Why I Exercise: Real People on What Keeps Them Going

Why I Exercise: Real People on What Keeps Them Going

Fitting in exercise is hard for everyone. Hearing what keeps other people going can help you find your “why” too. Does it ever feel like the only message you hear about exercise focuses on what you can lose (i.e., weight)? With the broader fitness narrative emphasizing weight loss, unrealistic expectations, and physical appearance, it can be challenging to dig deep and define your “why” when it comes to exercise. The good news? Fitness IS about so much more than losing a few pounds, getting shredded, or trying to emulate a “perfectly” toned body. Fitness is about what you can gain. It’s about measuring success by how you feel, not by the scale. It’s about improving physical, mental, and emotional health. It’s about moving in a way that brings you joy so you’ll keep going for years. And it’s about meeting you where you’re at on your fitness journey. To help kick-start your journey toward finding the “why,” we interviewed 12 trainers, yoga instructors, parents, and others about WHY they exercise, how they fit it in, what inspires them to keep going, and a favorite motivational phrase they share with others.

Why do you exercise? I exercise to honor life. I have lost loved ones that [have inspired] me to keep myself and others LIVING and MOVING! I believe we do not OWN our bodies; rather, we borrow them for this human experience. I want to keep this vehicle clean, tuned up, and running on great fuel. That way, I can keep enjoying the open road with my loved ones! How do you fit it in? I have a morning ritual. The first 2 hours of my day are for me. If I can love myself as best I can, then I can also do it for others. But if I can’t do it for myself, what makes me think I can truly give it back to others? Lesson: Your oxygen mask first! What inspires you to keep going? I’m a dragon in the Chinese horoscope. I am in awe of the legend of the dragon spirit that spewed fire into the skies so that rain would fall to the dry lands. I live this and love it. I just want to be there for people to reveal the happiness found in movement and games. What motivational phrase or thought can you share with others? Happiness is not something to get or buy. It’s inside you. If you move and play a little bit every day, you give yourself the opportunity to reveal and attach to your inner child. Never forget that little, happy bugger.

Job: yoga teacher, studio owner (Yoga Shanti) for 23 years, author of “Yoga For Life” Why do you exercise? I practice yoga so that the daily stresses and difficulties have a way to release from my muscles, and to reverse my reaction to stress. I practice yoga to train my mind not to be so habitual. I practice yoga to keep my body supple as I age. I practice yoga to develop intimacy with my body and to get to know who I am at a deeper level. How do you fit it in? I fit it in because it is my lifeline and my life. What inspires you to keep going? What inspires me to keep going is because — emotionally and physically — I feel like crap when I don’t. What motivational phrase or thought can you share with others? So often, exercise is used to beat yourself up as if you are mad at your body and need it to be “better.” Faster, Bigger, Harder, Louder will only lead you down a rabbit hole of believing that you aren’t enough. And then, when you start comparing your performance to someone else’s, the joy of moving your body is gone. I’m not saying that it’s not fun to be able to do a pose or lift more weight or have a faster time. I’m saying that the process needs to be done with kindness and compassion, and the expectation of a rainbow at the end road should not be the goal. Because next time there may not be a rainbow, and you return to “I suck. I’m just not good enough.”

Why do you exercise? I believe in the saying “How you do one thing, you do everything.” Fitness and exercise really embody this saying. Exercise provides structure and momentum throughout my week. It is the foundation of my productivity and creativity. If I skip a workout or become less active on a particular day, my energy level and ability to serve others is severely compromised. How do you fit it in? I always do my workout first thing in the morning. I feel accomplished and mentally sharp after a morning workout. Also, if anything changes throughout the day, my workout is already locked in, so I’m not stressed about fitting it in. What inspires you to keep going? Being obsessed with the process and continuously learning is always an inspiration. There is never an end goal with fitness — or anything for that matter. Goals are great, but refining your process is where the real magic keeps me on my A-game as well! What motivational phrase or thought can you share with others? How you do one thing is how you do everything. Everything in our behavior is connected across all disciplines and facets of life. I love this quote because it reminds me of excellence in everything despite how small or big the task or project is.

