When is the last time you did anything over and over for 60 minutes without reprieve? If that sounds vaguely like wartime torture, you’re not wrong in your thinking. But what many have found to be wildly helpful is repetitive motion exercise (or commonly known in the gym as single movement mind workouts) as the daunting gateway to deeper self-care and mental resiliency – toughness even.

Melissa Urban, the co-founder and CEO of the Whole30 program, says it best: “Sometimes the workout isn’t really the workout at all.”

One-exercise workouts for mental wellbeing are just that – one move for an extended period, most often for an hour. They become an opportunity to reconcile differences between the mind and body as means to achieve harmony between the two.

It invites boredom into your life. Studies show boredom is a gateway to creativity and unique solutions for our many challenges, and it improves mental wellbeing overall.

It is unlike any other workout you will ever do. This repetitive exercise – initially intimidating to most and challenging to all – is 100% mental, not physical. Since there is no variety, no changing momentum, no shifting in a circuit and there are no distractions, “there is nowhere for your mind to go except inward.”

Once you get going, it becomes automatic and “it’s just you and your brain.” The repetitive motion you choose – such as stepping up, stepping down, stepping up, stepping down – opens the door to physically process emotions, current challenges, worries and even past experiences. “That stuff stays in the body and is moved when you move. With every step, it comes up, and with every exhale, with intention, it comes out.” We then have nothing to think about other than the things we might have been avoiding. We can then think them over, digest them, address them, begin to understand them, learn from them, and heal them. Regularly sorting through the mental mud is a strategy for deepening our self-care and self-love and can lead us to thrive both physically and mentally.

“It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.”
Listen to your body. Is it trying to tell you that you need to work some things out mentally and emotionally? Feelings and emotions, challenges and conflicts can manifest physically first – knot in the shoulder, headache, digestive issues, disrupted sleep. It’s also a perpetual dance – we need to move regularly to maintain mind-body harmony. Especially in this unique era, we are knee-deep in together – let’s choose to show up for ourselves often

“Home is wherever I am with you.”
To paraphrase Peloton fitness instructor Emma Lovewell, what if this quote was a message to ourselves rather than about someone else? This can be a reminder to regularly check in with ourselves physically and mentally to ensure we are maintaining that achievable mind-body harmony and creating a safe, confident, thriving “home” within ourselves – allowing us to live fully in the present and thrive where we are now on our own journeys. “Wherever you go, there you are.”

How To: Examples of one-hour single-move exercises for mental toughness include: weighted-ball slams (i.e., lifting the ball up and over your head and throwing it down to the ground), box steps, one-stair steps, lunges, squats, or for the advanced fitness champs – try any move you enjoy doing at the gym but with 50% of the weight you would typically use. Please consult your primary care physician before attempting a new workout to prevent injury.


“Boring Workouts?” Melissa Urban, activewhole30.com, accessed Oct. 5, 2021.