When I worked out recently with Jill Payne, founder of Spiritual Athlete and trainer to Gisele (yes, that one), there was one aspect of my form that particularly concerned her. “Smile!” she shouted every time the muscles in my face started to relax. “Keep smiling!”
Payne is a smart trainer (with a master’s degree in exercise science) based in the dreamy surfer town of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, where she created the Spiritual Athlete workout method, which focuses on cultivating joy and vitality. (All of which presumably has something to do with Payne’s own constant smile.)
She asks those who work out with her to grin because she believes physical energy can have a powerful effect on your psychological state—and therefore, overall happiness.
“We can live in a high-energy state all of the time,” says Payne, who is bringing her method to New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles this year via traveling workshops. “At any moment, if you’re feeling low, you want to ask yourself, ‘Where am I at, and what do I need to get to a 10? What am I choosing to do with my body right now? In this moment, what am I focusing on? How can I shift my focus to make myself feel good?'”
Movement, naturally, is her number-one tool for boosting energy and happiness (along with other techniques like breathing and power posing), but in order for it to really work, she says, you may need to shift your perspective in a few ways.
Ready to try? Here are Payne’s tips to make sure every workout ends with you feeling crazy, stupid happy.
1. Stop chasing superficial goals and make happiness your priority
You may think what you really want, more than anything, is chiseled abs (or a new house! or a nicer car!), but Payne says that desire is actually telling you something else. “Wanting the six-pack is showing you that what you really want is to feel confident and sexy and happy,” she says. So, you’ve got to remind yourself that those things most likely won’t make you happy—and focus on the happiness itself, instead. “If I know what I really want is to feel happy, I bet there’s something I can do right now that will make me happy.” Maybe that means choosing a workout that boosts your mood over one that makes you miserable via endless ab torture, which brings us to…
2. If you really hate a workout, find a new one
“I don’t think you should ever do something you don’t like,” Payne says. “There is a movement that you will enjoy, and the key is you have to enjoy the process or you’re not going to see the results.” If you hate running, try yoga. If lifting weights bores you, try spinning. If cardio makes you cranky, maybe you’re made for the weight room. “There’s something you can find that’s going to be right for your body and have you feeling good, and I wouldn’t suffer through anything else.”
3. Focus your thoughts
“Whatever we focus on, we feel,” Payne says. So if you get to your favorite spin class after an insane day at the office and think about that infuriating email from your boss the entire time, you’re not going to be doing your mind any favors (and probably will have terrible form, too). “Think about, ‘What am I doing with my body? What am I going to focus on? What do I want to feel?'” she advises. “If you want your physical body to thrive, you need to think about things that are uplifting.”
4. Be your own cheerleader
Brightening up your inner dialogue is a key element of the Spiritual Athlete method. “If you’re saying, ‘Fitness has never been good for me, I never get results…’ What state are you going to be in when you go to work out?” Payne says. Instead, tell yourself the story of a strong, powerful woman who made it to a workout and is going to be stronger and healthier because of it. “Can you be on the same team as that voice in your head? What if you had a cheerleader in your head instead of a nagging friend?”
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