Let’s talk about exercise.
I hear quite often from people who are struggling with their weight loss efforts and begin to feel frustrated because they are unable to reach their goals for many reasons that can be due to misconceptions about their basic plans. People crowd into gyms on January 1st after the much promise of “I want to lose weight this year”, New Year’s resolution has been proclaimed the evening before. Did you know that by February 1st, 70% of those “resolutioners” quit? They just quit! Why? Because it wasn’t a strong enough desire for them to continue long term. It was a short term “fix” to some deeper issues.
Or how about people that commit to rigorous new exercise programs like Crossfit, Insanity or running, just because they heard someone say they had some success in it? Although there is much success within these programs; it’s not all about the programs alone. What works for one person isn’t necessarily the best plan for another. If you are a beginner, for goodness sake, start with something that can be sustained and enjoyed long term at the get go, like walking? Movement is movement, bottom line. Just get off the couch and you’ll achieve better results than sitting and watching a Netflix season while bingeing on bon-bons. The goal for more challenging programs like those above should be for those who need it and actually enjoy being challenged and able to sustain the workouts along the way.
We should never pummel our bodies into oblivion in order to “shape” it into the perfect body we imagine. Our bodies are meant to be respected and challenged according to our levels and any previous issues. I see too often, those who seem to be punishing their bodies with exercise. They almost seem to dislike what they are doing and aren’t happy about the time they spend working out. Many times, these individuals (when not taking precautions and training smarter..not harder) will suffer an injury or burnout at some point.
One thing I repeat quite often to my group exercise classes, (and yes, I teach Insanity LIVE!) is to smile when feeling like you want to quit or stop. (this applies to all fitness plans) To actually force a smile (and even if it looks forced) will immediately improve your mood. It’s a quick shift in our brains that we are not suffering; although it may feel like we are. This has become a habit of mine in every challenging situation I am confronted with. Just to know that I can curl up the corners of my mouth and I will feel more confident and positive in the very moment is a powerful and quite amazing habit. Why not give it a go? What have you got to lose anyway?
So what would be a better route when choosing to get healthier and fit? If we can’t just focus on pushing ourselves in our workouts, what other way can we benefit and reach our goals of weight loss? Of course, you probably know it’s in our nutrition. I’m not even going to tell you how to eat here…just the fact of getting yourself on a plan that supports your goals, your energy levels, your preferences and the enjoyment of nourishing your body will be the best plan for you. I dislike diets because they are centered around deprivation.
Stop eating carbs and lose 15 lbs!! Drink this diet potion 3 times a day and lose your unwanted belly fat! Drink this veggie smoothie every day for a month and lose 30 lbs!
Sound familiar? Yea, and it makes me cringe when I see these headlines, advertisements and posts because it lures those who want the quick fix into thinking this will be the magic plan. This will be the week, month, year that we finally lose that unwanted weight and feel happy about ourselves again.
Diets work. Plain and simple. But they are temporary. It’s like a band-aid on a much larger issue. Pretending that this will “cure” our ailments of overeating, cravings, bingeing, etc is ridiculous and the diet industry thrives off of this mindset. We want “quick”; we want “instant” and we don’t really want to be too uncomfortable while we wait for these results.
Which brings me back to the first point made about exercise that can seem to be daunting or feel miserable. I am going to be honest and say I dislike running. Do I run? Of course! But instead of using it as a tool to lose weight or be able to eat all the carbs that I want; I use it as a challenge and work to my levels and listen to my body’s cues. This wasn’t always the case. I was enjoying my running with local friends and groups as a leisure experience that challenged my body and ultimately, made me feel proud after accomplishing a challenging route. I’m not sure when I thought it would be a good idea to enter to run a marathon…but that, I did. And I trained correctly. I followed a running plan that slowly increased in mileage over time (you should have heard my hubby freak out the day I was going to run 18 miles by myself!! “who does that???” he asked….lol) and then tapered back down just before the big day. I had a goal of finishing the marathon between 4 hours and 4 1/2 hours (although I secretly hoped I could qualify for Boston! ha)
I was proud that I actually finished the run in 4 1/2 hours and was able to cross the finish line…although, hubby caught me just after and literally dragged me to the recovery area. I remember, quite vividly how I felt in those final 4 miles. After mile 22, I couldn’t bare to take another step.
But another step, I did take. And again and again. It was quite painful at that point; body, mind and spirit. I had to reach in and gather every extra ounce of will to just get the race over with. I thought about people I knew who actually repeated this process. And I wondered WHY???
But in the end, I was proud that I finished. The reason I was able to finish, however, was because I trained right. I researched best practices for training and read up on nutrition and tips to keep me strong and help me recover between long days. I didn’t mix in another workout plan at that time because I just couldn’t. I focused on stretching, yoga, resting, nutrition, hydrating along the way instead. This was not for weight loss goals, though, it was about doing something I thought I would never accomplish. Why? Because I could!
But would I want to do it again? Probably not! I wouldn’t rule out a 1/2 marathon or shorter race but a full marathon I will leave to the professional lovers of running. My body and mind prefer lifting weights and circuit style training. This doesn’t mean that’s all I do. We should commit to doing the things we currently SUCK at. Not that it has to be perfect or that we have to learn to love it forever; but we should always know what it’s like to be challenged. Our minds are powerful tools and if we think of exercise as a tool to feel better over time (and hey, let’s face it…look better too!), we may start to enjoy it as we go along. Exercise, to me, is a way of feeling my best. I have more energy on days that I workout. I feel more positive. I am confident and feel healthy and stronger. I know that I’m setting a good example to those in my life who need it. I don’t exercise to lose weight. That comes from our nutrition, mostly. Exercise can help our goals but should never be the main focus. Haven’t you heard the saying, “You cannot out-exercise a bad diet”??? Been there…done that too! 😉