Strength, beyond your muscles. 

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As we discussed with cardio, we often talk about strength training in terms of the long-term benefits. Yet your brain really cares about the instant rewards of doing something. But what if the instant ‘reward’ you get from lifting weights is muscle soreness and fatigue? Sure, you could tell yourself ‘no pain, no gain’ and convince yourself that it is a ‘good sore’ and all that discomfort means you got a ‘good workout’. Your brain, though, is most concerned with you feeling good now and it’s designed to avoid things that are painful or uncomfortable. When your willpower to endure the discomfort runs out, your brain will start to plant excuses in your head about why you need to skip strength training today (and the next day, and the next).

Eighty percent of people are not doing strength training. Like you, they probably know the benefits—stronger bones, better aging, stronger metabolism—but the brain has some concerns—injury, weight gain, getting ‘too muscular’, or looking like a weakling at the gym. This keeps many people living in the ‘should’ when it comes to strength training.

Are you ready to get out of the ‘should’ when it comes to strength training? Ready to reassure your brain that it is all good, because you are going to work with how your body is designed to be strong? Let’s cut through the marketing- and myth-based ‘facts’ and clear the path to your strongest possible muscles, bones, and metabolism now and every decade going forward.

What is strength training? Strength training is also known as weight training, weight lifting, and resistance training. Basically, it’s when you challenge your body to be able to move your body or objects more easily against gravity. If you are thinking the things you do in your daily life like housework, child care, and yard work mean you don’t need strength training, click here to see why these physical activities are different than exercise.

Making your brain want to strength train. From the very first time you do a strength exercise, you set into motion a cascade of events that produce unique and powerful events in your whole body. Yet, most of the effects of doing or not doing strength training are not noticeable right away, so it’s easy to forget why it is so important. In the next few blogs, I’ll show you the Real-time Results of each strength training session, and why pain and discomfort are not necessary. This way, your brain will be more confident that doing strength training will help you feel and function better now, without having to first endure pain, discomfort, or embarrassment.

Why strength is not from your muscles. Although we most equate strength with big muscles, that is not where strength comes from. Before you even move, something very important happens. Your brain is activated and ‘plans’ what muscles will be needed to create the intended movement. It estimates how many muscle fibers are needed to create the force you need to move against gravity. Then your brain sends a signal through your spinal cord to the muscles you need to do that movement. Without this nervous system signal, muscles can’t move. This pre-planning of movement makes it much smoother and more efficient.

The pathway to strength: Just like the first time you take a trip somewhere, the first time you perform a movement, your brain has to work harder to find the most efficient pathway. Over time, it becomes easier as your brain remembers the pathway. Think about how your body learned to walk, ride a bike, tie your shoes, swim, or play sports. All of these are examples of this process we call muscle memory. This building of muscle memory is what makes movements more automatic, so you can gain coordination, balance, agility, and strength.

Confusion about muscle memory: There is some talk that muscle memory is bad, because you burn fewer calories as your body gets used to an exercise and that you need muscle confusion to keep your body burning more calories. Honestly, the calorie-burning difference is minimal and probably won’t add up to any change on the scale. Muscle memory is what allows you to function. If you are exercising to lose weight so you can feel and function better, muscle memory is your friend.

The strength of your brain. Since the brain and nerves are what tell your muscles how to move, strength originates in your brain and nervous system, not in your muscles. That means you need your brain for building strength. You can see why present moment awareness is so important to get the most from strength training. It ensures you are creating the nerve pathways you want, the ones that allow you to access your strength by positioning your body in the right way, and creating nerve pathways so that strong movement becomes more automatic (more on that later). If your brain is distracted by a TV show, or other people around you, it won’t have as much ability to put into building your strength.  If finding the time for strength training is a concern, choose high-quality strength training by focusing your attention on your body rather than trying to save time by multitasking and doing it while watching TV

Bottom line: Your full mindful attention is your best strength training tool!

In the next blog, we’ll look at what happens in your muscles when you strength train that continues the cascade of events that leads to you feeling and functioning better.

Win Through the Power of Positivity

It’s pay-it-forward week at Exercising WELL and we are running a Win/Win Special.  From now until April 22nd, 2019, when you donate $45 to the Enjoy Life Education scholarship fund, you get your first month of the Exercising WELL Coaching Program FREE.  

