What type of fitness makes your heart smile?


So much of the fitness industry and chatter about fitness focusses on “what you should do”. This type of workout may help you live longer. That type of workout is better than the other type for X reason. If you want to be truly fit you need to be able to do chin-ups.

Just today, I was listening to a mental health webinar about “boosting happiness and thriving in an ever-changing environment” and one of the tips was that, 30 minutes of walking daily, has proven mind boosting benefits. “It’s one of the best options there is for mind boosting interventions.”

That is great, for people like myself who love to walk, and are able to walk for long distances. I don’t take this for granted. But, what about people who experience discomfort when walking? Or, who are not able to walk at all? What are their options? There are often alternatives.

When determining what alternatives work best for you, I would consider (1) what you able to do, and (2) identifying movement that brings you joy.

Then try to incorporate those things regularly. Schedule them in your day. Even if it is 10-20 minutes at a time.

An image of a brain with legs, holding barbells. Presumably creating joy-creating juice.

Finding movement that brings me joy extracts the juice that makes a switch go off in my brain that says “this makes me feel alive”. I want this for you too. It may make you feel like you matter in a day where you might otherwise not feel that way.

On a morning where I hadn’t slept well the night before, where my thoughts got stuck on daily minutiae and my Fitbit confirmed I didn’t get nearly enough REM sleep, I commiserated with my workout buddies before we started. Perhaps, I said, I wouldn’t have my usual mojo that day.

A close-up photo of an old-fashioned typewriter, with a page that has the typewritten words “Where’d My Mojo Go?”

As soon as I started with our usual warm-up jogs with jumping jacks and mobility work, I could feel the defiant part of my psyche say “this is exactly what you need today. So there!”

When I moved through each 9 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible), I felt capable.

While I smashed through the windmills and hip thrusts (ahem, it’s just a good way of describing a kettlebell swing movement) and push-ups and step-ups, my insecurities in other areas of my life seemed even more insignificant.

I’ve always tried to focus on how my workouts make me feel, rather than any kind of visual results or other metrics. Barring bad luck, this way of thinking may come in handy in the coming years.

What if, instead of listening to advice about what types of creams or exfoliants will uncover a more youthful glow, we focussed on what activities make us laugh more, and feel that glow radiated through our cheeks?

What if, instead of worrying about what size pants we fit into, year to year, we focussed on how simple stretches can ease achiness in our joints?

What if, instead of considering the metabolic benefits of running or swimming or cycling or rowing, we expressed gratitude for the heart-pumping juice that makes anxiety feel alleviated?

What if, even, you need to take medication for sugar or blood pressure? It’s still very useful to find movement, that works for you, that makes your heart smile. Fine, hearts don’t actually smile, but it FEELS that way, sometimes.

A GIF of a heart drawn with red pencil cray and brown eyes and mouth, jumping up and down with joy.

In the grand scheme of things, my workouts are insignificant. But, daily, in my life, they are priceless. Because I focus on the movement that brings me joy. The ones that make me feel alive. For me that’s the park conditioning and strength workouts with familiar faces, my solo running, the occasional yoga or spin.

What movement brings you joy and makes you feel alive?

Nicole P. lives in TO with her husband and two dogs and tries to move (with intention) daily.

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