Photo of young woman running on the beach.

My Minimalist Exercise Rule

So minimalist exercise…so you’re saying to exercise less?

Haha, no that’s not it. Minimalist exercise means I am applying minimalism to exercise in the sense I want to de-complicate the process.

The folks at theminimalists.com say:

Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.

This is the definition of minimalism that I am operating from as we dive into my one and only rule for fitness.

Do you do that thing where you choose a word for the new year?

My word for the year of 2020?

Simple.

In viewing all areas of my life in a more simplified way, I hope to be more aligned with my “why” of any decision or activity. I don’t necessarily practice minimalism the way I see some people may, but I am really fascinated by the concept. And I definitely am trying to adopt some of that mindset into various aspects of my life. I see the value in it because I am the type of person to overthink, over-plan, and over-complicate (just ask my boyfriend.)

When it comes to fitness, I wanted to simplify my strategy and followed one rule:

Intentionally exercise every day.

By promising myself to just do something, regardless of what it was, I set myself up for success. It didn’t matter if that exercise lasted for 5 minutes or 95 minutes. It didn’t matter if it was gentle stretching or high intensity interval training. I’m about six months in and I have to say it’s going really well.

Why is this type of minimalist exercise working for me?

  • It fits in my life. Some days I don’t have a whole hour. By being flexible about how I exercise and for how long, I don’t feel like I failed to meet my goals since I don’t stick to a rigid routine. Previously I have tried to plan what type of exercise I wanted to incorporate on certain days, but it would always go to waste since I never followed it. 
  • It allows me to listen to my body. Some days I have a headache and all the excitement of the gym would be too much, so I just go on a walk instead. Or some days I may feel extremely energetic and can do HIIT training. Just like I adapt intuitive eating rather than a strict diet, I believe intuitive exercise is more effective than a strict exercise regiment that doesn’t account for listening to the body.
  • It decomplicates. I get reeeeally excited about planning and I am notorious for planning too much for too far in advance. This isn’t a bad thing, but I know from past experience it doesn’t work for my fitness life. I don’t spend unnecessary energy planning and still get positive health results.
  • The sense of accomplishment. I never feel like a failure even if I just do 15 minutes of yoga. Failing to stick to a rigid plan could lead to disappointment and negative self-talk. And this spiral works against that self-efficacy we want to build that allows us to form habits. Feeling accomplished will build confidence that you CAN be a person who exercises, making you more likely to want to stick with it.

What it looks like:

I recorded what two weeks of following this minimalist exercise rule looked like for me. No two weeks look the same and my activities fit in my life really well.

Week 1

Monday – Play beach volleyball with friends (60 min)

Tuesday – Zoom Kettlebell class with Brooke (60)

Wednesday – Walk my dog (20)

Thursday – Home cardio workout (45)

Friday – Gentle morning yoga (20), Home strength workout (30)

Saturday – Beach walk/run (60)

Sunday – Gave a swimming lesson (20)

Week 2

Monday – Power Yoga (30), Walk/run (20)

Tuesday – Gentle morning yoga (20), Zoom Kettlebell class with Brooke (60)

Wednesday – Power yoga (20), walk my dog (10)

Thursday – Walk/run (30), gave a swimming lesson (20)

Friday – Walk on the beach (30)

Saturday – Power yoga (45)

Sunday – Dumbbell workout (40)

As you can see, there is a lot of variety throughout my week. Most of it is not explicitly planned. Rather, I listen to what feels right for my body that day. There are some days where I don’t do a challenging workout (which is normal and OKAY!), but still want to stick to the promise I made for myself. These days I go for a simple walk or do some gentler yoga. Also, yoga tends to be a favorite activity of mine so I do it pretty often. Your daily movement might look totally different from mine, which is the beauty of this rule. It accounts for individual preferences which is so freeing.

Life is complicated enough

Make. It. Simple.

Life can be hard, work days may be long, and exercise can be daunting if you’re not experienced or an expert. Plus, there are so many unexpected events in life. Maybe you’re moving cities, maybe you need to tighten your budget and give up your gym membership, maybe you just had a baby and 90 min yoga classes at your studio are no longer practical. If you struggle with just getting your butt off the couch, what are you doing following some rigid exercise program written by someone else? And it isn’t made with you, your life, and your body in mind. Also, that exercise program has no idea what kinds of movement makes you happy.  

The rule lets exercise be a happy place

Thinking about how and when you are going to exercise should not be a source of stress. It’s easy if you have the same plan every day – to simply do any kind of exercise for whatever amount of time you have. We’ve hit gold when exercise becomes your happy place, something to look forward to rather than dread. This will help you become more consistent with exercise, which is the ultimate goal if you are thinking of your life-long health.  

So ask yourself these questions:

  • Is consistency something I need to work on when it comes to exercise?
  • Do I ever overcomplicate or over plan my workouts or fitness schedule?
  • Do I want exercise to evoke happier feelings in me?
  • Do I want to feel accomplished every day rather than feel like I don’t do enough?

If the answer to any of these is yes, you need this rule. ONLY once you’ve reached consistency for 3 months, THEN we can talk about more specific goals and fitness plans. But trust me, just stick to the one rule. Simplicity is so freeing. Become an exercise minimalist and your body AND mind will thank you both now and later.

4 thoughts on “My Minimalist Exercise Rule”

  1. This is so great, Ashley! I love the minimalistic/simplistic approach. Making sure to move and be active without having to complicate things! I’ll definitely be referencing this in the future.

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