Research shows positivity broadens your perspective, so you notice more opportunities, and helps you build long term resiliency1. When you take advantage of the Win/Win special, you help a teen build positive self-worth and inner confidence through the Enjoy Life Leadership Academy and strengthen your own positive approach to self-care while growing your inner confidence  that you know how to be Exercising WELL.

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Enjoy Life Leadership Academy

From the moment you walk into the Leadership Academy, you are overwhelmed by the energy of positivity—it’s contagious! Every moment is filled with this positive perspective and support for each other.  Check out this brief video to see for yourself. This is not a Pollyanna-type positivity, where talking about negative experiences is taboo. This is the place where life’s challenging experiences are embraced head-on, through activities like group challenges and leaders sharing their stories of resiliency. Life’s challenges are transformed through positivity and help students build resiliency through positive qualities like curiosity, creativity, and empathy.

Exercising WELL Coaching Program

Because our brain is designed to keep us safe by looking for problems, it’s easy to get stuck in the muck of life and stray from your best intentions to exercise regularly. This is normal but not helpful when it comes to building habits for well-being. Health coaching uses research from positive psychology to guide you to get yourself unstuck and avoid the swamp of self-doubt and frustration of life getting in the way. As your coach, I help you sort through your experiences with exercise each week in a way that you lets you use life’s challenges as a tool for learning how to exercise through the ups and downs of life. Research on habits shows that when something is a positive experience, it becomes a lasting habit. Making exercise a positive experience requires both an understanding of brain science and exercise science. This powerful combination is what makes Exercising WELL unique.

  1. Research from The Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania

How to drop the ‘should’ in exercise

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If we know we should exercise, why do we struggle with it? The answer is complex, but as I said in my last blog series there is one word in that statement that changes everything. ‘Should’ makes exercise an externally-imposed activity with future results. Why does that matter so much? Your brain’s job is to pay attention to what is most important to you right now, what will keep you well right now.

Yet those of us in the healthy-person business keep telling you all the great reasons why you should get more exercise.

Exercise regularly to reduce your risk of

  • colon cancer by over 60%
  • recurrent breast cancer by approximately 50%
  • Alzheimer’s disease by approximately 40%
  • heart disease by approximately 40%
  • type II diabetes by 50%
  • death from any cause (overall mortality) by 40% 1

No matter how powerful these statements are, they are not enough to keep you motivated now. When you are feeling tired at the end of a long day or overwhelmed by too many things on your to do list or comfortable in your bed when the alarm goes off, what you ‘should’ do does not hold much power. What is ‘good for you’ at some point in the future just does not get top billing compared to these more immediate challenges to your well-being.

In the last blog, I simplified all the science-based factors for self-motivation into the Exercise Motivation Equation.

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What is important right now and doable right now will be most motivating right now. The trick is keeping exercise important and doable in the present moment.

Step one: Importance. When businesses are clear about the company’s core values, know their ‘why’, and communicate it well, they are more successful at motivating you to buy what they are selling.2  This not only works for successful companies, it works for successful individuals. This is why a personal coaching call is the first step in my Exercising WELL program. When we use a coaching conversation to clarify your well-being Vision and uncover your most value-driven Why for exercise, you’ll find your self-motivation for exercise ramps up.  In the coaching conversation, we transform exercise from a ‘should’ to a ‘want to’.

Once you know your Why for exercise, you are ready to discover what is most doable for your body and life now.

Step two: Doable. When your brain knows exercise will leave you feeling better now, it will want to do it. But knowing how to exercise in the way that is right for your body right now, rather than for the body you want in the future is not so easy. Many of the marketable future-based results like melting fat, having long lean muscles, and enjoying toned arms are not even doable because they ignore the natural laws of the body. Other results like six pack abs, reaching a goal weight, or completing a fitness challenge only distract from your Why.

Once you know how to move in the way your body was designed and are focused on what you can do now, exercise will immediately make you feel better right now.

In my next blog series, I’ll talk about the Real-time Results of exercise. When you know what is happening in your body with exercise now, you have the best chance of knowing how to get the results that are most important for you now, and leave you feeling better now.

