Spring Cleaning…For Fitness?

  • Published
  • By Dr. Penny Brower
  • 182nd Airlift Wing Director of Psychological Health

Most people use spring cleaning as an opportunity to get rid of the clutter in their lives. Eliminating our useless, outdated and worn junk creates space for something new to enter our lives, whether it is more mental openness and breathing space, more practical or satisfying belongings, or more time for socializing due to less stuff to manage. Our stuff and junk can really weigh us down, and the process of sorting, tossing and organizing can provide a great sense of relief and freedom. A common question that helps people decide what to keep is “Does this item bring me joy?” That doesn’t mean joy as in momentary happiness connected to people, places or things outside ourselves. Instead, it is a deep internal sense of satisfaction, contentment and well-being; the kind of pleasure you experience when you know the item serves a purpose that is in line with your values. If an item doesn’t bring you joy, it’s time to let the item take a trip to the dumpster or become a treasure for someone else.

Why not apply this same concept to your fitness routine?

Are the activities and exercises you are doing, to increase or maintain your level of fitness, bringing you joy? Do they serve a purpose that is in line with your values? Do they lead to feelings of deep satisfaction, contentment and well-being? If so, keep doing what you are doing! If not, it might be time to change things up. Toss out a few of the “old reliables”, which have become boring and tedious, and try something new. It may be necessary to take a step back and redefine your values and goals so you know where you are heading and why you want to go there. It may even be necessary to work on changing how you think about your fitness routines, because your thoughts are very powerful.

Our thoughts are actually more powerful than we often realize. To make my point, for example, recent research showed that pregnant women who held onto the thought that they were “eating for two” gained significantly more weight than women without that thought.

So what thoughts have you been having about exercise and fitness? Do any of them sound like this?

    - I’m already tired. Exercise will only make it worse.
    - I’m too busy to fit it into my schedule.
    - I’ve got a big weekend planned and I don’t want to risk having sore muscles.
    - I just need to suffer and get it over with so I can pass my PT test.

I don’t hear or feel any joy in those thoughts. Those kinds of thoughts are in need of some spring cleaning! Toss them out and try ones like these instead:

    - I’m choosing to increase my activity level so I can stay healthy for as long as possible and reduce the long-term costs of my medical care.
    - I may be tired, but exercise will help me stay flexible so I can enjoy playing with my kids (or grandkids) more.
    - I fit things into my schedule that are important. Fitness is important because it leads to the strength and resilience that will help me manage a busy lifestyle more effectively.
    - Even if I have sore muscles, I will enjoy my big weekend more if I’ve done my exercises and feel proud of the progress toward my six-pack abs.
    - I want to pass my PT test so I can stay in the ANG because I value the opportunities it provides. I choose this training routine to help me reach that goal.

If you find that your thoughts about fitness and exercise are stuck in the negative, and you want to make room for something new by getting rid of what is no longer useful, throw me the challenge of helping you find some positive thoughts that are in line with your values and will bring you joy.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Air Force, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.)