Exercise: How to pause not stop

Exercise: How to pause not stop

Sometimes stopping an exercise habit can be important. If you have been instructed by a professional to cease exercise, it is best to follow the recommendations that you’ve been given. In other instances, we might stop exercising because of perceived barriers like lack of time or a change in circumstances. Emma (our resident exercise psychologist) explains that a relationship with exercise shouldn’t be based on an all or nothing approach.

Sometimes it’s not that we need to stop altogether, we just need to pause. By consciously choosing to take a “pause” from exercise, you are creating the psychological space to press “play” when you want to recommence your exercise. Exercising consistently doesn’t mean exercising every day of your life. It means exercising in a way that supports your overall health, which at times could mean reducing how much you do, the intensity or taking a break.

Emma states that it’s all about being psychologically flexible. Instead of holding rigid thoughts around exercise and recovery like “I should only have one rest day a week”, we need to encourage more flexible thoughts like “This week I am not feeling too great, so I will exercise on days I feel okay and rest on days where I need to”.

Having a “plan B” also helps. Plan A can be thought of as your ideal relationship with exercise, and you can opt for “plan B” when you need to pause. For example, you might plan to go for a walk for 2 days a week but due to poor weather one week, you can’t walk outside. So you could pull out your plan B, “if the weather is bad and I can’t walk outside, I’ll do 2 indoor stretch sessions instead”.

Another method to help you pause rather than stop is to have checkpoints. When pausing your usual exercise, set an alarm in your phone or a note in your diary in a week or fortnights time. Once that time comes, reflect on how you are doing since the break. By setting a time to mindfully and consciously think about how the pause time has been and what you want to do next, you avoid the potential of becoming distracted by barriers and unknowingly turning your pause into a stop.

The fact of the matter is that there will come a time for all of us when we need to take a break (word to KitKat) but the important thing is that we allow ourselves the grace to pause and then jump back into a healthy exercise routine when we know we can.

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