New article on Medium: You are in spring training; what are you training for?

 

Solving the mystery_ what’s the right way to exercise for your body and the real results you want, Part 1 (6)

Finding the balance between challenge and self-care

Solving the mystery_ what’s the right way to exercise for your body and the real results you want, Part 1 (4)

The value of testing oneself to achieve greater awareness and strength is found in nearly every religion, inspirational movie, and biography. We know that as humans, we grow the most when we are challenged.    

This gets a bit muddy, though, when we talk about self-care. If challenge makes us stronger, does self-care make us weaker?  

You might know in your head the logic behind the concept of ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’.  Why, then, do we struggle with taking time for ourselves? Does it have something to do with this emphasis in our culture on challenges being good for us? What is the right balance between self-care and personal challenge? 

Exercise is both of these wrapped into one. When you challenge your body, it gets stronger. Physical challenge also is shown to improve mental strength. Research shows the connection between youth sport participation and greater leadership skills. What sports do not do, however, is prepare you for using exercise as self-care. In fact, it makes it even more challenging.  

Exercise is moving to take care of yourself. When exercise is done for the purpose of health and well-being it is, by definition, self-care. Even if you are exercising to be a better athlete, it is still ultimately done for you. The difference is how you treat your body.  

In athletics, listening to and protecting your body can interfere with the goal.  If you try to protect your body from harm while competing, the competition will eat you alive! The idea can arise, then, that self-care makes you weak. This mindset about exercise has infused our approach to exercise for health and well-being. Exercising for weight loss has become a sport.  Getting enough steps is a competition. Our way of exercising to be ready for life, not just sports, is out of balance. 

For well-being and health, the balance between challenge and self-care is essential. This is why it is so important to keep exercising for athletics separate from exercising for well-being.      

There are many ways you can take care of yourself, but movement is essential for complete self-care. Movement is what your body is prepared for in a stress response. Movement gets your body back to to healing and repair mode. Now more than ever, we need to know how to exercise in a way that is stress-reducing, not stress-producing. 

Challenge in exercising is essential for staying strong because your body is a use-it-to-keep-it system. However, it’s important to challenge yourself in a way that is not stress-producing. If you push too hard with exercise and it leaves you feeling worse, your brain will make excuses so you avoid exercising again. Yet, without the challenge, exercise is boring, and your brain will steer you towards other activities and avoid exercising again. Either way, you lose the health and well-being benefits of exercise because you are not doing it consistently. Exercising with just the right balance of challenge and self-care is not so easy, but it’s possible.  

As we enter the season of giving and a time of year when many people struggle not only with getting enough exercise, but also with keeping up with self-care, I will be writing about how to make exercise a form of self-care. It will build on my last blog series about how to Exercise Right because when you know how to exercise right, you feel better and it becomes an act of self-care.  

Bottom Line:  Both self-care and challenge makes us stronger. Exercise, when it is specifically designed for health and well-being,  provides both.  However, you are the only one who can create the right balance for you between motivating challenge and moving for self-care. What do you need more of right now in your life—self-care or challenge? Try adjusting your mindset about exercise to give you just the right balance of self-care and challenge. Let me know what happens by emailing me at Janet@ExercisingWELL.com

Be WELL,

Janet

Is even the thought of exercise stress producing?  Knowing how to use exercise to challenge your body at the just right level in a way that it feels like self care takes knowing how to exercise right.  Exercising WELL™ blends mindfulness and movement to create mindset that help you find that right balance for you each time.  Find out how to make exercise a source of self care with a unique, cost-effective blend of personal coaching and easy-to-use online learning.  Click here to get started with a FREE coaching call. 

Solving the mystery: what’s the right way to exercise? Part 3

Solving the mystery_ what’s the right way to exercise for your body and the real results you want, Part 1 (2)

Good detectives know that asking the questions who, what, where, when, and why can lead to solving a mystery. Knowing the right way to exercise can seem like a huge mystery can’t it?  Everywhere you look, you see exercises and programs that claim to be the answer to the ‘problems’ of your body. How do you know what is worth the investment of your time and energy? In this three-blog series, we’ll use these five sleuth questions to know if an exercise is science-based, right for your body, and likely to lead to feeling better and staying motivated.

In part 1 we uncovered how to find exercise that is science based. In part two we explored finding exercise for the results you want.  In this last part, we solve the mystery of knowing if an exercise is right for your body right now.  

