All-or-nothing is the binary of our Fitness Industrial Complex, or the FIC; the duality for the muscle-heads running these corporate cost-centers. This isn't the first time I've written about the FIC, but now I see signs its all-or-nothing approach is infecting the well-being and mindfulness movement. The rules grow daily in the hot-house of social media, a never-ending litany of rituals that block the very thing it's meant to cultivate: awareness, calmness, flow. Do we drink our celery juice before or after meditating? As one former colleague said: "By the time I've practiced my mindfulness-on-tape, exercised, done a few yoga stretches, showered, shaved, dressed and had my coffee, it's nearly 10 in the morning - and that's a morning after the luck of having a good night's sleep." The quest for balance can become an obsession and compulsion, leading to imbalance. You can't task your way to inner peace, or health.
Is there a place and space for those maturing adults who want to stay active, but who don't have "success" or "recognition" - what I call the "applause factor" - as their motives? There's nothing wrong with success or looking good, but both motives merely feed the all-or-nothing approach of training for that triathlon, working on that six-pack or getting ready for bikini season. Instead, I meet many who are so sincere about losing weight, recovering from illness, injury or surgery, or who desire to simply feel better in their bodies. They really don't care if they can stand on their heads, bench 500 lbs or walk the length of the Appalachian Trail. There's nothing wrong with these goals, but I'm trying to stress that the majority of folk out there have much more modest aims and needs than the FIC wants to cater to. These are people who just want their health back. They want to have fun with the activities they love. They want to have fun with the people they love. They want the grace and mobility of their younger years. They want to push a trolley of groceries around without lower back pain. It's so heart-breaking that they then do nothing because they can't commit to what they've been conditioned to believe by the FIC: that massive amounts of time, money and sweat are requirements for health and happiness.
I don't agree. Movement is a luxury that has no time or place. Movement is freedom. You can move any time of the day or night. You can do isometrics and breathing exercises in economy seats. You can do resistance stretching on planes, trains or automobiles. You can turn up the music in your house and dance like it's nobody's business - and it's not. You can decide to stretch your arms up and down just because you feel like it. I'm a believer, practitioner and advocate of small incremental movement woven through the day, everyday, in any damn place you feel like. Ten minutes here, five minutes there, another ten minutes in the garden by the hydrangeas and by the end of the day, you've exercised a half an hour.
Do what you love and what's fun for YOU. Do what makes you feel better after you've done it. If you're feeling rusty and haven't moved much, than the best thing you can do is begin with a few minutes anyway and gradually increase your time. Throw out any rules you're harboring on what you need to do first or what you need to wear or eat before you can do an activity. You can't believe the rules I hear before people come to my class: I want to lose a few pounds first, my feet are so ugly and I need a pedicure, I want to fast first, I want to wait until the next blue moon and when Mercury isn't in retrograde. I used to think these were lame excuses until I saw my own made-up rules for engaging in the most ordinary of activities. Put down the rules and just move. You'll make your own fitness path by walking it.