One of the “as sure as rain” ways to drain exercise motivation is to ignore the principles of exercise training. Principles are fundamental truths or a basis for understanding how something works. The principle properties of water tell us it freezes at 0°C and boils at 100°C. It is a scientific fact upon which we can expect water to behave.
Exercise principles are the bases for understanding how our body changes with, and without, exercise. They are not, however, great selling points for fitness products. Who wants to hear that your body will change slowly, or you have a very slim chance of having arms like Michelle Obama (unless you are Michelle Obama!), and that the grueling exercise program you did to get fit, you need to keep doing to stay fit?
Since these truths are usually not even in the fine print of fitness ads, here they are in big bold print.
- EXPECT results to vary. The principle of Individuality states every body responds differently to exercise; person to person, day to day. This principle is subconsciously forgotten when we see a body-perfect model in an advertisement and directly ignored when someone tries to sell you what worked for them. When we expect linear results and try to outsmart a plateau, we have forgotten this fact as well. Pay attention to YOUR body. Expect day-to-day fluctuations. Embrace your body’s uniqueness.
- Enough IS truly enough. The principle of Progressive Overload states the body gradually adapts when it is challenged at the just-right level. If you give a plant just the right amount of water, light, and nutrients, it can’t help but grow stronger. Give it too much or too little of what it needs, and it withers. Our body grows the same way, gradually and only with the just-right amount of challenge. It can’t be jump started, out smarted, or over-challenged, and expected to give you quicker results. Ignoring this only means more pain and less progress. Science tells us the natural rate of growth of the body (at most) is 10% per week! That’s it! Find YOUR enough. Give it to your body regularly. Trust the natural process.
- What you practice gets stronger. The principle of Specificity basically means your body adapts to what you give it regularly. Walk regularly to get stronger for walking, squat regularly to get stronger for picking up and lifting. This may sound obvious, but it is ignored when we do a program that was specifically designed for improving athletic or military performance and expect to improve health and function for daily life. Plan for what YOU want. Exercise for that purpose. Practice regularly.
- Your body adapts, in both directions. The principal of Reversibility says our body gets used to what we give it. Give it regular movement, it will get better at moving. Give it regular stillness, it will get very good at not moving. Intense programs that put a time frame on getting fit ignore the fact that what you do to get fit needs to be sustainable, if you want those results to last. This principle also reminds us, if you find your self “out of shape” at any stage of life, you can reverse that too. The principle works both ways. Find what you enjoy. Do it regularly. Enjoy lasting results.
Exercise in a way that is true to your body and your motivation is much more likely to be true to you.