Why do you exercise? When you are in your twenties, you don’t listen to people tell you how the body changes as we age (I mean, I didn’t listen). When I hit 30, I started noticing my body not responding to exercises or just being a little “creakier” throughout the day. I also came from the mentality that doing 15 indoor cycling classes a week was healthy. I’ve learned that strength training is what makes an impact, both for weight loss and from a performance perspective. How do you fit it in? I have a 10-minute mobility routine that rivals my morning coffee. I’ve realized I can work out less, maybe 2–3x a week, by being consistent in my mobility routine. My workouts are everything I do for my app, Le Sweat TV. So, in addition to my daily mobility, I also film 3–5 classes, 20–30 minute classes, a week for my app, which is my routine. What inspires you to keep going? If you don’t use it, lose it. My fiance and I are settling down this year and finally having kids (at 35). And from my postpartum clients and understanding the struggle that accompanies getting back into the swing of things post-pregnancy. That’s what keeps me motivated — being stronger during, and on the other side of, pregnancy. What motivational phrase or thought can you share with others? My most famous saying is “Yes or Yes” (yes, I even trademarked it!). What “Yes or Yes” means to me is saying yes to the challenge. In this case, it says yes to waking up, doing my mobility, and making sure I stay active every week.

Why do you exercise? Intentional movement and exercise are my primary tools for coping with stress. They provide an outlet for creative physical energy, and I find inspiration and focus after a movement or exercise session. How do you fit it in? If I’m having a very busy week that is challenging the time I have for exercise, I think about the following questions: When was the last time I moved my body intentionally? Does my body feel tight or restricted? Do I feel stressed or restless? If by answering these I realize I haven’t moved intentionally in 2 or more days, my body indeed feels restricted, or my stress levels are high, my main focus then shifts to preserve my body’s functionality as a whole. I choose to prioritize a 15-minute walk or stretching session at some point during that day and increase the amount of time and sessions progressively as my responsibilities ebb and flow. I continuously check in with my body and self to identify what my needs are. What inspires you to keep going? The freedom I feel in my body after moving or exercising intentionally. What motivational phrase or thought can you share with others?

Why do you exercise? I exercise because it allows me to be a better version of myself physically and mentally. It positively enriches all aspects of my life, both personally and professionally. Through exercise, I’ve developed success traits such as work ethic, discipline, confidence, and accomplishment. It also gives me what feels like unlimited energy and the ability to do daily tasks and recreational activities almost effortlessly. How do you fit it in? I fit it in not byfinding time but by making time. I make sure the amount I exercise is sustainable and realistic for my goals, lifestyle, and preferences without taking away from other life priorities. The number of days I exercise and the duration per session fluctuates throughout the year for this reason. What inspires you to keep going? What inspires me to keep going is the example I set for others — being a role model, inspiring, motivating, and educating clients, club members, friends, family, and even strangers. It also gives me the experience to be a more valuable coach. What motivational phrase or thought can you share with others? “If you’re not going all the way, why go at all?” — Joe Namath

Why do you exercise? I learned early on not to take health for granted. After almost becoming diabetic at age 27, I realized that poor choices could catch up to you at any age. So having a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, diet, and mental health was key to pursuing a fruitful life. How do you fit it in? Thankfully, fitness is my job, so I work out while I teach my MIRROR classes and train the things I love to do when I’m off. As an avid fan of obstacle course races, I try to fit in runs and cross-training wherever I can. What inspires you to keep going? My ultimate life goal is to become successful enough where I can retire my mother and take her on her dream vacation. So bringing out the best in myself and others will help me reach that point. What motivational phrase or thought can you share with others? The boxes we put ourselves in, they open from the inside. It’s your choice to step out of the limitations you put on yourself and to step into your greatness.

Job: Club Pilates instructor at Club Pilates; health professions simulation educator, training clinicians and others on teamwork, communication, emergency response, and leadership skills. Why do you exercise? I discovered exercise in my early twenties and very quickly became what was then called an “aerobics instructor.” Ever since then, I have loved all forms of exercise, including cardio and weight training. I discovered Pilates in 2017 and entered teacher training. I believe exercise has saved me throughout my life, as it has kept me healthy, happy, and able to bounce back from any adverse situation. Seven years ago, I had a massive pulmonary embolism followed by a cardiac arrest, and I recovered quickly and fully. I believe my commitment to regular exercise certainly helped me get better and continues to keep me healthy! How do you fit it in? Since I have been avidly exercising and teaching for over 30 years, I do not know how I could not fit it in. Exercise is a way of life for me. What inspires you to keep going? I love teaching Pilates and helping others see the many benefits that a consistent exercise practice can have on their body, mind, and spirit! What motivational phrase or thought can you share with others? Refrain from imposing labels and self-limiting beliefs on yourself, such as “I am not flexible” or “I am weak.” Instead, focus on what is available to you today and what you can do, and you will likely surprise yourself!

