“Which activities are the best ones if I want to stay healthy and injury free?”
I get these types of questions all the time.
The answer might surprise you.
First, I have a question:
What kind of animal are you?
Wait, what? I know you’re a human animal…
What I mean is: how does your unique body love to move in the world?
If you don’t know, then you probably aren’t moving in the best way(s) for you. But don’t worry – I’m going to help you figure this out! In fact, it’s pretty simple…
Mary Oliver, in one of my favorite poems of all time, writes:
How many of us arrive at a new workout or exercise mentality that looks and feels a lot like walking on our knees repenting for a hundred miles through the desert?! I know. I’ve been there…over and over.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
So what should we be doing?
- Do something that makes you happy.
- Do something that puts a stupid cheesy grin on your face.
- Do something that feels good in your bones and your soul.
- Do something that is so YOU it couldn’t possibly be labeled “exercise.”
It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I truly let go of trying so hard to do the healthiest, best and “right” things for my body…and started to choose whatever felt the most fun and made me the happiest. You know what this feels like?
F R E E D O M
I would now argue that this philosophy is what’s healthiest and best – and, it changes over time, like we do! What we enjoy and love today might not be what we need and want a year or five years from now.
When we approach movement with the fluidity of life itself, allowing what we want and need to evolve with us – we make space for unlimited choice. We’ll feel free to move how we want, when we want, in ways we want…for a lifetime.
Maybe you’re already doing this and if so, I salute your brave departure from modern exercise mentality!
Some of you might be thinking “Yeah but some people don’t exercise at all and that’s bad for you! We all need strong muscles and hearts and there’s no way to get that without working hard for it.” Hang in here with me 🙂
If you’re a professional athlete or serious about a particular sport…hopefully that thing makes your heart and body sing and come alive, because chances are you’ll have to do a lot of other things that aren’t so fun in order to be the best at your sport. This post doesn’t necessarily apply to you.
I want to help those of you who think working out is a chore, a bore or always a downright sufferfest lacking any enjoyment. And if you’re the type of person who always wants to do the “right” thing (AKA the “healthiest” as demonstrated by science or the latest studies), then my hope is maybe you’ll find yourself forgoing what’s “right” in favor of what feels good…and in doing so discover a whole new way of moving that will last a lifetime and fuel your desires to get and stay healthy.
I am an animal that loves…
Solitude. Wild places. Personal challenges.
Personal competition (competing with myself) feels challenging in just the right ways, whereas competing with other people just doesn’t do it for me.
Working out with a trainer challenges me perfectly, but the thought of doing a CrossFit class makes me dizzy with dread.
I want to perform well, do my best and make my trainer proud – but I’m also prone to overriding my body’s wisdom in order not to look “weak” in front of a group. I’ve injured myself like this (many times), and learned the hard way that it’s better to enjoy what I’m doing and stop if it feels wrong to my body. I’ve learned that I “listen” better when I’m by myself or one-one with a trainer.
Personally, I get the most joy from being somewhere outside in the wild, where few other humans go. My body feels the happiest, the healthiest, gets the leanest and most fit when I’m climbing mountains regularly. My soul is also happiest when I’m making my way to a summit or already there, gazing down at the world below. To be sure, climbing mountains is a sufferfest…but I get a strange satisfaction from the hard work, knowing that most people on this planet wouldn’t choose to be right where I am, and because I am willing – I get the views, I get the solitude, I get to see beauty and wild places that few others will.
Just call me a wolf mountain goat hybrid 😛
What kind of animal are YOU?If you’re challenged to find activities that light you up as an adult, then look to your childhood for clues.
As kids, playing came naturally to every one of us, including you.
Was there something you did as a child that put a huge smile on your face that you never considered “exercise?”
Did you love being on a sports team as a kid?
Then maybe you’d thrive on an adult sports league.
Did you love wandering through the woods alone?
Then walking in the woods again, hiking (maybe even climbing mountains!) or trail running would probably be good options for you now.
Did you come alive playing on the playground with your friends?
And of course, if you threw dance parties as a kid and still love dancing – then I hope you’re giving yourself permission to dance as often as possible as an adult too!
The options are as endless and unique as we are: from something as simple as walking every day before dinner to climbing trees or climbing rocks, to surfing, swimming, scuba diving, Tough Mudders, yoga (and there are many types of yoga too!), CrossFit, kettle bell workouts, snowshoeing, sledding, building snowmen with your kids or ice climbing…the only obstacle is a lack of imagination!
As I said in the video – if you still think there’s nothing you would actually enjoy, I want to challenge that.
I bet there is something you’ve wondered about or been curious about trying…and that’s a good indication that your animal body is wanting whatever that thing is!
How doing what we love helps us GET and STAY healthy:
- When we experience joy and delight doing things we find FUN – we will likely do whatever it takes to get and stay healthy so we can KEEP doing whatever those things are.
- If you’re doing something because you think you “should,” you’re far more likely to quit. In fact…
- You might just use an “injury” (big or small) as a really good excuse to quit! Whereas,
- When you LOVE what you do, an injury becomes an invitation to learn more about your body and how to help it stay injury-free FOR LIFE.
- When activities are fun, we don’t even think about them as “exercise!” This means we’re much more likely to stick with them for a lifetime…and moving your body in ways that make you happy for a lifetime – that’s a large part of the very definition of health, in my opinion.
- The endorphins that get released when we’re moving AND having fun are far more beneficial to us than if we’re forcing ourselves to move in was we find stressful (or downright loathsome).
- When you’re doing what you love – you’ll find reasons you CAN make it a priority, whereas if you’re doing something you don’t like because it’s “good” for you, you’ll likely start to find reasons you CAN’T make it a priority.
- ALL of the above will help your fascia get and stay healthy (whereas STRESS is the #1 cause of restricted fascia and the most likely culprit to keep it that way, regardless of how much fascial release you do!)
- And on and on…I think this list could be as varied as the people reading it!
When it comes to movement, my philosophy is pretty simple:
Do what you L O V E.
M O V E.
Every day (or close to it).
Find J O Y in how you move.
The rest will follow!