In the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to make exercise a higher priority than it’s been in the past year. My gym location closed due to COVID, which meant my master’s swim group lost its space to gather. The pressure of starting a business ate into the time I would normally spend running or biking on the trail. And even the yoga classes that had been part of my routine recently changed for reasons completely out of my control.

So as I set my priorities for this week and set blocks of time for them, I began to block time for working out. (If you want to know more about blocking time in this way, read this blog or sign up for my free weekly priorities journal.)

Lured outside to run by precious warm sunshine in the usually bleak central Ohio December, I decided to head out to the nearby trail to connect with the river and trees so near my home. As serendipity would have it, I turned on my audiobook of The Power of Ritual by Casper ter Kuile just as he started narrating his chapter on ritual in nature. As I listened to his stories about connecting with the natural world and suggestions for making them ritual, I used his simple suggestion of setting an intention and paying attention to my natural surroundings during this run.

I slowed my naturally slow running pace even further and allowed myself to take a few off-trail side trips to see the glint of sun sparkling off the roaring river water. I observed more closely the few remaining leaves on bushes and trees that were an intriguing mix of green and frosty red. I paused to watch a deer wander through the brush, foraging for food.

Before COVID, my running or biking did not take on a ritual intention. In the previous seven years, I had often been out on the trail running or biking in order to train for my next triathlon. Though triathlons for me are a ritual unto themselves, training for them can suck the joy right out of regular exercise. Instead of enjoying the time outside and tending to my body’s needs, I get fixated on the time I have and the distance I need to cover to meet my training schedule. Approaching the trail as ritual brought back some of the joy derived from simply feeling my feet touch the pavement, smelling the wet earth, and seeing the trees, river and animals around me. I even waved at and said good morning to a couple of fellow joggers.

This simple intention-setting transformed my jog and my relationship to the outdoors. I came back with a heart filled with simple joys. That joy helped fuel the afternoon blog writing, annual planning and coaching sessions I had on my calendar. I began to have hope that I might be in the kind of shape again that would allow me to do a triathlon.

I know you’re busy this holiday season, but I suggest you take a walk or stroll or roll, even just around the block, drinking in the experience with all your senses. Here’s a little video I recorded after one of my runs this week. I hope it inspires you and gives you some joy.

Want to Schedule Time for What Matters to You? My mindful leadership coaching is one a fantastic way to set aside time that helps you reflect on what matters, schedule your time to incorporate your priorities and learn self-care practices that support your goals. Coaching comes in six-session packages or through my Trailblazer and Explorer memberships.