when working out is more than just burning calories

Exercise is often reduced to a numbers game: calories burned vs. calories consumed. Miles and minutes. Time of day. Weekly frequency. Of course there is a time, when you need structure or are trying to reach specific goals, that these numbers may be a necessity. But what happens more often is that the numbers associated with exercise are exactly what makes it a begrudging task.

Paired with all these numbers, maybe your typical workout, let’s say a run, sounds like this: am I going far enough, running fast enough? Am I burning enough to offset that wine I want later? Is my app catching all these steps? Your mind becomes a scary place quickly, full of things that are inadvertently making you feel less-than. Yuck.

What would happen if this same run became…

a moving meditation

Just as nutrition and fitness are constitution based (read: one method may work wonders for you and not for someone else), so is meditation. For a natural mover, sitting painfully still may be the opposite of stress release, but if that same person put their same intention, mantra, and openness into a run, well, that’s where some wonders happen.

The repetitive motion of your feet hitting the pavement paired with the consistency of your breath is a perfect backdrop to let go. Add in sweat and endorphins, and you will be able to clear your mind as you exercise your body. It’s a good recipe for mind-body union and all that other feel-good stuff

a time to get inspired

Take this blog post for example–it’s the first burn post (party horn emoji!), and I didn’t know where to start. I went for a run to find my answers, hoping the movement of my body paired with a freer mind would help me reach my topic. (You can thank the run for this, not me.) Getting yourself into a new space that continually changes scenery will introduce you to unexpected things that will tease your brain and take your mind to a place it maybe wouldn’t have originally gone.

a time to energize your to-do list

If you don’t want to workout until the inspiration lightning bolt strikes, exercise is a good way to mentally prepare for the day. Rather than procrastinating that to-do list, can you use your sweat session to hop to it eagerly and energetically? How do you feel about that big meeting this afternoon? What can you do to make the day more efficient and less stressful? The natural energy of the run plus your churning mind may even have you running a little bit faster to get to your day. Even though this is a departure from the me-time, mind-freeing vibe of a moving meditation workout, anything that encourages you to approach your day with more thoughtfulness and energy can’t be bad.

a natural immersion

This could also be called, be present in your space. Where does your mind go when you only think about the scenes, scents and sensations you’re taking in? And conversely, where will your body take you when your mind is curious about these same surroundings? Maybe you’ll explore a new area on that run or connect to a new person who takes class with you.

a body scanning experience

Whether you’re the type who plans your workouts for the week or takes it one day at a time, use your workout to scan your body and listen to what it needs. Exercise can be a conversation between you and your body if you let it–when your body’s talking listen. Does the movement you’re doing aggravate any part of the body? Are you being consistent with your breathing? Is tension consistently appearing in a certain place? What happens if you send your breath there? Take an inventory of your body and let that information dictate what you do for it next.

Either taking your current workouts to a more mindful place or adding in a jaunt when you need to think, breathe and release will make your burn a celebration rather than obligation. Because this whole living well stuff shouldn’t be hard or a never ending math problem. Give your body and mind and their connection to each other a little more credit than that. Ya feel me?