“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt
When I think of mindfulness, the first word that always comes to mind is “purpose”. We all move every day in some way, shape or form. We walk, run, ride bikes, climb stairs, take the bus, drive, sit, stand, bend, sleep, crawl, skip, hop or jump at some point every day. Most of the time in our fast-paced society, we tend to do these things on auto-pilot. We get from point A to point B, but we aren’t really sure how we got there. We go through the motions, but never stop to actually ask ourselves “why”, “how” or “how does that feel?”
I have been in physical therapy and Pilates for 13 years, and the biggest difference I see in my clients who improve and stick with a program versus those who don’t is whether they move with purpose. It’s not how strong they are, how smart they are, how fast, how skinny, how pretty, how much time they have or how much money they make. It’s whether they make purposeful decisions about whether to move and how to do it. The other thing I’ve noticed is how unbelievably hard that can be. There are three things that need to be done in order to move with purpose:
1) Acknowledge the thing that holds you back
Is it fear? Fear of pain – if you are in chronic pain, fear of that pain can immobilize you. You may want to do something, but you don’t know what you can do without the pain coming back. Fear of failure – maybe you’ve tried to lose weight over and over again and it’s never worked, and you are afraid to even try again. Fear of how you’ll look – I want to try a workout called Orange Theory but it involves running on a treadmill in a class setting. I am a horrible runner and am somewhat fearful of falling on my face in front of everyone. Fear of gaining weight – sometimes our body is telling us to walk instead of run or to take a day off of exercise, but we don’t listen. Is it something in your past? Do you not believe in yourself? Do you have an unsupportive partner? Do you think you are too busy? We all have something that we are constantly battling, and it’s important to realize what it is.
2) Let it go
We all have “that thing”. That thing that whispers in our ear, that nags us, that keeps us from trying new things or moving forward. We play tug of war with that thing all day long. It pulls and fights, and then we pull and fight back. What happens if you let go of the rope when playing tug of war? The other side falls down. No one wins in a tug of war if both sides just keep pulling. You might pull harder than the other side, but you still fall on your butt. The only way to really win is to LET GO of the rope. I’m not saying it’s easy, and you may need to let go over and over and over in a given day. But until you acknowledge what’s holding you back, and then be willing to admit you don’t need it in your life, you can’t move on.
Make a purposeful choice to move and how to move. Make the choice for YOU – not for anyone else or their expectations. Not because of fear. Are you running because you love to run or just because people say it’s a great workout? Are you doing ballet because you think you should do something “feminine” but what you really want to do is obstacle courses and bootcamps? Are you working out only so that you hit that magic “caloric burn” number? Are you doing yoga because someone told you to meditate, but you are simply bored the entire time? I see a night and day difference in my patients who come to PT because their doctor, insurance or work is making them versus those who searched us out and chose to come to us. Movement needs to have some kind of purpose and be something you are choosing to do. (Notice I didn’t say “want to do” 🙂 Sometimes we make a conscious choice that we know is good for us even if we don’t want to do it in that moment!) Make the choice for you. That is the only way to really own your body.
Once you start to put these things into practice, your relationship with your body will change drastically! It can be a slow process, so be patient with yourself. Just start by noticing how you actually feel when you move or workout. Put down your phone or magazine and block an hour of time that no one can reach you and you don’t have to answer any questions. Make the time only for you, and actually be aware of what your feet feel like on the ground. Are you breathing? Is your jaw tense? Are you aware of your form or do you put your attention anywhere but on yourself? Don’t judge and don’t get impatient. Just see what it feels like to actually pay attention to your movement or exercise. By moving with purpose, you will help prevent future injury, see results that actually last, have more fun and take ownership over your body and movement.