Fear and my Bicycle: Setting Your Own Rules When it Comes to Exercise

You know that I firmly believe we should be moving our bodies every day. That's right, I said every day. That doesn't mean that we can't take a break or rest when we need to, but I do think movement needs to occur every day. Note that I said movement, I didn't say bootcamp at 6 am every morning after which you'll certainly need that famous rest day. I mean being active.

Yes, for many of you this might mean a class at the gym or some serious weight training, but today I want you to keep your mind open to a new way of approaching exercise, one that has zero to do with punishment as a means to an end, and all to do with moving in a way that makes exercise seem like just a happy by-product to all the fun you're having. Yes, as much as you might think this is impossible, it's not only possible but it's what I do every single morning as soon as I wake up.

I had been doing this without noticing, but recently, my bicycle (and my husband) taught me a lesson that made me realize that I was using the same concept every morning without even realizing it. It's what I call moving to the beat of your own drum. And no, you know I dance, but this has nothing to do with booty shaking unless dancing is what you love to do.

The one thing you need to get rid of

When I was a kid, I spent every second I had on my bike. We would spend all our summers and most weekends in our little house on the beach, which had the most perfect closed neighborhood with almost no cars passing through, and all us kids would spend the days riding our bikes.

I was a late starter with my bike, I learned really late how to ride one but once I did I never got off it. 

After we sold that house many years later, bike riding wasn't that much a part of my life anymore since we lived in a city that wasn't bike friendly, but when my husband and I moved to Spain, we were suddenly living in the outskirts of the city, next to the most beautiful pine tree forest filled with trails for running, walking and biking. It was a dream. 

The first chance we got, my husband bought his bike, and gave me one for my birthday. I was all set. I remembered those years of bike riding as a kid and I was so excited. I remembered that the thing I loved the most was that feeling of total relaxation and freedom you get on a bike. There was going to be an added bonus though! Back then there were no iPods or iPhones! I was now going to be able to ride my back with my favorite music on my headphones. What could be better?

If you think this part of the story has a happy ending... it doesn't.

My husband and I set out to ride our bikes together and he took me along the route he had been taking the past few days. It was nothing like riding my bike as a kid.

He took me up a giant hill, and down the other side which had a group of school children blocking the cycle lane (meaning lots of swerving, next to cars on one side, kids on the other, and all downhill). He took me up hills in the forest, across the bumpiest roads, then on the way back we rode right next to our main street where tons of cars were passing by. The whole thing was not what I had expected. It was hard to bike uphill after years of never riding a bike and the whole thing felt like I was in a spinning class at the gym. A great workout, but not good.

I gave it a few other tries, taking the same route thinking I just had to get used to it, but with every day I started to dread those hills, I became terrified of cars and I started making excuses and eventually stopped doing it. Fear had set up house and fear is the worst thing when you start associating it with any habit you're trying to put into place, and it had to go bye bye. For the past 5 years however, my bike has been gathering dust while I ran, strength trained, danced, walked and did other forms of exercise.

The sweet spot

You know that my entire philosophy about exercise is that in order to stick with it you have to find something you absolutely love to do. I was not loving that bike ride and I eventually quit. The same thing has happened every time I've tried something that required such extra effort that the mere thought of it requires energy, but get me dancing or hiking in nature and I can do it for 3 hours, no complaining. You get the idea. Fun = exercise that sticks.

A few weeks ago, something happened that got it into my head that I wanted to take my bike out again and give it another shot. My husband kept saying that biking just requires practice and that then your bike is kind of like an extension of yourself so you feel completely at ease riding it in any kind of circumstance. I decided to try it again and off we went, one more time with him in the lead, only this time he took another route into the forest.

This route was slightly uphill but completely doable, and once you entered the woods it had the most beautiful trails through the trees and the whole experience was the most fun, enjoyable thing I had done all summer. There were no cars, no huge hills I had to climb up or be scared going down because they were so steep. All it was was a beautiful bike ride. In one ride I had changed the rules of the game and I noticed one thing: we have a huge association with exercise, pain and punishment, and if that way of doing things actually worked we wouldn't have hundreds of people vowing to try a new exercise routine only to fall off the wagon a few weeks in. Something has to change.

Setting your own rules when it comes to exercise

If my bike has taught me anything this summer it's that there is no one way to exercise, and I don't care what anyone else has told you before, a life of daily physical activity is worth much more than crazy intense exercise routines you dread the second you wake up and you only do for a few weeks twice a year. If exercise isn't enjoyable and doable, it just won't become a part of your life. Period.

Having said that, I know that so many of you love intense types of exercise and if that's the case, great, but for most of us, they key is in searching for a type of physical activity that doesn't even feel like work. Something you would feel like doing just because you woke up, you saw it was sunny and you know the park will be filled with people being active and before you know it your sneakers are on.

If you don't like running, don't run! If you don't like riding your bike near a street, find an area where you can ride your bike like you like to ride it. If you love the water, try a sport that gets you to go to the beach every morning. There are so many ways to move our bodies that I know there's something out there for each and every one of you.

Start the day off right

For me, daily exercise is synonymous with morning exercise. Once I got into the habit of exercising in the morning it simply became how I start my day. I walk the dogs with my workout clothes already on and once I'm out there and the sun's out, I'm completely in the groove and my body just starts craving movement (and yes, we all love to move, our bodies are designed for it and it'll happen once you take punishment out of the equation).

Here's the thing though, I never feel like doing the same thing every single day. Meaning, I don't always feel like running, or biking or strength training or doing yoga. My exercise changes completely depending on the mood I'm in. If I wake up tired, I know it's a day for yoga or pilates, or something in which I'm simply on my mat on the floor. If it's sunny and I woke up energized I know it's a day for heading outside. If I feel like I want to work out at home but the thought of doing cardio makes me want to stay in bed, I pick something else like strength training. I don't own a gym membership and all I have in terms of equipment are a set of weights, a kettlebell and my newly dusted off bike. 

If I'm doing anything at all, no matter what I choose, I always remember that although I try to push myself a little, if there's something I absolutely hate to do within that type of exercise, it gets taken off the table, and I add an exercise I love right back in its place. 

If you've been a straight A student of the "no pain no gain" philosophy for too long, you might think this approach won't get you anywhere, but I have to disagree. Once you find what you love to do, your body is naturally going to want more of it, without even realizing it, you will start to challenge yourself in ways that will still make you happy and get you to reach your goals just the same.

I have a great post on finding a workout you'll love here, and it's filled with ideas and adjustments you can make so you can find what works for you. Remember that fear is a very powerful thing. It is the number one thing that holds us back in every new challenge we begin. When it comes to exercise we have fears that we won't be able to stick to it, fears that we'll look ridiculous doing it, fears that we might fail, fears that it might be too challenging, fears that we'll get bored, and we just never get off our booties to try it. Today however let me leave you with this, find that one type of physical activity that has been circling around in your mind lately, leave fear at home and try it, and if there's anything you don't like about it, take it off the table and just keep what you love. Once you've found your groove you'll be able to set challenges for yourself and what's even better, exercise will naturally and effortlessly become a habit and a part of your life. 

For some amazing workouts you can start trying out at home, click the button below to get instant access to our workout library, which has all my favorite at home workouts from pilates to cardio, strength training, dance and so much more, and don't forget the simple and awesome power of a walk outside or a hike in nature, both are free and will fill your hearts with joy.

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Happy moving!

What type of exercise makes your heart sing? How long have you been doing it for and why do you keep doing it? How does it make you feel? Let us know in the comments below and don't forget to share this post with anyone you know who is struggling to begin an exercise routine and make it stick.