Why do you exercise? There are many “whys” as to why I exercise, and the last reason for it would be aesthetic. Movement for me in the last 10 years has not only been the outlet that healed my major depressive disorder but also the outlet I utilize to stay mentally healthy and care for my overall well-being. I was a very unhealthy young woman with body dysmorphia, and one who grew up with cultural predispositions to an unhealthy lifestyle and illness. How do you fit it in? The way anyone gets up every day to brush their teeth is the same way I fit in time to exercise. Not only because it is my career and what I teach but because it is the outlet that allows me to continue to change lives the way I did mine. Movement is a lifestyle for me, not a chore. What inspires you to keep going? Every year, I reach a new perspective about life. I never want to find myself back in the place I found myself 10 years ago. There’s never been a moment in the last 10 years that I’ve gotten bored of movement, because there’s levels to everything you do and what you learn. I went from not moving at all to becoming well rounded in most disciplines of training amongst some of the most amazing athletes in the world. How can I not be inspired to keep going and see how much potential I can unlock every day? What motivational phrase or thought can you share with others? People that make no mistakes are those who have made every mistake in the book; don’t be afraid to fail. You never lose, either you win or you learn to grow stronger.

Why do you exercise? Exercising and fitness is like a religion to me. I don’t know where I’d be without fitness. The best way to start my day or end my day is with an activity that brings me such joy. How do you fit it in? It really depends on what I have going on for the day. Some days when I’m coaching classes in the morning, I’ll have my own workout later in the afternoon. When I have classes to coach in the evening, I’ll add in a run or HIIT workout at home in the morning. Now when I have multiple classes in a day, like, classes in the morning and evening, then those will be my workouts for the day since we work out with our members in classes. What inspires you to keep going? What inspires me to keep going is the enjoyment I get from it. It’s like coffee for some people. If I don’t have a workout in my day, my day is ruined. I can’t go a day without exercising or even at least a stretching routine. Of course, the benefits of exercising are another reason that keeps me going, but for me, it’s more than just physical. Being a trainer and helping people see that exercising is more than just trying to look good, but also feeling good, is another thing that keeps me going. Also, being a role model for what I believe in. What motivational phrase or thought can you share with others? When I hear members say they’re too old or feel that it’s too late to get back into shape, I tell them: You’re forever young and shouldn’t let age define you. I also say it’s never too late to start becoming a healthier and better you. You have to want it, and with a little push from a good friend, you’ll get it, and it can be at ANY moment of your life! You deserve happiness at every second of your day.

Why do you exercise? I exercise so that my body is ready and able to handle any physical challenge that comes my way. Fifty-mile bike ride with my friends? No problem! Three-mile jog on a Sunday morning? Sure, let’s do it! Hike Angels Landing with no training? Yes, please! How do you fit it in? The way I fit exercise into my busy schedule is by waking up early. Most days, I wake up around 4:30 a.m. so that I can get in a 20–30-minute workout. A morning workout gives me a tremendous amount of energy to start my day off right. It also gives me peace of mind to know that I already took care of my workout first thing in the morning, allowing me to do other things when I get home from work. On days when I don’t do a formal training session, I bike to and from work, which is a lovely, stress-free way of traveling. What inspires you to keep going? The desire to explore the world with my husband when I retire is what drives me forward. When I say explore, this includes hiking, climbing, swimming, biking, etc. Exercising and keeping my body healthy is the only way to keep my dream alive! What motivational phrase or thought can you share with others? Don’t compare yourself to others. We all start somewhere and have different journeys. Be the best version of yourself and live your life fully. Sara Lindberg, BS, MEd, is a freelance health and fitness writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in counseling. She’s spent her life educating people on the importance of health, wellness, mindset, and mental health. She specializes in the mind-body connection, with a focus on how our mental and emotional well-being impact our physical fitness and health. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Livestrong, Active.com, Headspace, Insider, Bicycling Magazine, Runner’s World, Men’s Health, SheKnows, Ovia Health, and many more.

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