free your schedule to do what matters. Try to be creative about what you plan to do. A social gathering doesn't have to involve an expensive restaurant with heavy foods. You can grill some chicken and play a yard game like bocce ball or maybe visit some Botanical Gardens.

3 - Trust that your intention for wellness will bring you back into those habits you worked so hard to develop.  The spontaneity of summer is an excellent opportunity to strengthen your faith in yourself: There is an element of fear that if you get off your routine, you will fall off the face of the earth, never to return to healthy eating or exercise. This is silly. Give yourself more credit than that.

I walked a lot in Montreal, but there was not much cardio except maybe trying to run to catch up to the bus once or twice. Last night I was trying to do some Zumba to a video and my legs just felt like led. The movements felt unnatural and forced; it did not jive. I had the option to beat myself up for having gone so long without any heavier exercise or conclude that I've lost my rhythm and can't get it back. Those thoughts would not be helpful. Instead, I am choosing to trust that my body will return to the exhilaration in movement that I have experienced many times before.

4 - Move forward in grace: There is nothing more freeing than grace. Sometimes you may get so relaxed you forget to take care of yourself, that is okay. Forget about the perfect bikini body. Unless it is how you make your living, why does that matter so much? If you commit to loving yourself unconditionally, you can more deeply and fully enjoy your life - without the fear of failure. Without that pressure, you can truly enjoy the endorphins exercise brings rather than fretting about cranking up the intensity to cover that scoop of ice cream.

Here in the United States of America, we are celebrating our independence and freedom. I encourage you to grant yourself freedom in your eating and exercise. Widen your framework for what fitness freedom means - there are ways to experience enjoyment, relaxation and feeling your best all at once. The image was taken in Montreal, Canada. I love how it captures not only the peacefulness of the Botanical Gardens, but also incorporates high achievement symbolized by the Olympic stadium.

Some practical ideas are to try new activities and foods, which use summer's lack of structure for something positive or to plan a social event centered around foods and activities that will help you feel good. The mental concepts are to trust yourself to find those healthy habits again even when you feel thrown off. Also, love yourself through the whole process and into the future.

Do you believe you can enjoy yourself, relax and feel your best? Which of the ideas is the toughest for you to implement? What are your ideas to achieve this ideal?

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