Why are you exercising? Like what is your true “why?” I wrote another blog earlier last year titled “Are you working out for the right reasons?” I also wrote a blog a few months ago when I started running that was titled “My thoughts on simply working out to look good.” So, I have obviously thought about this topic of “WHY” because it is something I talk about often with my clients who might struggle with motivation to continually exercise. Not everyone will enjoy exercise all the time, that is fair and I understand that. But, at the same time I think almost everything in fitness (maybe life?) comes down to self awareness and knowing WHY you are doing something. Part of this is setting specific goals (yup wrote about that too HERE), but lets take the “goals” talk in a different direction.
After training over 300 people in a one-on-one setting and close to 50 people online now over the past 5 years, I have seen 4 general reasons people usually workout. Here are my thoughts on them and if YOUR reason for exercising will be sustainable (based off anecdotal evidence of my clients):
- Exercise to lose weight. This doesn’t last long. We all know nutrition is the key to sustainable weight loss 🙂 My clients always figure this out after about 4 weeks if they went into their journey thinking that exercise (especially cardio) will be their main catalyst for weight loss. Not Sustainable.
- Exercise for a fun experience. Enjoying exercise is needed for adherence to any plan. Anything you hate doing you won’t do for very long. But, ONLY working out for fun could be getting you hurt. Seriously, think about it? You might really enjoy that class you and your girlfriend go to, but do constantly feel broken down with sore joints? Is “fun” worth feeling hurt? Don’t get me wrong, 80% of your exercise should be enjoyable; I still stand by that. Consistent “fun” exercise is MUCH better than inconsistent exercise that you hate. But…there is always a but…you have to decide is only doing random “fun” workouts getting you to where you want to be? Maybe it is! You might be at a point in your life where your exercise routine is your stress relief where you can socialize with friends, but you aren’t seeing noticeable changes in your body or fitness level. Again, I will never tell you or anyone what their goals are, but I do want my clients to be aware in order to manage their expectations. This is purely anecdotal, but usually when my clients continually say they want their exercise to be more “fun,” they are not ready to make a commitment to exercise routines that will challenge them enough to see noticeable results in their body or fitness. A lot times those “challenging” routines don’t feel like much “fun” for people if they aren’t in the right mindset at the time 🙂 Sustainable with minimal results.
- Exercise for noticeable results in your body and/or fitness. This is my sole reason for working out. For nearly 5 years post college I was working out to solely look a certain way. Now I want to maintain what I have gained (to some degree), but also work on my fitness like I talked about in “Part 1” of this Series. I have some very competitive, Type A clients who exercise for results. These clients very rarely need to talk about motivation because their motivation is their results. People who exercise for results (again this is purely anecdotal from my clients) usually have a mindset of “enjoying the process” instead of “exercising for fun.” This is neither worse nor better than exercising for fun, it is simply different. The key again, is being AWARE of where you’re at in your journey, what motivates you and what you want out of your exercise routine. If you don’t care much about improving your cardio vascular endurance enough to run a 10k, then you shouldn’t be running 🙂 On the other hand though, if you truly want to gain muscle, look leaner and be stronger, you might need to do more workouts that you don’t think are “fun” but will get you the results you want. “Enjoy the results, embrace (not fun) the process.” Sustainable with the most possible results.
- Exercise to feel exhausted. This last reason is an interesting one. At the end of most of my client’s workouts (and my own), I add something called a “finisher.” This is a 5-10 minute circuit of some type that is challenging not only physically, but mentally. Most people, including myself, usually want that feeling of accomplishment after a workout. Having a sweat going, an elevated heart rate and sometimes feeling exhausted is that feeling of accomplishment for many of my clients. Even though the main focus of the 60 minute workout with me was strength training, getting that sweat going for 5 minutes is a good feeling and maybe all the client was going for that day! But….only exercising for that reason could also be getting you hurt or holding you back, IF your goal is to change how you look or improve your fitness journey. I am very guilty of this at times;I like to push myself. Not every workout you do needs to be challenging though, as this will wear your body down. There is a time and place to get a maximal heart rate in a workout and a time and place to go for an easy jog (or walk!). Everyone needs a combination of intense lifting, intense cardio, easy lifting and easy cardio. Do you have all 4 of those categories in your exercise program? For a long time I did NOT…I am changing that now and feel really good about it. Right now, I am exhausted after 2-3 workouts per week and the rest of my workouts are moderately challenging, but not over-stressing my body. Ya dig me? Sustainable but maybe not the safest.
No matter what your reasons are for working out (and they can change through different periods of your life!) I have some guidelines for you to think about so you don’t get hurt:
- Anything you are doing that is getting you hurt is NEVER worth it. No matter how fun it is. This should always be Rule 1A. I know you might love that new trampoline class with your friends, but if you are limping out of it…come on..it’s not thaaaaat fun 🙂
- Do you just enough exercise (lifting, cardio etc) to see progress but, no more than that. Your body can only handle so much volume of exercise (depending on gender, age, fitness level et) and pushing past that will also lead to injuries. If you are a runner, only do just enough mileage to see the results in your races you want to see. Adding “junk” mileage will only get you hurt over time. If you are into lifting, only do enough sets and reps to help you see results. Adding in 10 extra sets at the end of random workouts will only get you hurt. Get the idea? Less can be more.
- Only do enough exercise that you can recover from. You might want to exercise 5 times per week and maybe you do! But, if you only sleep 3 hours a night, you are never recovering enough. Recovering is always neglected and always leads to injuries. You might be able to handle a high exercise volume for awhile on a poor diet and terrible sleep schedule, but it will add up and you will pay for it as you age.
- Be OK with “average” or shitty workouts. They will happen to everyone and its usually do to poor nutrition, lack of recovery from previous workouts, poor exercise programming or poor awareness about your own fitness level. But, don’t settle for average quality workouts. If you feel awful in most of your workouts, take a serious look at your nutrition, sleep and recovery. Maybe you need to exercise less, meal prep more and sleep better 🙂
- Take out all the “noise.” This means all the extra exercise that doesn’t help you reach your goals. Random workouts here and there are OK, but the more random you make your exercise plan the hit or miss your results will be. Your body and mind only have so much energy to expend each day; use it wisely on the exercises and workouts that will truly benefit you.
Finding the reasons for exercising and the amount you need to be doing for your goals takes time. Yup, be patient and enjoy the process 🙂