This would have to be one of the questions I get asked the most. Especially from women who are at the changeover times of their lives – like:
Or they may just have read something about the menstrual cycle and want to explore options that align. Or check that they are doing the “right” exercise for the different phases of their menstrual cycle.
We will be exploring each of these in depth. But first, we need to backtrack to get you started. So my answer is always the same – what movement brings you joy?
You will see that I have swapped out the word exercise with movement/activity and that is deliberate. Many people, myself included, have negative associations with the word exercise. I was the kid that hated sports at school. I much preferred reading, writing, playing imaginary games, and climbing on the jungle gym. I always came last in running races and was always the last choice for team captains.
And I know I am not alone in this experience. If more people had joy associated with activity – we would not be experiencing the shocking statistics of inactivity in Australia and worldwide.
Step number 1 needs to be about getting started. And if you have already started and have an active routine – keep reading! Because this will be your opportunity to analyze why you do what you do, and how you can add in or change it up.
What movement brings you joy?
Any movement option that you choose, is always going to be a win.
However, if there is no joy, it can be very difficult to maintain participation – even with the very best intentions.
If we rely solely on motivation to start and maintain an exercise routine, we are I’m sorry to say – doomed to fail. Instead, we must look for an activity that we enjoy. There have to be moments while we are participating in the activity where we can declare to ourselves that this is fun, or it just feels good.
And let’s be real, if you have been inactive for a while (weeks, years, or decades) it can be bloody hard to see/find/feel joy. Most of us have anxiety about starting or returning to exercise.
These anxieties can include:
- Past memories of pain from exercise
- Old injuries
- The fear of new injuries
- The fear of looking silly or not fitting in
- Changed health conditions
- Intimidated by all the “fit” people
- Concern that you will not be listened to
Here is a list of strategies to help you find (or rediscover) a movement activity that brings you joy.
Strategy 1: What have you enjoyed in the past?
A good place to start is to remember what you have enjoyed in the past. Perhaps it was a sport, rollerskating, or aerobics. Check google to see if there is something like this in your hood. Many sports options have variations that are not competitive (if competition is not your gig, or you fear injuries or the team time commitment).
I enjoyed playing tennis as a kid and rediscovered cardio-tennis in my late 40s. I have been playing once or twice per week since then. To my amazement, my tennis is actually improving. But it is not why I do it.
I play cardio- tennis because I love seeing the sky, clouds, and trees by the court. I love the ladies and coaches that I see. We hang shit on each other and all there to have run around and a laugh.
Want to give cardio tennis a go? Check out this website to find a place near you.
My next goal is to buy some rollerskates. Am I scared? I am scared shitless. But watch this space.
Strategy 2: Ask friends what movement/activity they are doing with joy.
Another good strategy is asking friends what they are enjoying. This strategy has the added benefit of when participating in any activity with a friend – this will increase your chances of showing up and committing.
Finishing your friend movement activity with a coffee and cake is not spoiling your workout. It is enhancing it. Social interaction is key to motivation and improving mental well-being.
Strategy 3: Get your family involved.
One of the key reasons that the wheels fall off the bus for many women, is that they shoulder the bulk of the mental load on the home front. To make sure this isn’t you – tell your family your plans. They can support you with your new habit by stepping up with one small change on their behalf. And they may also help keep you accountable to your commitment.
Organisation is key to commitment.
Strategy 4: Try new things in sync with your menstrual cycle
This is quite a big topic, that I will circle back to. But if you are still menstruating, see if you can time your new activity around the ovulation phase of your cycle. Not sure when that is? Easy – just aim for around 10 days after your bleed is finished. The next week – 10 days is your golden time for trying new things… and enjoying them. If you already have a gym membership – why not check out the timetable and book something new during your “goddess superpower” time?
Harness your menstrual superpower.
Strategy 5: Incidental exercise with purpose
Exercise snacks are good because they add up and are easily implemented as small changes to what you already do. Some examples may include:
- Allowing time to walk or bike to the store
- Get off public transport 1 stop before and walk
- Take the stairs instead of the lift
- Squeeze your glutes (butt muscles) and exhale every time you get up out of the chair and avoid using your arms to help you get up
- Twist and stretch in your morning shower. Your body loves to oil up before it goes and there is no better way than under running warm water. Make sure you turn your head and eyes as well.
I am sure you can think of or have heard of many more. But here is the key. While you are adding this new incidental exercise, you need to give yourself a mental high five. Take a moment to acknowledge to yourself that you are choosing this over that and you are doing so to improve your incidental exercise.
Let that feel-good feeling wash over you. This is how you embed a new routine.
What will be your 1 small change?
Now it is your turn.
All of these activities mentioned above will give limited returns as a one-off. However, all movement activity shows returns, with compounding interest, if incorporated daily.
Go on. Have a quick scan above on what you have read. Choose one. Write it down. Text it to a friend, do a google search, and check your diary.
If you want more support with your exercise routine – why not check out EVEolution™ – this is my signature online course that supports all women to move more.
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