It’s no secret that consistency is not my strong point when it comes to fitness (read: Fall Off Exercise Wagon. Get Back On. Repeat). I’ve always struggled to make it a regular part of my life. Time and again, I allow work, hectic schedules, and travel to derail my efforts. So when a copy of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness landed on my doorstep, I was intrigued. The book, a bestseller on Amazon written by Michelle Segar, Ph.D., is all about finding ways to stay active that are sustainable. It provides a four-point program for discovering what really motivates you and what kind of movement really makes you happy. I love that she calls physical activity a “gift” you give yourself. I love her “everything counts” philosophy. And when I read about her idea of “Active Waiting”, my first thought was “I could do this!”–followed by”Why HAVEN’T I been doing this?!?”. I hope it inspires you too!
By Michelle Segar, Ph.D.
You can find numerous gifts of movement every day in your own life. You just have to look around to discover where they are. Finding opportunities to move (my clients call these “OTMs”) throughout the day is surprisingly fun. You may think your day is crammed so full that you can’t fit in one more thing, but believe me: It’s not true. One opportunity you may not have considered is what I call “Active Waiting”.
When kids are playing organized sports, most of their moms and dads are either waiting in the car or sitting around chatting with other parents. Of course, you want to watch your child play some of the time, but you can also use this opportunity to get your own movement time.
You can do Active Waiting around the perimeter of a park or track, or if your kids are safe in an indoor class or other sporting situation, you can leave to take a trail or even just walk along the closest street. (Always be sure to let your child know your plans and that you may not be present for the entire class or game.)
You can do Active Waiting alone or, as I do, plan to walk with another parent. While our sons are in their forty-five-minute karate class, my friend Kim and I sometimes walk for twenty minutes and watch for twenty-five, or we walk for the full class. Sometimes we sit and watch the whole class. We follow the everything-in-moderation philosophy and do what feels right on that day.
Discovering this option was a relief for me. It not only gives me an opportune time to move but it gives me time with my friend to share and laugh. Adult conversation can be a great motivator for a parent. I am a different person when we return from our walks.
I want to address a common barrier that many parents have at first to this approach: guilt. Parents feel it’s their duty to watch their kids learn and excel at a physical activity or sport, and it is. But it’s also your duty to take care of yourself and meet your own needs. In addition, research shows that having active parents is key for teaching children that making time to move is a priority and something worth fitting in.
Become aware of any guilt you might have and acknowledge it without judgment. Then ask yourself if watching your child for the full time at every practice or game is really that superior to watching part of the time, building in time for your movement, and as a bonus modeling that even busy adults can prioritize movement and self-care and strategize ways to fit in.
Many more of us can become much more consistently active if we appreciate the realities of hectic modern living and start to count everything. When we believe that all movement “counts” and that every opportunity to move is a gift we can give ourselves, we are much more likely to seek and claim that gift from the opportunities we encounter all day long.
Michelle Segar, Ph.D., is a motivation and behavioral sustainability scientist and the author of the newly published best-selling book No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness
Adapted with permission from No Sweat: How The Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You A Lifetime Of Fitness by Michelle Segar © 2015 Michelle Segar. All Right Reserved. Published by AMACOM Books, Divison of American Management Association, 1601 Broadway, New York NY, 10019.