A personal trainer (and good friend) always used to call me “the nutrition nerd.” He knew I had a passion for physical activity, but food and eating was obviously my hot button. As nutrition enthusiasts and professionals, we can debate all day about “what food or diet is best” for healthy living and healthy aging, but it’s indisputable that physical activity is key for lifelong health and well-being!
Except in the case of excessive, compulsive exercise (or recovery from an illness, injury or eating disorder), I can’t think of a single study, health provider or researcher who has suggested that it’s better to just sit around or that we should avoid physical activity. But, just because we know that to be true, doesn’t necessarily make it easy for most people.
I love to move my body, and have always been quite active. For one, as a child growing up in a small town in Nebraska, that’s just how we got around – walking, jogging or riding our bike. I also enjoyed participating and competing in activities like dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading all the way through college, and continue to be an avid cyclist and fitness advocate – so it may be surprising to hear that exercise can be a struggle at times – and certainly not something I always look forward to.
Some of you may be able to relate to this scenario. After high school and college, everything seems to change. Busy work schedules, friend and family obligations, lack of access to (or choosing to avoid) fitness facilities, climate and lack of motivation seem to make exercise more of a chore than the fun, energizing activity it used to be (or that we hope it would be).
Fast forward about 30 years and I can certainly share many ideas, strategies, or “ingredients” for overcoming these obstacles and sustaining regular physical activity (none of which have anything to do with a “perfect, correct or right” food or supplement). A few notable tips include: 1) do activities you enjoy; 2) participate in group fitness, if possible; 3) exercise at a time of day that’s best for you; 4) hire a personal trainer; 5) find a workout buddy; and, 6) mix it up / challenge yourself to try something new.
But, the ONE thing that has remained constant and still to this day motivates me and energizes my workouts more than anything else is MUSIC!
Whether it’s an instructor who creates a heart-pumping workout with a carefully choreographed selection of tunes, or making my own playlist; the rhythm, beat and even lyrics seem to be the “energizer bunny” that kicks everything into high gear.
We all have a unique “taste” for music. Therefore, there’s not a “right” or “perfect” music/genre/song list. Music that energizes one person doesn’t necessarily stir up the same effect for another – that’s okay. Have some fun experimenting with different genres and tunes to figure out what works for you. Streaming music with apps, such as Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, etc. make it convenient to mix it up and listen to your favorite music.
DIY or making your own playlist is a great strategy for personalizing your music selection, especially for those times when motivation is waning. I’ve been making playlists long before iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora (first recording onto tape, then CD to CD, etc). In fact, it’s a bit of a hobby and a fun way to distract when feeling uptight or run down.
For me, the process of creating a playlist and having it to look forward to at my next workout makes all the difference in not only getting to the gym, on the bike, or out for a walk/jog, but makes my workout feel like a “new guest” has shown up at the party and the fun just began!
And…since the secret to long term success with your health goals is about sustaining behavior change (and that includes all types of activity), then doing something you look forward to – because it’s fun and makes you feel great – will certainly be a difference maker.
To give you some ideas, following is my one of my new playlists (always a collection of new and old) – great for cardio! I love to follow-up a playlist like this with a little “Island Music” (a station I found on Pandora) for a fun vibe during a strength workout and stretch. As mentioned before, we all have unique music preferences – especially as it relates to exercise. So, take or leave whatever sounds good to you.
Want You Back by 5 Seconds of Summer (explicit warning)
Ed Sheeran Shape of You (Tropical Club Remix) by DJ Nate Ro
Adventure of a Lifetime Workout Mix by Power Music Workout
Do you have a favorite song(s) to workout to – or genre, playlist? Please do share 🙂
So…that’s an idea of what works for me. I’d love to hear your ideas! What helps to motivate you – to not only stay physically active – but look forward to and enjoy moving your body?