Get women and girls involved in sports by first asking them the question: What physical activity do you enjoy?
For kids, this is easy. I’ve never met a kid (girl or boy under the age of 12) that doesn’t love doing something active. Many like playing “Tag”, dancing, swiming, doing gymnastics, playing sports like soccer or basketball, riding their bikes, hula hooping, skipping, or playing hopscotch. Kids are experts on fun!
Something happens when these kids grow up. I’m well aware of the devastating statistics on the number of girls that drop out of sports during adolescence. I witnessed my own friends do it. Thankfully the trend is starting to slow, but we still have work to do to keep girls in the game. So, if you fell victim to the trend of girls dropping out of sports, and you’re now a grown woman “trying to get fit”, have hope! It’s not too late to get back on the play train and begin to adopt an active and fun filled (fun is my priority these days) lifestyle.
Why Is Fun So Important?
We live in the western world where as a society we value (I’d say overvalue) the work/hustle ethic above all else. It sits on top of the chain for many, especially in us ambitious #girlbosses. Chasing papers become our way of life. It’s slay or be slayed.
That's cool and all, but often, what I see around me are tired, stressed, #neversatisfied friends. The to-do lists are endless. The fear is real. The urgency is constant. Getting told to prioritize exercise and health and mindfulness and joy, just feels like more on your to-do list and can feel unrealistic. But the benefits of sports and exercise are so numerous and can be legit live savers for some. Exercise in whatever form you like should be a cornerstone of our lives and definitely not something to be forgotten about or ignored. I would advocate that if we can get our sports and fun quota up, it would help us to buffer our stress, increase our energy, and if nothing else, help us feel good in our clothes. Enough with the burnout, illness, and depression that can cause havoc in our lives.
Neuroscience has identified that “Focus” (work) time is good for us but it’s not the only thing. Like a healthy food platter is varied, our brains actually need a variety of activities too. A balanced brain needs more than hustle, sleep, repeat.
We need focus time ✔
We need sleep ✔
We need physical time ✔
We need PLAY ✔
We need social interaction + connection ✔ (yay for Lady Project events 😀 )
We need time in - reflection/ reading/ meditation ✔
We need downtime - Netflix + chill is good for you 😀 ✔
So say you’re killing the work, nailing the sleep, loving the social time (thanks again to Lady Project), have dialed in your Netflix + chill but you’re still left scratching your head because something is missing. Take a look at the platter and now you know why! You’re missing the play + physical time!!
So now all you need to do is override decades of socialization and limiting beliefs that lead you to drop out of sports in the first place, and find space in those busy schedules that have you working morning, noon, and night. I’m here to tell you the good news that by increasing your play quota doesn’t need to involve a hefty price tag, the word marathon, nor does it need two hours per day.
For all your leading ladies, momma-bears, and girl bosses, here are my hacks to an active lifestyle:
Start At The Beginning - What Did You Like To Do As A Kid?
Do that thing! I used to love dance as a kid, but as I got older and got seriously into running (I went to the Olympics in 2008), I didn’t have time, energy, or desire for much other physical activity. That was fine. Since I have retired from my sport, I lead a busy life with two little kids and my own business. Recently I’ve been craving something besides my daily boulevard run. Dance, I know from experience, and from more neuroscience research, is great for agility, mobility, flexibility, and really fun (when you get the moves)! I was craving dance, begging my husband to take me out. All around me, my friends independently seemed to be also wanting to get jiggy-with-it. So finally we found a dance class and I must say, ladies, I now hate to miss it. On a Tuesday or Thursday night, I nip out from the family, I drive five minutes across town and enter a room where the music is pumping, the teacher is a phenome, and I don’t understand a word of the songs. But it’s fun with a capital F! It's enjoyable, it’s energizing, it’s difficult, it’s everything I hoped it would be, and it’s $4 per class!! It doesn’t involve late nights downtown and my husband is off the hook. I even make it home to say goodnight to the kids.
Discovering this class has left me wondering. How many more amazing local classes and guru instructors are in my city, quietly providing extreme value to the small group of people that’s lucky know about them? My friend found the Zumba/HipHop class a town over from where I live and i’m so glad she did.
Ladies, let me know. What are your favorite exercise classes or form of exercise? Where do you go in your city! (Share in the comments + you could win some shwag!)
Why Do You Want To Get Fit?
I could list a hundred million reasons to exercise but all it takes is YOU to have YOUR own reason(s). One reason is enough. Your WHY is everything.
Now if you could take a pill that would provide you with the benefits of sports and exercise, it would be the world’s best-selling pill!!
Uses: increase energy, increase confidence, improve mental health, improves social connection, decreases stress, increases fun, emotional release.
Side effects will include: creativity, positive mood, alertness, healthy heart and lungs, healthy bones, healthy weight, feelings of euphoria, ambition, endurance, emotional regulation, decreased rates of cancer, competitiveness, cooperation, resilience, happiness, connection to your environment and spirituality, happier relationships.
