I’ve been waking up at 5 a.m. almost daily for the past five years to sweat it out at the Ashtanga Yoga Centre of Toronto. I can safely say I’ve never been more fit in my life — I even surprised my doctor by growing an inch taller. The classes are Mysore-style, which means there’s no start time (everyone practises their prescribed sequence while the teacher walks around and makes adjustments), so it requires an added dose of discipline to get there. It’s an appointment I make with my mat first thing every morning, from Monday to Saturday. If I can’t make it to the studio, I roll out my mat at home and do the full 90 minutes.
There are no excuses for me, but everyone else seems to have one! Colleagues have been cornering me in the hall and friends have been sending me Facebook messages saying: “I’d love start exercising more, but I can’t.” Yes, you can! Here are the excuses I hear the most, and how to get around them.
1. “I don’t have time.”
As a mom of two with a full-time job, I can easily say you do have time. In fact, you’ll find waking up earlier in the day to exercise gives you the sense that you have more time in your day because you are forced to weed out time-sucking activities you simply don’t need. Because I wake up at 5 a.m., there’s no late-night TV and, therefore, no late-night snacking. You see how it all comes together?
2. “I’m not a morning person; I like my sleep.”
It’s rare that you meet a true morning person. But being productive early in the day is something you develop — a good habit — over time. Sure, it’s a struggle to get out of bed, but other than that whole before-dawn, dark-as-hell thing, it starts to feel pretty much the same as waking up at, say, 7:30 for work. Besides, if you go to bed earlier, you won’t lose that coveted sleep.
3. “I don’t have the money or resources.”
It really doesn’t cost much to move your body. You don’t have to do world-class yoga — you just have to move. Turn on some music and dance. Put on some winter gear and take a walk. Find “your yoga” and do it. You can invest in it a little more once the habit is fully in place.
4. “I have kids.”
Awesome! This means you, more than your friends who don’t have kids, need to do this. Why? Because it’s one of the few things you’ll do simply for you. If your kids are really young, you may have to wrangle some help from your partner so you can get out of the house to experience the full ecstasy of me-time. If that’s not possible, dance with your early riser — they make great weights! Trust that you’re developing a great habit for when they’re old enough to sleep in. When I first started waking up to do yoga, my kids cried and didn’t want mommy to leave. But now I come home and they’re still asleep. Bonus: They have a great example of what it is to practise good self-care.
5. “I’m not strong or flexible enough.”
Well, what better reasons to start a yoga or exercise program. Indeed, there’s no better response to this than a trip to the Mysore room: I’m on my mat in the corner of the room doing my legs-behind-the-head advanced poses, and there’s a guy beside me working on his Triangle pose or trying to touch the floor with his finger tips and bent knees. No matter where you’re at, you’re working toward something. This is why I love the word “practice.” It’s an individual process. You’re not exercising for anyone but yourself — your very own practice. How special is that?
So now that you’ve run out of excuses, here are my best tips for starting a regular exercise routine.