Who is telling you it is right for your body?

Since we are flooded with information about how exercise is good for us, we can often think of exercise like a child eating their vegetables so they can have dessert. The problem with that ‘just do it’ approach is your brain believes what your body feels much more than what you tell yourself. Exercising because you have to in order to get to a goal is an athletic mindset. For most people, exercising because you have to will only last for so long. Eventually, your motivation will fade because something more important you have to do will come along.  

Instead, let you body tell your brain that it wants to keep coming back for more. How? By being present to how you feel when you think about exercising, are exercising, and have finished exercising. If your feelings are negative, it is time to change what you are doing or expecting of your body right now. When exercise is a positive experience in both your brain and body from the moment you think about it, you have found the way to exercise for well-being and health.    

What are you doing for exercise?  

In our calorie-focused society, exercise has become just a way to burn calories.  But exercise literally means ‘to practice’. So ask yourself, what are you practicing and is that what you want.  Exercise is not to burn calories, it is to help your body and brain feel better now and function better later. If you are doing exercises to burn calories, you may be moving in ways that don’t leave you feeling better now and that will drain motivation to keep doing it . If you are doing movements that are are practicing how you want to function better in daily life, at just the right level for your body right now, you will both feel better now and function better later.  Look closely at the movements you are doing and ask yourself if those are moments you want to improve for daily life.  

Where is my attention when I exercise? 

Exercises are often named by the muscles they are working, like triceps, abs, and glutes.  However, muscles do not work in isolation. Movements are a symphony of many muscles working together, orchestrated by your nervous system. The conductor is your central nervous system, brain, and spinal cord. When you focus on muscles, you are likely to miss the fact that other parts of your body are being strained, not strengthened. Consider how an exercise feels for your whole body to know if it is right for your body.  

Often our attention is not on our body at all. If you use distraction, like watching TV or talking on the phone, to get through an exercise, your nervous system cannot help your muscles coordinate the movement well and the quality of your practice has just been lowered. You are not teaching your body to function better while teaching your brain not to focus. This is the number one way we waste time with exercise.    

To exercise in the right way for your body, keep your attention on your whole body in the present moment. Only you know how your body feels and that is your best, most personalized guide. In doing this, you raise the quality of your exercise, thus making it more time-efficient.  

When do I get the results? 

In our athletic-minded exercise culture, feeling good when you exercise is not valued, it is considered ‘wimping out’. This mindset is helpful when you are competing, because the reward comes in the future. But when your reasons for exercise are to be well and healthy, the reward is in feeling better now. If you are a former athlete, but now are exercising for health and well-being, pay attention to this inclination to follow athletic approaches. Remind yourself that now your reasons for exercising are different, so the way you exercise needs to be different too.  

You may have long term goals for exercising, but if they are related to being healthy and well, the way to get there is to be right here, right now. Your body is in a constant state of change.  Every day it needs something slightly different from exercise. What felt good last week may not feel good this week. The path to your goal won’t be linear, because that is not how the body changes. The only way to know how to exercise right is to stay present. Listening to and trusting your body moment by moment is the way to make exercise work for you.  

Why is this exercise right for me right now?  

Connect your Why for exercise with what you are passionate about in life because this is the way to know how to exercise the right way for your body and your life right now and sustain motivation. The stronger you make the connection, the more you will be exercising the right way to get what you really want and the more motivated you will be to stick with it. Your core Why for exercise is not to lose weight or be healthy, it is the reasons why you want those things. Take the time to get to your core Why and finding the right exercise will be easier and more time-efficient.  

Bottom line: When exercise is based on how the body moves well, designed specifically for the real results you want from it, and leaves you feeling better instantly, you are exercising right. This is the most time- and energy-efficient way to exercise and the most motivating too.  When you know how to exercise right, body and your brain will be working together to keep you well and healthy. In the next blog series, we’ll look at how to exercise so you feel better mentally, emotionally and physically.  

Be WELL,

Janet

Learn More:

Want to know the right way to exercise for your body right now? 

If your body has spiraled downward, it is not easy to spiral up again. Typical approaches to exercise can be too much and you can easily end up feeling worse.  Exercising WELL™ is for people who want to feel better but their body and life keep getting in the way.  You get science-based exercise, step by step personalized guidance and the confidence you know how to stay self motivated to continue on your own.

Enrollment closes soon!

Click here to learn more and get started today!  