Writing out and seeing YOUR reason in black and white, is really motivating. I’d recommend you download my free goal setting worksheets for my Believe Training Journal where I’ll walk you through this exercise.
Hack Your Evil Kermit
Me: I’m definitely going to start exercising
Me to Me: Funny joke
Rationally there are zillion reasons to exercise and #getmoving. Great, fantastic. However, when we are tired or stressed, our emotional brain/ ego/ dark Kermit/ resistance, can sooooo easily wreck all those good intentions. One fell swoop and it can derail you and you’ll opt inside instead of outside. So how do you override this?
This is another reason why fun isn’t just a bonus, it’s key. Our emotional brain likes fun and pleasure, so focus on that! Disguise your intentions to exercise as play!!
Expose Your Limiting Beliefs
If exercise hasn’t been important to you, what is? Expose your competing value systems so you know what you’re up against. I’ve listed a few common barriers to exercise I’ve heard over the years from my own mouth and from others.
Problem: “I’m so out of shape. I’d like to exercise more, but I don’t know where to start.“ Solution: Get over the beginner insecurities. Look, it sucks being the newbie. I’ve experienced a couple of humbling experiences in the past few months. The first one sent me into a full-blown panic attack but the second time I just laughed it off. Being a beginner is hard but not trying just keeps you stuck. Happy the way you are? Fine. Want more energy, to feel body positive, and to do something to decrease your risk of heart disease, cancer and illness? Then get over the fear of beginning. Embrace it! Allow yourself to grow and learn and be the newbie. As I said, it is humbling, but who doesn’t need to eat a bit of humble pie now and again? Don’t let fear decide your future or limit your life experience.
Problem: “Exercising is expensive.”
Solution: Running is free! My fav Zumba class is $4 a class. Youtube is chock full of exercise videos. I tried a free Salsa class downtown last week. There’s free yoga outside in the Summer. Most yoga studios have an intro rate or intro package. But even if the class you love is expensive, if you calculate the value it adds to your life, it’s priceless. Health=Wealth!
Problem: “I’m too tired to exercise.”
Solution: Yup, I know the feeling. But mindfulness research shows that you are probably tired of doing what you are doing because of the environment you are in. By switching up where you are, getting outside or entering a fitness studio, you’ll awaken reserves of energy you didn’t know were there. If you can swing them, morning workouts can leave you buzzing for most of the day. And after a good sweat session, you’ll power through your work and sleep better than ever! Lace up the shoes, drink some coffee, and just get out the door.
Problem: “I’ve too much on my plate already. I don’t have two hours to kill dossing around a gym pretending to exercise.”
Solution: You don’t need two hours! Since having kids, I believe in the 10-minute workouts! They saved my sanity in the past couple of years. I’d zip out of the house feeling stressed and irritable, run for 10 minutes and return home to my family buzzing, happy, and ready for everyone again. Don’t have 10 minutes? Take seven minutes, download the 7-minute workout app. #noexcuses. Show me your schedule and I’ll show you your seven minutes!
Problem: “I start strong and fall off the wagon quickly. “
Solution: It is February 3rd and by now, the majority of people’s new year resolutions have been forgotten about. Be realistic, don’t sign up for a marathon if you’ve never run a mile. Sign up for a 5k, and then download the Couch-to-5K program and start there. Lock in 2-3 days per week on your schedule and protect that time. After exercising, write down what you did. Doing this gives you an added boost in your brain’s reward centers. Recalling how good you felt after you worked out will reinforce the behavior and will motivate you to keep it up.
Problem: “I need to get home to my kids after work.”
Solution: Take 20 minutes before or after work to get your sweat on and you’ll go home feeling energized and buzzed. But if time alone to workout is out for you, do something with the kids: take them swimming, put on a YouTube yoga video or 7-minute workout OR lash on the tunes and just dance. Get your kids to join you. They’ll love it and even if the house is shaking, you’ll all get the benefits. Bonus: You’ll model that exercise is something that you value and they should too.
Get your ladies on board!
Ask your squad where they like to go and meet up. Try ladies night at the rock gym. Go for yoga and smoothies. Run with me and the PVD Ladies in the Spring. Friends will add the fun factor and you’ll encourage each other to show up! I find this helps a ton!!
As you might have noticed this topic is near and dear to me being an Olympian, mother of two girls, an entrepreneur, and advocate for girls in sport. I’m so happy to share my insights with my fellow Lady Project members for this blog. Hopefully, you’ll see that I know the struggle is real. But I want you to remember, that it’s too important to put on the back burner any longer. Get to love moving it!
Leave us a comment below or on Instagram and you could win a Believe Training Journal + some Lady Project Schwag! Share your favorite fitness class or sport and name your city. The winner will be announced on Instagram on Monday Feb 6th.
Photos by Death To The Stock Photo and Brittanny Taylor