I was at the gym for one reason. That reason certainly wasn’t because I enjoyed using those dingy weight machines or shuffling my feet aimlessly until they were numb on the Stairmaster. Nope, the hours I spent inside those four walls were solely focused on a change I felt I just had to make- exercise was one of the ways I tried to do it.
When you think of exercise or working out, what comes to mind? Do you cringe at the prospect of trying it or sigh at your failed attempts to stick with a program? While our relationship with food is rarely straightforward, our experience and presumptions about exercise can be equally as complicated.
Black & White Exercise
Take a moment and think about the last time you shopped for an exercise plan. What were the options available to you? Maybe some of the programs required more time, energy, or resources than you had available. You may have figured out those limitations before you began (well done!) or after you struggled to adopt this new practice (and then you felt like a failure).
If those expectations were more than you could reasonably handle, you probably threw in the towel altogether. Or, if you weren’t as committed as you hoped, the frustration alone was a barrier to further change.
No doubt you value the outcome of an exercise plan- you want to be healthy, fit, and able to move the living room furniture around until you find the right configuration… without driving your husband up a wall. But, getting there can feel like too much.
If this sounds familiar to you, my friend, you have fallen into “diet side effects” in the realm of exercise. Don’t worry though. By identifying roadblocks, you can route new ways to get to your destination.
When we get all-or-nothing about anything it is because we only see value in perfect completion. But this mindset robs us of better health, progress towards our goals, and dancing with our kids because this is how we chose to do “cardio” today.
I bet you agree that this kind of thinking needs to be dealt with.
Do You Actually Want to Workout?
But, before we can ditch black-and-white thinking, it will benefit us to think about “why” we exercise. For example, if your vision is to finish an exercise program flawlessly, then exercising “only” on 4 of the scheduled 6 days constitutes a failure.
However, if your goal is to start exercising so you can be stronger in body, mind, and spirit, then 4 days (vs no days) would be an incredible thing.
The same goes for weight loss. If your driving motivation to workout is to lose weight, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll quit the gym when the scale doesn’t cooperate. What a shame. Truly, perfection is the enemy of “good enough.”
If you want to exercise and you want to do so consistently, it is important to unpack your greater purpose:
- Why do you want to be stronger, faster, lighter?
- If you had greater health and endurance, what amazing things would you do?
- How healthy and fit would you like to be in 10 years?
Daydream about your answers to these questions and don’t settle for so-so. Contemplate, envision, and allow yourself to be energized by the prospect of what incredible health can feel like for you.
If I were good at guessing statistics (and I am not), I would say that 50% of people who exercise are doing so with a primary goal of weight loss in mind.
While these individuals may or may not have negative health conditions related to their weight, they measure their success by stepping on the scale. If weight loss isn’t happening then the perception is the exercise is “not working.”
When discussing exercise with clients who have weight loss goals, one of the first things we address is mentally separating exercise from losing weight.
Now, this is difficult to do- especially for those who are not very overweight or unwell. But, no matter their shape or size, it’s beneficial to do.
To pigeonhole exercise to weight loss is a disservice to us all. Because here’s the clincher– we can’t out-exercise our food choices.
Have you ever noticed after a long run or an intense weightlifting session you are extrahungry? You may try to fight your appetite but eventually, you give in. This is normal and simply part of our body’s drive to find homeostasis- stability in its energy input and output.
So, you can run-run-run, lift-lift-lift, and white-knuckle that beastly appetite all you like but sooner or later those calories burned become calories consumed.
By separating exercise from weight loss, you can start to see the bigger picture of health and toy around with what types of movements you actually like to do. Isn’t it a novel idea?
How to Move More
Now that it’s becoming clear how exercise is about more than just a calorie burn, it is time to brainstorm intentional movement you truly enjoy?
I know sports aren’t for everyone (my first attempt at football ended abruptly with a ball to the face) but for even the painfully sportless like me, there are a ton of options.
To uncover a place to start, ask yourself:
- What exercise/workouts have you enjoyed in the past?
- What was your favorite way to play as a child?
- Did you enjoy any sport or activity in school?
- What is your favorite Olympic event to watch?
- If you could go back to your childhood, what sport would you involve yourself in?
- What types of activities do you encourage your kids to do?
Was there any movement that stood out to you? If so, great!
If not, don’t sweat it. Uncharted territory is exactly so- uncharted. We all have to start somewhere. If you feel clueless, start easy with a simple walking regime with some audiobooks to pass your time.
How to Begin
But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it.
LUKE 14:28 (NLT)
Now that you have had a chance to see where your ideas about exercise may have gotten a little off track and see what you might enjoy, it is time to determine how you would like to fit consistent (or more consistent) exercise into your life.
Here are 3 Key Points That Will Make You Want to Start Exercising:
Your chosen exercise plan NEEDS to:
1. Support your goals. We’re not looking for a quick fix here. This is deeper level stuff which goes beyond finicky weight loss goals. Examine your why and make sure your plan points you toward your desired end result.
2. Fit your time and resources. How much time to exercise do you have available? What is your mental capacity for change? What memberships or classes will your budget allow? Be sure to choose and review each of these items before committing to a plan.
3. Be something you LIKE to do. Let’s be real, you don’t have to “love” or even like to exercise but you will be better served to pick an activity which suits your personality and preferences. After all, we’re more likely to DO what we delight in.
My hope is that you feel a sense of relief after reading this post. Many of us have experienced unhelpful associations with exercise-- being entrenched in all-or-nothing thinking, tying our workouts to weight loss alone, and getting stuck on the "dreadmill."
These negative thinking patterns make moving our bodies for the sake of good health much harder than it needs to be.
I found my own love in working out. In 2008, I worked with a personal trainer who educated me on how to workout effectively in the gym. That interaction changed those 4 gym walls from my obligation to my outlet and sealed my love of barbells, yoga balls, and dingy weight machines.
And, I believe that the same can happen for you when YOU start exercising!