Physical practices are like a microcosm for our life. They teach us the value of discipline and perseverance to reach a goal or obtain to mastery in something. Once we come to realise these lessons in the practice, we can apply them to any area in our life.
So what have I learnt?
Whether it’s playing a sport, doing some yoga, going to the gym, or just going for a walk, that first step is the hardest. Every time. Sure I know all the benefits I’ll get out it, but it’s so much easier to relax and do nothing. I found that once I push past that initial inertia, I get into it and enjoy myself, and afterwards I feel great. Once I made that connection, I found I was able to push through that resistance more easily.
The same goes for anything you want to achieve in life. You have that great idea or goal, but you still have to put in the work to see it through. Push through with that first step – show up and things will flow. With most goals, you’ll face that same decision point over and over again – each time you can choose to get closer to what you want or further away.
You have to stick with a physical practice for a while to see the benefits and learn the skills required. Doing something once or twice isn’t going to create a significant change, but a consistent practice will, and you’ll be surprised at your progress.
The same as in life - you have to put in the effort. That’s not to say you should be doing something you hate, but it’s not always going to be fun and exciting working towards your goals. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to get to where you want to be.
If some part of my body isn’t a little sore and stiff, I know I’m not working hard enough. Similarly in life, if I’m feeling too comfortable and not being challenged in some way, it’s time to set some new goals. I’ll actively find something that will push me outside of my comfort zone, allowing me to learn new skills and grow as a person. Especially if it’s something I would love to do, but I’m scared of failing, or just don’t think I could achieve it.
Challenge yourself, and challenge those false beliefs. If it’s something that makes you feel excited, do it.
You know you could keep going – to push for a one more minute or one more rep, but you just don’t want to, and so you quit. Any physical practice challenges the mind far more than the body, and that mental strength and toughness builds up over time. As in life, a strong, determined mind can achieve amazing things and helps push you far beyond what you thought you were capable of.
If you’re just starting something new, you’re going to feel like a beginner. Chances are everyone is going to be better than you. This is especially true starting a new sport or martial art – everyone is going to kick your arse. Deal with it. Be humbled. Use it as a reason to get better - healthy competition is good thing. Also be mindful of fluctuations in energy levels and performance – maybe you went all out yesterday and today your performance is worse. Maybe you’re just dealing with a lot of stress. We all have our bad days, accept where you are today and move on.
Exercise releases lots of feel good chemicals and hormones. It improves cognition, increases energy and thus the motivation to get things done. It’s also a great way to move negative energy – stress, frustration or aggression can be channelled into physical activity, leaving you feeling much calmer. And of course there’s the enjoyment of the practise itself and the satisfaction of having done something so beneficial. (More on the benefits of exercise here)
When all’s said and done, I continue with my physical practises for they make me feel. The same applies to what I do with my life. Be it personal training, healing or coaching, the greatest feeling for me is helping others and that’s what drives me the most. That’s not to say I enjoy everything I do, but if something doesn’t feel right, I need to evaluate if it’s ultimately helping me or hindering me.
And lastly, you can push yourself too hard in physical pursuits, just as you can in life. If you’ve been working towards something every day, and today you just can’t stand the thought of doing it again (and you know the difference between resistance and overtraining/overworking), then take a day or two off. Once you start to get excited about it again, get back to it!