Something that was said in a recent episode of the Katy Says podcast has really stuck with me. The more I’ve let it percolate in my brain, the more I’ve come to realize that it’s been at the core of my aversion to movement. And it’s so pervasive in our society, I bet that if you start to take an honest look at your underlying thought processes around movement, you might find that this is going on for you too.
So what is this miraculous revelation? In a nutshell, we’ve been culturally conditioned to think that convenience = good, and inconvenience = bad. We’re willing to sweat and “feel the burn” at the gym, yoga studio, or while out for a training run or bike ride, but god forbid this happen when we’re not prepared for it. If it’s not on our agenda, we’re not wearing the right clothes, or don’t have the proper gear, then we’re surprisingly averse to movement that challenges us.
And after all of this, we then feel guilty about NOT moving and think that we need to go beat ourselves up at the gym to somehow make up for it. What a strange conundrum we’ve created!
If this sounds familiar to you, you're not alone! This phenomenon is so pervasive that it now has it's own term - actively sedentary. This refers to people who classify themselves as "active" or "exercisers", but who get very little movement throughout the rest of the day.
I go to the gym/run/bike/[fill in your favorite workout here] everyday. So this doesn't apply to me, right?
Perhaps not so surprisingly - at least, not after watching this eye-opening video from Nutritious Movement! - studies suggest that actively sedentary people are actually not much healthier than the average couch potato. While going for a run can have some benefits, if you're not moving all of the cells in your entire body frequently throughout the day, then you're missing out on a lot of necessary loads required for optimal health.
In addition to frequency and distribution of movement throughout the day, repetitiveness is also a big problem. That two-hour run you did the other day might have been great for the small number of muscles needed to run. However, there were a huge number of other muscles and joints that were left out of the equation. In order to get whole-body health, you need to actively move your WHOLE BODY, not just a few pieces of it. (For more on this, check out the most recent Katy Says episode on cardiovascular exercise.)
That makes sense. So what SHOULD I be doing?
The short answer is, move more! However, I know that's often easier said than done.
For instance, I've recently been in awe of some of the things I’ve noticed going on for myself when it comes to everyday movement. The other day I walked four blocks from my house to the post office while carrying two large, heavy boxes and a stack of letters. This was pretty tough for me, especially since it was rainy and I didn’t want to drop the letters on the wet ground.
One thing I observed was that I was getting frustrated with myself for being challenged by this. Given the fact that I rarely carry large items any significant distance, it seems a little silly that I would expect myself to be able to do this without any sort of practice. However, I’ve been raised in a culture with innumerable gadgets to make life “easier”. I’ve absorbed the message that if something is difficult, then there’s some sort of problem that needs to be fixed ASAP.
By the end of my walk, my arms were burning and I was definitely tired, and I felt great that I had accomplished something that was challenging for me. It was way better than going to the gym - I got outside, varied my movements the entire time by shuffling the boxes and letters around, and accomplished a chore that really needed to be done.
How are you moving all day?
This was a relatively rare instance of doing something out of the norm (although now I want to start making it more “in” the norm!). However, I find myself going through a similar process on a daily basis.
For instance, when I get home and need to unlock the door but I’m carrying 10 zillion things in my arms and can’t QUITE get the key in the lock, so I have to shuffle everything around - or worse, put them all down then pick them up again once the door is open.
I’m so surprised by the level of annoyance that I experience when something like this happens. Is that one or two minutes of shuffling stuff (and moving more - yay!) really going to mess up my plans for the rest of the evening? What am I hurrying for? Why am I choosing to create stress, rather than appreciate the opportunity to move and create more health in my body?
So, the next time you're tempted to outsource movement to a gadget, or feel grumbly about the inconvenience of having to spend an extra couple of minutes moving to accomplish something, I encourage you to stop and notice what’s really going on. Because sometimes inconvenient = good.