Why I Workout – and What I Do When I Want to Do Anything But

I’ve said it before that one of the silver linings of living with MS is that I prioritize my overall health more. About 7 years ago I decided to start strength training more to help my balance, coordination, and overall strength. Consequently I get the question "What am I training for?" often.

I always respond "I’m training for life," which normally gets a surprised or confused look.

I get it, it’s not the typical response, but it’s the truth. I am living with something that makes it harder to move and function, both of which can do a number on my physical and mental health. To offset it, I work out so I can meet the physical, mental, and emotional challenges MS brings in my best health possible.

The benefits of movement for me

While what I do to stay active may vary on the day, the feeling of mind-muscle connection I am looking for when I exercise stays the same. Regardless of the movement I am doing, I strive to really be in the moment and in my body, move with intention, and feel the muscles engage. Moving mindfully doesn’t just keep me present and build my mind-muscle connection, it distracts me with something to pay attention to instead of watching the stop watch or ruminating on the day’s stresses.

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I’ve noticed that focusing on moving with intention not only helps me feel my best physically, it also helps mentally and emotionally. Living in the moment when I move allows me to fully appreciate what I can do while I’m doing it, instead of focusing and dwelling on what I can’t do.

In turn, I am grateful vs bitter. And, movement is more playful and fun vs punishing work. Also, it opens up the space for me to explore and meet my body however it feels that day, vs forcing it to do something beyond my boundaries that I’ll likely regret. So for the foreseeable future (and dare I say forever) the feeling I am looking for whenever I move is connection: with my body, my mind, and the world around me.

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The times when I don't want to move

While I love the feeling of connecting to my body through movement, let’s get real for a minute. Life isn’t always perfect. MS may be MS'ing, and sometimes the many benefits of activity are not enough to get me moving. It happens, we are all human.

Those are the days when I step back and ask myself why I don’t want to move. This is a time for me to be honest with myself. Am I just trying to make up an excuse to get out of exercising, or does my body truly need rest? If I need the rest, I rest. But, if I think I may be making an excuse, I fall back on my why for moving: to improve my life with MS and build mind-muscle connection.

Often reflecting on my why inspires me enough to make a deal with myself - do 5 minutes of intentional, mindful movement and reassess how I feel after that. That at least gets the process started, which sometimes is the hardest part (at least for me). Often at the end of 5 minutes I will keep going.

Calling in reinforcements

Another strategy I will use when I am not in the mood to move, even though I know I would feel better in the end, is to call in reinforcements.

Sometimes that is in the form of a friend to go on a walk with. Other times it is in the form of a new playlist with my favorite hype songs or in the form of a guided workout on YouTube. Or, I will forgo a formal workout and move in a different way, like cleaning or doing housework.

It's all trial and error

At the end of the day we all have different why’s, and we all have different challenges to moving. It’s up to us to know ourselves and what we need to stay accountable. I only know the above strategies work for me because I’ve tried countless other ones that didn’t work.

Trial and error takes some time and effort. But learning how to hold myself accountable was critical in ensuring I stay consistently and intentionally moving, which greatly improves my physical and mental health and softens the load of MS. And as we know, every little bit helps!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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