If you are anything like me, you are going to have days when exercising feels impossible. While it is important to listen to your body, sometimes the mental aspect is more difficult than the physical part. When you have a mental illness, committing to a daily fitness plan can seem daunting, but you can always start small and learn to value flexibility.
1. Change Your Soundtrack
The best part of my workout is usually the music. If your soundtrack is getting stale, spend some time creating a new playlist to pep things up. Also, consider new music genres and time periods as they can broaden your mind and enhance your understanding of other people and the world. For instance, I was pretty sure I would never listen to Kanye West or Miley Cyrus, but I gave them a try and now both have songs that have landed on my playlist. Choose music that pulls you out of the rut you are in, and I guarantee you will feel like moving!
Who says you have to spin until you are drenched every single day? Developing flexibility also enhances mental flexibility. You literally learn that you can reach just a little bit further for a little bit longer each day. Stretching does not have to be boring and unchallenging; you can even buy straps on Amazon to aid learning backbends and other complex poses. Commit to stretching for however long works for you on days when you don’t feel like exercising.
3. Go for a Walk
Walking can get overlooked when we are dead-set on developing muscles, getting ripped abs, and pushing for an aerobic rush of euphoria. I literally lost forty pounds just by walking an hour each day. I regained it due to changing my medication to olanzapine, but now that my weight has stabilized on it, I am now working to lose the weight again. Walking is definitely a way that I consider melting off the pounds each day. You can go for a hike or become an urban hiker, which is what I call myself when I hike around town.
4. Buy a Fitness Tracker
I bought myself a fitness tracker, and I love keeping up with my trends. It also aids in maintaining objectivity. Some fitness trackers also measure stress and sleep patterns, and this helps you see patterns that could lead to a mood episode.
5. Visit a Steam Room, Hot Tub, or Sauna
Whether physical training or a mood episode has left you full of knots, visiting a steam room, hot tub, or sauna can help your body relax and recover. Taking healthy recovery days are important as they help your body build and repair important body tissues and systems.
6. Try Yoga
You can do yoga at home by watching YouTube videos or by subscribing to a yoga application. You can also take a yoga class at your local gym. I did not include this in stretching because yoga is more than just stretching. It involves mindfulness and learning poses that help your body develop strength. Sometimes you will not have the attention span for an hour-long yoga class, but you can try one of the shorter classes online. Yoga calms the mind and helps it coordinate with the body in a graceful way (even if you aren’t graceful like me).
7. Use Resistance Bands & Tubes
I have found that doing bicep curls with resistance tube bands gives a better pump than when I use dumbbells. Bands are also great for sore muscles and can be used to rehabilitate injuries. Amazon has some really good bands and resistance tube bands and many come with handles and door anchors.
8. Watch Other People Exercise
This may sound silly but it works. You can go to your gym and get on the treadmill and walk while watching other people exercise. You can play an exercise video via YouTube, Beachbody, or your favorite application. Just watching other people exercise can take away the mental thought that you cannot manage exercising that day as it makes it less daunting in your mind.
9. Start a Fitness Journal
I have done this in the past and it worked out well. You can use any notebook or software as a journal. There are even some fitness journals that you can buy. This is a great way to tangibly see your progress over time.
10. Set a Specific Goal But Include Flexibility
When you have a mental illness, it is hard to commit to something in a specific and measurable way every single day. Set an ambitious goal and then set an easier goal. For instance, if I want to spin forty-five minutes every Thursday, then I will set that as my ambitious goal and then set a minimum goal of ten or twenty minutes if I am not feeling well. This way, you will build confidence in your ability to set goals. And sometimes you will want to continue your workout past the minimum time requirement.