Here in Portland the winter months are coming. The hints are there, the occasional overcast skies, the cooling morning. That means that the rain will soon be here and thus a built in excuse not to get outside and exercise. No matter what part of the country you live in, the weather can be a reason to get out of your workout routine. Partially this is natural. Traditionally changes in activity would be dictated by the conditions, though most weather demanded more effort from our ancestors than we have today. Winter meant getting fire wood to chop, summer may have meant walking and carrying water, spring time planting or hunting, and fall meant harvesting.
In our modern times it is so easy to be comfortable, so little is required of us, physically, to survive. Which is why it is all the more important to stay active in the winter months or whenever the weather is less than ideal. And let's be honest the weather is often not ideal, unless of course you live somewhere the weather is often ideal (I'm looking at you San Diego), in which case you can skip this post. I've decided to write a few posts about how to maintain an exercise routine even when the weather is bad. If you have other ideas please feel free to share them.
The hardest this about exercising in inclement weather, is the hardest thing about ever doing exercise, GETTING STARTED. There are many techniques to work with less than ideal circumstances, here is one of my favorites.
Paying attention to who is talking.
* Scroll down for a note on voice and voice dialog if your not familiar with this concept.
You are supposed to go for a bike ride, but it's cold and rainy outside. You sit inside staring at the rain and think, 'ah man it's going to be so cold a rainy out there, I don't want to ride my bike, I'll get all gross and have to wear stupid bulky rain gear.' Etc.
The first step to working with this part of your mind is to ask, "How old is this whiny voice?" For me the voice is usually about fourteen. I can even imagine that 14 year old saying the above, crossing their arms, and huffing. We often equate ourselves with the little voices or energies in us that resist doing what we know is, 'the best thing for us.' This can lead to guilt and to thinking that we are weak, but we aren't weak, we just have a 14 year old voice living inside of us. There is nothing wrong with that at all, but we have to work with that energy when it arises. When I notice this part of me arise, I talk to that 14 year old. I might even imagine myself as 14 and say out loud, "I know that you don't want to go outside in the rain, but you know that if you do you'll have a good time. I promise that when we get home, we'll take a warm shower, and we'll feel really proud of ourselves." Does this always work? No. Sometimes the teenager wins and I stay inside and watch TV, but more often then not, when I am aware of that whiny voice and acknowledge it, I can find a wiser part of myself and get out the door.
How old is your whiny voice? Can you visualize yourself at a certain age when it's up? In what other areas of your life do you hear it?
Next time you find your whiny mind arising, try to talk to it in a gentle way to help get yourself out the door. Remember what worked to motivate you at that age, it might work for this part of yourself now. Yelling at it, criticizing it may work in the short term, but since it's a part of you, you are better off learning to love and respect it. Try different techniques to work with it and see what gets the most traction.
For extra credit try and notice other voices that arise when you exercise. Maybe sometimes you have a little internal coach or cheerleader. Maybe you have an internal champion, or perhaps an internal underdog. I'm sure most of us have a critical voice or energy that arises. Paying attention to the parts of ourselves that arise, in exercise and life, can help us know what our mind is up to. We can learn to access the voices and energies that help us and to help the voices that hold us back. No voice or energy is wholly bad, but some are trying to help us in pretty messed up ways. By hearing and working with these parts of ourselves, we gain more knowledge of our mind and more peace in our lives.
Thanks for reading.
*A quick note this post talks about different voices or energies that we encounter as part of our being. It is based on the philosophy of voice dialogue which acknowledges that we are all made up of a mixture of different energies and motivations. These voices or energies are what makes us able to play different roles in our lives and move from being at work to being at home. These energies or voices can be discovered and brought forth as a way to understand different aspects of our being. For a list of different selves check out this site- http://www.voicedialogue.com/which_self_are_you.htm