Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Exercise: Fun or Pointless Torture?

* another article from my newspaper column: The Audrey Ross Way: A Balanced Perspective on Health and Nutrition: 2/10/11

I recently overheard a conversation between two friends. One person was lamenting the seemingly pointless torture of having to workout to lose weight. Lots of boring hours spent at the gym and no results. Their friend, attempting to console them said, “Stop thinking of your workouts as work, think of them as fun, and then you’ll start to like it and want to do it.”

Inside I did a half-cringe. It was the same feeling I get when I eat a bite of sauerkraut – “Do I like this, or is this the most repulsive thing I’ve ever put in my mouth?” My tongue can’t quite make up its mind. Likewise, something about that person’s comment just didn’t seem right, but at the same time, it wasn’t all bad. It got me to thinking. How would I have responded to friend #1’s tales of woe?

If your face is starting to feel warm and you think you might be friend #1; let me first assure you that it probably wasn’t you, but you’re also in luck today because you’re going to get a more solid answer than your caring friend offered.
I think there are two issues to address here. First – why all the workouts with NO results? And second - can exercise truly be fun, or will it forever be daily torture?
Coming from purely the “exercise-side” of the equation (not considering nutrition) the reason you see no results from all your workouts is because you aren’t making the most of them. You don’t want to do it. You do it out of guilt or obligation, and every workout is half-hearted, to avoid using a more descriptive term. Well it’s time to change that. If you want to see results from your workouts, you’ve got to learn to maximize them. Here’s how:
First, don’t just “do your time”. It isn’t high school detention or prison. Getting on the treadmill to walk your 30 minutes, just to say, “Well, I walked for 30 minutes,” doesn’t cut it. A mindset like that makes you sluggish, and I can guarantee you aren’t pushing yourself like you could be. Start each workout with a goal in mind. Maybe you want to walk those two miles in less time than you did yesterday. Maybe you want to do your entire workout at a higher resistance or elevation. Perhaps you’d like to be able to add 10 lbs to your bench press or do one more pull-up, or five more crunches… You get the point. Set a goal BEFORE you start! Your body is stronger than your mind often allows you to believe it is. So, if you change what your mind says your body can do, chances are you’ll astound yourself.
Second, switch things up. When you do the same workout five days a week for the same amount of time at the same intensity after about one or two weeks you no longer get much benefit from that workout. Your body is used to it. Your muscles say to each other, “Oh, this again? No problem, we’ve got this, we could do this in our sleep. Ya, go ahead, stay asleep, it’ll be over in 30 minutes anyway.”

Seriously, in order to improve your fitness, or lose weight, you must change your workouts frequently. You’ve got to use different muscles, push harder, go faster, or go longer. Shock those muscles out of their lethargic boredom! So try a new workout or incorporate some bursts of speed into your running, or a few stints of running into your walking. Try a circuit workout, yoga, swimming, kickboxing, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing.
Third, don’t multitask while exercising. Trying to catch up on your phone calls or stay up to date with the latest celebrity gossip is a good way to do a poor job of working out, and whatever other task you are trying to do. Focus on pushing yourself when you are working out. You will enjoy that magazine so much more later knowing you really kicked your own butt earlier in a hard workout. Yes, distractions are ok, but if your multitasking allows you to maintain doing a sub-par workout, then get rid of it.
Moving on, discover what does motivate you. Is it music? Download something new to listen to. Is it great fitting workout clothes, buy them. Is it friends? Bribe someone to workout with you (remember, it’s not a chat-fest, it’s a workout). Is it being able to fit into your “skinny-jeans”? Set a time specific goal to get to that point. Is it having killer triceps, or going from keg to six pack abs, so going shirtless (men) feels great? Whatever it is, find something that keeps you going, tap into it, and get moving.
Finally, the one you’ve been waiting for…REST. When you’ve been pushing yourself and working out hard you’re going to get tired. That’s a good thing. It also means your body needs rest. You don’t gain muscle or fitness during a workout. You gain it during the rest and recovery after a workout. So when you just keep pushing and pushing because somewhere you got the idea that taking a day off will cause you to lose everything you’ve worked for; you’re actually starting to wear and tear your body down, instead of build it up. The beauty of the way bodies work is that when we push them hard, we GET to rest. Without guilt. It’s the reward for hard work. So push yourself to the point where you NEED to rest and then sap it for all it’s worth.
So, can exercise just be considered fun? No, not entirely. It is work, but it’s fulfilling work. Exercise has the ability to create a whole new you. A healthier, trimmer, stronger, more confident, more energized, and more flexible you. So, when it comes full circle, yes it is fun, but mostly only because of what it gives back to you. So friend #1, it may not be fun all the time, but if you maximize every workout, you WILL see results, and in time the FUN will come from that.

No comments:

Post a Comment