This post is part of Healthy Weight Week. This week is meant to help change the conversation around weight during the third week in January. That’s when New Year diets, cleanses, and “new you” efforts start to fall by the wayside because they’re, well, impossible to sustain.
Join us all week for a look at how you can put the fundamental elements of healthy living in place in your life for the long term. Welcome to a liberating approach free of food fears, punishing exercise and negative thoughts about your body! Welcome to life!
Welcome to a liberating approach free of food fears, punishing exercise and negative thoughts about your body! Welcome to life!
The desire to be thin is often what drives people to exercise at an intensity level that isn’t necessarily the best for them.
But does being thin mean you’re healthy? Does being in a larger body mean you’re not?
“No!” says an enthusiastic Lynn Ann Covell, Fitness Manager here at Green Mountain at Fox Run. “A person can be thin, and not have cardiovascular endurance or physical strength.”
She continues, “It really is about being able to do things with comfort and ease in your daily life. And not have to second guess whether or not you can make it up a flight of stairs or bring the laundry up while you’re at it. It’s simple, functional, daily movement – that’s it!”
However, many of us don’t measure success in this way. And in the hopes of finding success by achieving our “ideal” weight or fitness level, many of us get caught in no-pain/no-gain fitness – the idea that if your workout doesn’t hurt, then it isn’t serving you.
In reality, this way of thinking (and the ache you’re still feeling on the 3rd day) hurts rather than helps our bodies in the long run.
5 Reasons No-Pain/No-Gain Exercise is Hurting Your Health (& What To Do Instead)
Step 1: It increases the risk of injury and overtraining.
Overtraining symptoms include restless sleep and elevated resting heart rate. Exercise is supposed to help us sleep, not hinder it!
Try exercising at a level of intensity and frequency that leaves you feeling refreshed and full of energy. If you start to feel that tweak in your knee, find a different exercise that won’t bother it, or allow yourself to take a day off to rest.
Step 2: It eliminates the joy in exercise and leads to lower adherence.
Exercise that doesn’t make us feel good is usually not enjoyable, and individuals rate their level of satisfaction with exercise higher when they’re being mindful.
Try slowing down, observing your intensity level, being aware of the muscles you’re working, and noticing your surroundings.
Step 3: It’s dependent on having a high level of energy
Give yourself a break and exercise at the level you feel comfortable with based on how you feel when you wake up in the morning.
Try being gentle with yourself, remembering that every day you have a different body – so depending on how well you’ve slept, what you’ve taken in nutritionally, whether or not you’ve exercised the day before, and how much stress you’re under can all affect your exercise routine.
Step 4: It sets you up for “failure”, which can be psychologically damaging.
We want exercise to release those feel-good hormones and reduce stress – not cause stress or destroy our self-esteem.
Try being reasonable with your expectations for exercise intensity and duration. Try to stop comparing yourself to others – recognizing that everyone is different.
Step 5: It increases stress on the body, which breaks the mind-body-spirit connection.
When you listen to your body the right movement will not only cultivate self-trust and enjoyment, but also leave you feeling energized and looking forward to your next workout.
Try being present with how your body feels before, during & after your workout.
Unfortunately, these words of encouragement often feel revolutionary in a society where boot camps & high-intensity workouts seem to prevail in popular opinion – despite the fact that most don’t find this kind of exercise enjoyable or sustainable.
Oh right, and what’s finding enjoyment in your exercise got to do with it?
According to the Journal of Health Psychology, satisfaction and mindfulness actually have a direct correlation on our ability to sustain physical activity.
Essentially, the more you enjoy exercise the more likely you are to keep doing it, avoiding the all or nothing pattern that is so common.
The more mindful you are with exercise (aware of and honoring the body’s dues with intensity, type of movement) the more you’ll enjoy it.
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How I Came To Understand & Change This Attitude In My Life
After a few weeks of attending early morning boot camp-style classes, I left the gym actually dropping my water bottle because I couldn’t feel my arms.
My throbbing triceps complained as I tried to brush my hair and teeth. Driving my car was not only challenging, but also distracting. I asked myself, “When did exercise start being so competitive instead of about having fun?”
I thought about all the things I did as a kid that I thought were fun: playing tag, sledding, climbing trees, jumping rope, swimming, spending hours exploring in the woods…
“Was there a way that I could incorporate some of that intrinsic love of movement into my life?” I wondered.
How I Made My Exercise More Enjoyable
- I started off by going on a birthday hike with my friends instead of going out to dinner.
- During a pleasure trip to New York City, I rented ice skates and sailed (okay, wobbled) around the Central Park skating rink.
- Instead of hitting that kick-your-butt-till-you-drop class, I connected with my dancing inner spirit during a Nia Class.
- I parked my car further away from the grocery store and a block away from my work so I could better enjoy the beautiful day outside.
- I turned off my FitBit and my pedometer, and instead exercised based on how I felt at the moment, freeing myself from any expectations.
The Joy of Exercise: What Can Happen
I found myself with more energy, dramatically less sore, and actually looking forward to finding ways to add more movement into my daily life.
Being more mindful in my exercise habits spilled over into my eating habits, too – assisting me to make healthier choices to nourish and nurture myself. It felt more like honoring my body instead of beating it up. Going at my pace.
Finding ways to move your body in a way that feeds your soul takes time, but finding movement you enjoy and that is at an intensity level that feels good will support the your healthy weight by supporting the health of your whole being.
This mindful way of exercising will provide you with a different experience of movement and foster the opportunity to enjoy movement while honoring the body you have today, and better support the body you may have tomorrow.
Check back here each day this week for blog posts about components of achieving and sustaining your healthy weight.
How can you find joy in your movement today? Tomorrow? Next week?