Just Add Life

“Don’t just add physical activity to your life, add life to your physical activity.”  —Michelle May

I love this quotation because it gets to the heart of wholehearted living.  If you’re going to do something—anything—do it with zest, with verve, with vitality.  Why slog through things—especially exercise?  Make it fun!  Make it something that puts a smile on your face, whether it’s a smile of accomplishment after finishing a five-mile hike or laughing at your own missteps in your first Zumba class.  Whatever you choose to do, be alive in it!

If you add physical activity to your life that you dislike because you think you “should,” it will be half-hearted at best, or a death sentence at worst.  Is that a bit extreme?  Perhaps, but let’s imagine this scenario:  you decide you should start running.  

Your friend Sid swears by it, having lost 20 lbs. and gained boundless energy.   The things is, you’ve always hated running.  You’ve heard about all the health benefits, and you want to feel that “runner’s high” they keep raving about.  You gear yourself up for it—buy new running shoes and shorts—so you’re more likely to stick with it.  The night before, you set your alarm an hour earlier and put your water bottle by the door.  When the alarm rings, you nearly smash the clock because you’re already annoyed—you want to sleep longer.  But, you think, “I have to get up and run.  Ugh!  Do I have to?  I hate this!  But I got those new running shoes.”  

As you start to jog, you keep asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?  When will this be over?”  You don’t notice the beautiful sunrise or cool air on your face.  You’re checking your FitBit to see when you can stop this torture.  As you drag yourself into the shower, you say to yourself, “At least I did it, even though I hated every minute of it.”  Still, you snap at your spouse and curse at every red light on the way to work.  Every day after is some variation of this.  You’re constantly complaining about aching joints and sore muscles, but you’re going to keep at it because “it’s good for you.”  

When you twist your ankle, you’re pissed off.  You curse the running, curse yourself.  But when you realize you don’t have to run, you breathe a huge sigh of relief. The next morning, you happily hit the snooze button and ease into your day and your spouse comments on how pleasant you are.  But every time you see those running shoes in your closet, waves of guilt wash over you.  You feel like a failure, condemn yourself repeatedly, and end up telling yourself, “This is exactly why I don’t exercise.”

Can you see how this kind of forced physical activity is a death sentence?  From the very first “should,” you begin depleting your own life.  You are inflicting mental and physical harm upon yourself—and that saps your energy. How might things be different if you choose physical activities that you enjoy?  That energize rather than enervate you?  

Consider the flip side:  you decide you want to start running.

Your friend Sid has been talking about the benefits, and you remember you used to feel great after running in P.E. class.  You dig up an old pair of sneakers and sweatpants.  In the morning, you wake before the alarm, excited.  After a few warm-ups, you start jogging.  “This is great! It’s so peaceful at this time,” you think as you hit your stride.  When you turn the corner toward home, the sun is rising over the trees and you feel like every cell in your body is awake now, too.  Your spouse is pleasantly surprised by your breakfast banter.  You sail into work with a smile. When your muscles ache, you decide to take it slow—skip a day or two—even though you can’t wait to run again.  After a few weeks, you decide to treat yourself to a new pair of running shoes and join Sid’s running club.  “I love running,” you say to yourself, “I think I’m going to try weight lifting, too.”

Wow!  What a difference.  When you “add life” to your physical activity, it enlivens you in return.  If you dread it, don’t do it.  For some of us, finding physical activities that energize us takes some exploration; usually it means trying something new or taking up something we once enjoyed.  Either way, try coming at it with curiosity and a willingness to falter a bit.  (If you need help generating ideas, see the lists below to get you started.)

By the way, physical activity doesn’t have to be done on a strict regimen.  Try mixing it up:  five-minute dance bursts while cleaning the kitchen, ten minutes of handball with your kid, or a leisurely walk on the beach.  Just move.  Move your body in ways that make you feel good.  And whatever you choose to do, do it wholeheartedly!


One way to “add life” to your physical activities is to brainstorm lists of “activities you once enjoyed” and “activities that spark your curiosity” (examples below). Then, pick one that you want to do. Have fun!

Activities I Once Enjoyed



hide and seek

hula hoop


jump rope

riding a bike


pulling a wagon


climbing a tree


playing Frisbee

roller skating


Activities That Spark My Curiosity

belly dancing



rock climbing



tai chi


water polo




scuba diving


forest bathing

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