Relax, you can’t fail at this

A query I didn’t see coming when I released the book was from people worried about the effect on their sanity that the tactics and strategies I propose in the book could have.

The worry was that, in an already stress-filled, information-overloaded modern life, people would be giving themselves yet more to worry about, yet more things they should be doing and have to beat themselves up about when they inevitably fail once or twice (or repeatedly, like human beings tend to do).

I need to be totally clear about this – it’s 100% not my intention that the idea of everyday exercise becomes something that anyone feels they can fail at, or feels pressure to do.

I hate information overload as much as you do. I uninstalled Facebook from my phone years ago and haven’t looked back. I gave up on my RSS reader because I felt smothered under my unread count. I actively avoid all but a very select few email newsletters, and I keep my Twitter stream tight and highly curated. The last thing I want to do to anyone is pile more obligation on top of them.

Here’s the deal – just by rolling out of bed in the morning you’re getting a little bit of movement. You’re already succeeding.

Hell, even rolling around in bed (especially in that way) is a little (or large, AMIRI–okay, okay, I’ll stop) slice of activity. Everything else is just gravy. Gravy is super delicious, and you might want more of it, but getting a little bit is still getting some (can you tell I’m hungry while writing this? Also, parentheses overload, I apologise).

Please do not beat yourself up if you forget to do some toilet squats in a day, or you feel like crap and take the car to work instead of your bicycle. That is totally fine. Although the book is about exercise per se, it’s really more about healthiness in general, and mental health is just as important. Stressing about failure to do everything perfectly is not worth it.

Relax, take a breath. You’re human. You can’t fail at moving.

In fact, if you’re having one of those days where everything feels like it’s on top of you and you can’t seem to do anything right, take a minute right now and focus on your breath. Try to breathe deeply down into your abdomen, slowly and through your nose. Pay attention to your breath, get curious about it. Is it where you expected? What does it feel like? Where do you feel it most in your body? Experiment with the rhythm. How long can you comfortably hold it? How slowly can you release it? Is each breath the same as the last?

And by the way, you just did a little bit of exercise – that gut-deep breathing is diaphragmatic breathing, and you just used that very important muscle to take a good quality breath, strengthening it and improving your breathing habits. People who breathe that way most of the time tend to have less postural problems and better overall strength, flexibility and movement quality. Nice one.

We’re only aiming to level up by 1% every day. Take your victories and enjoy them, but don’t sweat over the failures. As the Stoics say, don’t let the highs get too high, or the lows too low.

We’re all in this for the long haul – it’s quite literally a lifelong pursuit. As Josh Hillis says, “People totally overestimate what they can do in a month or three months… but they totally underestimate what they could do in a year.”

1%. It can be as simple as paying attention to how you breathe. Have fun, and stay relaxed!