Where do you put your workout equipment? Do you need it in the middle of the living room to gently remind you to do a little movement, or do you tuck it away to a separate space?
I’ve been thinking about the advice I hear sometimes to keep some resistance bands, a kettle bell or a yoga mat in our living spaces so that we can “do a few reps” in between the rest of our lives. During the pandemic, by necessity my lifting became a part of my everyday space. I created a “workout” space in our guest bedroom, which is also the room with my clothes closet, where my little TV is, where I tuck myself away when I need some quiet time, and in other words, spend a fair amount of my time day to day.
And over the winter break, my husband and I finally got to finishing the garage, and we were able to install a folding squat rack on one side. Suddenly, once again I have a separate space where I only go to do my lifts.
And I love it.
I love heading out to the garage and going to “the gym,” getting to be inside my own head and focusing on the work without distractions. I’m enjoying my lifting like I haven’t in months. Don’t get me wrong; I had moments of joy these last eight months before I got the rack set up–figuring out how to MacGyver lifts, to keep it challenging with fewer options, and had some successes getting stronger. But it was hard to stay motivated. I’d get distracted, cut workouts short, be grateful that I’d checked the boxes, but not really feel that post-lifting glow. And I think at least a part of that was missing the “escape” of lifting in a separate space.
I acknowledge that there are times in our lives when we simply can’t carve out 45 minutes or more several times a week to do some exercises by ourselves. And of course, having space and equipment has a huge element of privilege to it. But when we are able to prioritize it a bit more, and when our spaces allow for it, I wonder if advising people to do a few squats as they brush their teeth prevents them from enjoying some of the most satisfying, and therefore motivating, elements of regular exercise?
I suspect that for some folks who don’t find that they love exercising, this sort of approach–carving out a special location and quiet time to do it in–might give them new avenues of enjoyment. They might find, like I do, that this time alone focusing on myself and my lifts, can become a kind of moving meditation, an act of mindfulness and self care not just for the “exercise,” but for the rest it brings to the mind. It is a chance to monotask and to be truly grounded in our bodies.
Now, of course this need not be an all or nothing situation. Maybe right now someone can only get away one day a week for an extended workout and the rest of the time, it’s wall push-ups while they’re heating up dinner. Maybe it’s simply an experiment we run from time to time, to see if we like a particular actively more when we do it alone. As our lives change, our needs adjust also.
I like the idea of cultivating these moments of quiet contemplation as a form of self-care, to encourage some of the intrinsic rewards to exercise; to make it more worthwhile to us in the moment and therefore more likely to be something we regularly create space for in our lives. I love lifting weights, but it is so much more than the effort and the progress. I love spending time with myself without distractions, focusing on the feedback my body is giving me, and enjoying being present in the moment. If you’re struggling to find joy and motivation for your fitness routine, it may be worthwhile to run the experiment, to find out if what you’re missing is taking time away while you take care of yourself.
Marjorie Hundtoft is a middle school science and health teacher. She can be found joyfully and mindfully picking up heavy things and putting them down again, in Portland, Oregon.
Feature photo credit: Simon Migaj, via Unsplash.