It pleases me that exercise has become more than a habit for me; it is part of my minimalist lifestyle. Strategically challenging my body to perform is exhilarating. Exercise is a reliable way to improve my mood, and I am effortlessly present while working out. Setting new goals and developing the training plan to achieve them gives me a sense of control, when other areas of my life may feel out of my control.
My level of fitness has improved significantly over the past five years. When I moved into my own place when my marriage ended, I began to walk every day. Walking helped me to sort out my thoughts. I began to walk faster and farther, developing a 3.5 mile course. I walked in the heat and I walked in the cold. It became a habit and something that I looked forward to doing each day. It helped me to gather the will to release some of my unhealthy habits.
I also found great pleasure in hiking and biking with friends. These activities gave me an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature and a great workout. Shortly after I met my love, who has run more than 20 marathons, I set foot in my apartment complex gym and began to use the treadmill there rather than bundle up and walk outside.
With his encouragement, I started to run the first mile of my 4-mile walk. I ran my first 5K in April 2015, and have run several 10Ks and a 12K. I don’t aspire to be a distance runner or a competitive athlete, but I have confidence in my mind and body and know that I can complete the goals I choose.
We recently completed a sprint triathlon. My goal was simply to finish the event. I was incredibly proud of myself when I crossed the finish line with a better time than anticipated. I felt elated, strong and successful! The months of training had paid off in a very tangible way.
Training for the triathlon was fun, because it was varied. We incorporated a Saturday night swim at our local high school into our weekly routine. It was great to see and feel our stamina increase. We ran and biked at our local gym when we couldn’t ride or run outside, and varied our workouts to keep it challenging and fresh.
Minimalism and Fitness
Here are a few suggestions on how you, too, can shape a minimalist fitness plan.
1. Define your purpose and create a plan.
My purpose is broad. I want to maintain the strength of my body and support my overall health. I also want to have fun, especially in the beauty of nature.
2. Decide how many days per week you will exercise, where and how.
I was simply walking outside and doing some floor exercises for the first two years of purposefully exercising. This cost me nothing. It helps to have short-term goals for motivation: to walk or run in a 5K, to complete a certain bike trail, to increase the amount of weight you are lifting or the number of repetitions.
3. If you are ill or feeling blue, don’t quit!
Give yourself a break, and then restart. Keep a calendar or use a fitness app to track your progress. I have had times where I lost interest and took a break for a week. The key is to keep the break short and to begin again. Inexpensive gym memberships are available, and having a regular place to go where you feel supported by peers is quite helpful.
4. Start where you are.
I have always been active, enjoying swimming, walking, hiking and biking, but had periods of time when I did very little. As I established my home and routines, walking became a central feature. It made my body feel good and it freed my mind. It costs little, really just a decent pair of shoes and comfortable clothing, and you can do it anywhere. The point is to start and to develop a regular habit. Over time, the habit will become a lifestyle. Start with short distances at a comfortable pace and slowly increase speed and distance.
5. Find a partner for support and accountability, but be comfortable going solo.
As you are developing the habit of exercise, it helps to have a friend for support. You can challenge each other, and if you know you’ve committed to meet someone, you are more likely to follow through. It is important, though, to be comfortable exercising alone if you want to make it a habit. Many people consider running or walking their “me” time, a time for reflection, quiet and peace.
My love and I began our relationship with a long bike ride. Later he confided that it was the longest ride he had done, and that he was nervous about whether or not he could finish. He said knowing that I was doing it with him made him confident as the ride continued. Exercising together enhances our relationship. We challenge and support each other. We have some of our best conversations when we’re running together.
We incorporate exercise into our vacations; we’ve run and biked in some beautiful places. Our next scheduled event is a 150-mile, two day MS Ride. It will be a physical challenge in a beautiful place to raise money for a worthy cause.