MODERATION AND ENJOYMENT: THE KEY TO LIFELONG WORKOUT GOALS
The fitness field has evolved a great deal in the past few years. Workout techniques have been enhanced, and the science of Kinesiology is respected for its immense contributions to improving the health and well being of Americans. Doctors advise patients to exercise, and most people possess the desire to start a fitness program because they are aware of the benefits of being healthy and in shape. It is common knowledge today that you must exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight and be at your best.
However, one of the "side effects" of this fitness revolution is the erroneous idea held by many that in order to get any benefit from exercise or to be at a "good" level of fitness you must endure a hard, grueling exercise program.
Everyone has seen the ads: "Welcome to Scream with Pain Boot Camp ! Overweight? Haven't worked out for 10 years? No problem! Join us and we'll get you lean in six weeks." They should also add the fine print We'll also get you injured within a year, and if not, we promise you'll be sick and tired of exercising within another year.
Then there are misleading TV shows like "The Biggest Loser". If you are not familiar with it, two teams of overweight people compete against each other to lose the greatest amount of weight possible. Although that may make for entertaining TV, it gives the wrong idea about how most people should go about losing weight and regaining their health.
Over the years at gyms, I have seen countless people who workout for two or even three hours at a time. I have even witnessed some who do that TWICE A DAY!! They proudly declare, "I'm a gym rat", and act as if that is the key to good health. Now, I'm not saying that it is unhealthy to be very active. Many people love it and enjoy it. However, there are many cases where people feel that they must follow this strict regimen because it is the only way to be healthy and maintain their weight.
That kind of thinking reflects a notion held by many that exercising is supposed to be hard and unpleasant ("No pain, No gain". How many times have you heard that?). The unfortunate consequence is that many people get so afraid of exercising that they avoid it like the plague, even thought they know it would be good for them.
Now if I were to tell you that all you need to do is work out two or three days a week, with a combination of light weight training and light aerobics, you would probably be less fearful of exercise, wouldn't you? Great! If you are up for a little more of a challenge, try three to four days at a moderate to moderately hard intensity with a combination of weight training, aerobics and flexibility training. But you know what? If either of those seems like too much for you, how much can you conceive of doing? A brisk walk for half an hour three times a week? Perfect. If that's still too much, how about a twenty-minute stroll, a couple of days a week? Although I hope to see you doing more over time, you are better off doing even just a small amount then not exercising at all. Even if all you did for the rest of your life for fitness were to go out for a walk around the block twice a week, you would be better off than someone just lounging on the couch. So if that's all you can conceive of doing without being "scared", go for it.
But I have to "warn" you that an interesting and exciting thing happens when you give your body something as wonderful as the gift of doing something healthy, even if it's as minimal as a twice a week walk around the block. Your body starts asking for more. Exercising feels good because our bodies were designed to be active. So if we allow ourselves to be active, as opposed to forcing ourselves to be active, we will guarantee that we will stick with it.
Part of "allowing" ourselves to be active is to find activities that we enjoy and that feel good for you personally. For a good example let's take a look at three of my clients: Betty, Ken, and Ric. Betty is an elderly lady, who comes to the gym two days a week and we do some moderately light exercises. On some of the days we don't work out, she does gardening. While gardening, she has to carry things around, stand up, squat down, etc. In other words, she is active. Ken enjoys working out at home in the morning three times a week doing a moderate resistance band routine, push-ups, and lots of stretching. In addition, we go for a four-mile walk along the river three times a week, and he also plays golf at least once a week. Ric is in top shape, and loves working out. We meet three times a week for an hour of pure power. On top of that he does half hour of cardio on three of the days we don't work out. He recently won a fitness competition at the gym.
What do those three people have in common? They are all in fabulous health condition, and they all enjoy what they do. Betty wants to be in great health and enjoy her gardening. Ken wants to have great endurance and enjoy the outdoors. Ric wants to have a great body and enjoy the challenge of a hard workout.
You may like hiking, or possibly playing tennis or golf. Perhaps you enjoy activity on the beach in the summer or skiing in the winter. All you have to do is to remember that those are physical activities, so you can plan to do them as a way of being healthy and active. You will be happy, feel good about yourself, gain a sense of accomplishment and maintain the identity of someone who is active. This identity of being healthy and active is critical in affecting your success with your fitness goals. (For more on this and help with achieving these goals, download your own copy of my program How to Succeed With Your Health and Fitness Goals.)
Finally, as you become more excited about being healthy and active, you can start adding more formal weight training at home or in a gym, or even start taking a Yoga or Pilates class. If you find that you take pleasure in being very active that's great! But always keep in mind that fitness is supposed to be enjoyable. Balance is the key. You want to be fit, healthy and have fun. If you keep it that way, you will keep it up for good!
For Health, For Fitness, For the Body You Want.
Eduardo Dias is a personal trainer and nutritional adviser based in Toluca Lake, CA. His website eduardodias.com is dedicated to providing information in all areas of health and fitness: from nutrition and exercise to mental health and motivation.