The benefits of exercise include weight loss, energy, health and more…obviously! But what about those not-so-obvious moments of joy that you experience at the end of a run? Or at the start of a yoga class, when the lights go dim and you close your eyes? It’s not just the larger physical changes that are possible, but the little things that make us raving fans of exercise. Here are a few of those priceless moments that can evoke pride, accomplishment, happiness, excitement, and peace.
Pride is the natural response we have for conquering challenging feats like massive weight loss or running a marathon, but it also stirs in our souls when we take on smaller challenges. For example, have you ever found yourself beaming following a good workout to cap off your 10-hour day at the office? Or have you ever felt on top of the world because you finally made time for yourself, avoiding procrastination and walking into the gym before primetime?
There’s something amazing about these momentary feelings of pride because they give us confidence that we can keep recommitting to our health. Plus, getting to the gym early – or even at all – is like being a kid standing before an exciting playground – where to start first? The free weights? The elliptical? The pool?
Accomplishment doesn’t just happen at the end of a 12-week exercise program. It happens when we make small advancements in our fitness and push past barriers. For example, that moment when you pick up the 10 lb. dumbbells and realize that they don’t feel heavy enough anymore. Should you move up to 12.5 lbs.? Are you ready? You set down the 10 lb. weights and grin. Yes, I’m getting stronger!
The feeling of accomplishment isn’t reserved for weight lifting. Pushing past any plateau, whether it be running, swimming or biking, results in this feeling. This is why you see so many posts on Facebook about your friends’ workouts! They want to share their feeling of accomplishment.
There’s a lot of joy that comes from finishing a workout, right? Working out makes you feel good for many reasons after the fact: You can look forward to the rest of your day, feeling like if nothing else goes in your favor then at least you managed to fit in exercise! You can ride the endorphin high with exuberance! You can enjoy feeling strong and resilient! The list goes on. If these feelings come up, why would we keep coming back to exercise again and again and again?
For some of us, just knowing we did something that is good for our minds and bodies leads to a sense of happiness.
Although many people talk about dread and fear being associated with exercise, I think that excitement is a stronger force; it’s what gets people in the gym door or out on a trail. There’s something incredibly thrilling about walking into a new exercise class for the first time or trying out a new piece of exercise equipment (or even a new workout move!). It’s as though you sense that there is a world of endless possibilities before you.
What can be more invigorating than realizing, no matter your age or experience level, that you can try new things, push your body, and feel incredible? Exercise has the power to thrill and excite us in new ways, every day.
Exercise gets our hearts pumping and wakes us up. But even when we’re giving maximum effort, there can be a great peace that accompanies working out. I know many runners who say that there is a point on the run when they finally take a deep breath in and out, and surrender their worries. They let go and allow themselves simply to be.
Similarly, at the end of yoga classes, participants are invited to do the final resting pose: Shavasana. While lying in this pose, face up and breathing slowly, delightful tingles and feelings of serenity can overtake the whole body from head to toe. It’s a pose you never want to get out of because it’s so blissful!