 

Rethink exercise for your brain

You hold the key (1).png

Rethink:  If you think of exercise as something to ‘just do’, like a task to check off on your long list of things to get done in a day, you might be missing out on the brain benefits.  Here is how to raise the quality of the time you exercise, to benefit your brain and your body.

Are you starting to notice small slips in your memory and less ability to focus? Maybe you have heard how exercise can help with brain function, especially as you age.  However, because our society has a very broad definition of what counts as exercise, how do you know if you are exercising in a way that will maximize your brain benefits. It turns out that what you do when you exercise can be the deciding factor for how your brain benefits. Let’s rethink exercise for the brain so you get the most from every move.

When you are under mental stress, your body fatigues because stress is preparing it for movement. Like a car that is sitting in traffic, your body is revved up, using up energy,  because it is ready to move but not moving. This increases the work for your body while putting healing and repair on hold until you are more relaxed mentally.  Movement is the antidote to the stress response. This is why exercise can be so effective for stress reduction.

But exercise is not always effective for reducing stress because often your brain is still working when you exercise. When you multitask your exercise time in an effort to just get it done, it reduces the effects of exercise on the body and on the brain as well. A recently published article found that when workers took a mental break while on an exercise break at work, their brains functioned much better than those whose brains continued working during exercise.

While exercising, take a break mentally by putting aside any work or personal problems to give you the most benefit from the time you are investing in exercise. This study, like so many, reinforces that the brain and body are an inseparable two-way street. When you consider what is happening in both, you get more of what you want from exercise for your health and well-being. It’s a whole-person recharge because your body gets back to the state in which it can heal and repair and your brain get a memory and focus boost.

Take a moment right now to get up, stretch, dance, walk, move —without multitasking.  If you are thinking you cannot take the time away from work to exercise, consider the return on your time investment. Your work productivity could increase and in the end get more done when you return from your exercise break.  If your mind wont let go once you start to move, give it something to focus on in the present moment, such as being grateful for what your body can do right now or how good it feels to simply move and not try to accomplish anything.  

Bottom Line: You hold the key to exercising for your brain. Move your body with present moment attention and raise the quality of your exercise time to give your body and your brain more instant benefits.

Enjoy Exercising WELL
Janet

P.S. One of the three principles of Exercising WELL™ is presence.  If you have been told to use distraction to “get through” exercise or to multitask to get to a step goal, it’s time to start Exercising WELL.

Is your body keeping you stuck? Use your mind to move forward!

Is your body keeping you stuck_ Use your mind to move forward!.png

Let me explain that title!

Your thoughts about exercise have tremendous power. The way you define exercise determines if you can and will do it. If you think exercise has to be a certain amount of time, intensity, or type to ‘count’ as exercise, but you feel limited by pain, weight, fatigue, etc., you are not going to exercise. What you think about exercise and what your body can do in this present moment are at odds.

However, when you think of exercise as any movement to help your body, exercise becomes possible. This is why I ask you to Rethink Exercise.

Rethinking exercise starts with letting your body lead the way. Your body does not know what you used to do or what you think you should do.  It doesn’t know how many calories you want to burn, or steps you are ‘supposed to’ take in a day, it only knows how much it can move now. It doesn’t know the numbers displayed on the weight machine or the treadmill or your activity monitor.  Your body only knows what it can do now, in this moment.

If your body cannot tolerate what you are doing, it will let you know through pain and fatigue, which are signs of doing too much, too soon. (Contrary to popular belief, pain is not a sign of progress—nope, not even muscle soreness.) If your body can do what you are asking it to do, it will let you know instantly through more energy, greater freedom of movement, more focus, and a better mood.

Exercise is challenging when your ‘exercise window’ is very small because of body limitations.  It takes more presence to exercise within those limits.  But when you do, the window gets bigger. When you work with how your body was designed to move well, in the way it can move now, discover you can exercise, and start spiraling up to feeling well again.

Bottom Line:  When it comes to movement, your body is smarter than your brain. Learn to listen to it and how to move to make it feel better within the first few seconds of exercise. This allows you to use exercise as one of your best resources to feel better now, and in the future.

Enjoy Exercising,

Janet

P.S. When your ‘window of movement’ is small, getting started is the hardest part. Before you decide you can’t exercise right now, check out Exercising WELL™  It starts with a month-long program called Start WELL, with guidance and coaching to help you get unstuck and moving forward. Click here to learn more and get started today.