Rethink this Week: Take a moment to explore your Why for exercise. Ask yourself ‘why is exercise important to me?’ Now, ask yourself ‘why is that important to me right now’ four more times. This seems a bit silly—repeating the question—but it is based on the well-established process of Motivational Interviewing3. Asking the question repeatedly, and answering it thoughtfully, will get you closer to the most value-driven reason for exercising. This is your Why. It is the deepest source of energy for your motivation in the present moment. With this motivation energy, you will be ready to use the Real-time Results of exercise that are most important to you to stay out of the ‘shoulds’ and in the ‘want tos’ for exercise. This process is more effective in a coaching conversation but doing this for yourself is a great way to get started with getting to your Why.

Enjoy Exercising WELL,

Janet

 

  1. Exercise is Medicine 
  2. Simon Sinek TED talk
  3. Instant Influence, by Michael Pantelon, PhD 

The way to STAY motivated for exercise

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In the last blog we talked about how the excitement of working toward a goal can be motivating, but that it is likely temporary.  Using goal setting to get motivated just does not give you the skills to stay motivated, which leads to the common ‘all or nothing’ approach to exercise.  

The heating system in a home senses the temperature and adjusts what it’s doing to sustain a comfortable temperature inside, even as the  weather changes. It is set up to continually produce and maintain that, even as conditions change.  What makes it work is a built-in feedback loop designed to sense what is happening moment by moment.

Systems are designed for sustainability. Using a system, rather than goals to get motivated, means you will stay motivated,  even as conditions change in your life. Your feedback loop for an exercise system is mindfulness.  Present moment awareness gives you the power to sense what is happening in your mind and in your body, moment by moment. This gives you a feedback loop, so you know when you are getting off track. More importantly, the curiosity and kindness of mindfulness allow you to make the necessary adjustments so you keep getting what you really want from exercise, even when life starts to get in the way.  

Wouldn’t it be great for exercise to always leave you feeling and functioning better, now, instead of waiting until you reach your goal to feel better?  Wouldn’t it be great if you knew you were doing enough, instead of always feeling like you should be doing more?  A systems mindset lets you know how much is enough, moment by moment.   A systems mindset frees you from worrying about your ability to stick with changes, because you get the Real Results you want each time you exercise.

Even if you do have goals, things that you want to achieve with fixed endpoints, such as completing a 5K, a systems mindset will help to provide a foundation of motivation as you work toward those goals. Even more importantly, the system will be there when the goal is over, keeping you out of that all-or-noting approach to exercise.  

It is smart to wait to begin working toward a goal until the time is right. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure by working on a goal when you’re not ready.   But, when you want to feel and function better, now is a great time to start!  Remember, a system is built to adjust when outside conditions change, so you don’t have to wait until conditions are just right to start. 

You use systems all the time to keep your life functioning well.  Why not use one for  exercise, to keep you functioning well?

Whole-heartedly,

Janet

PS: Exercising WELL is is a coaching and membership program I designed to guide you through building your system for lasting exercise motivation.  Take advantage of the amazing introductory offer only available until January 31. For only $85 you get a coaching call with me, a 28 day online program, and personalized weekly email coaching for a month! Rates will never be this low again!  Click here for more information.

How goal setting can drain exercise motivation

Have you ever wondered why movies like Rocky, Karate Kid, A league of Their Own and Field of Dreams are timelessly popular? Why sporting events draw huge crowds and TV ratings?   We do love a good story about pushing the mind and body to it’s limit, overcoming all odds to reach a goal, don’t we? It is so exciting and inspiring!

We often connect exercise with reaching a goal, like weight loss or running a marathon.   Goal are motivating.  They make life exciting and challenge us to grow to discover new strengths.  

Even with all this inspiration from goals, somehow exercise motivation is still a struggle.  Exercising to be healthy and well is a no-brainer. Why don’t we ‘just do it’?   This is the 20 Billion dollar question! Thanks to neuroscience, we have some answers. It starts with this goals mindset. 

Goals take you from point A to point B.

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With big goals, you would set smaller goals to keep you motivated along the way.   Goals are, by definition, temporary.  The sacrifices you make to get to that goal are tolerable because you know they are not forever.  You can suffer through the discomfort, knowing the celebration is coming at the end.   That grit of enduring challenges, the test of will, the digging deep for personal strength is part of the excitement.  It keeps us riveted at the movies and sitting on the edge of our seat at sporting events, and pushing ourselves until we get to our goal.

The downslide is, using goals for exercise motivation means:

  • your motivation is dependent on making progress
  • you are more likely to ignore signals from your body while pushing toward a goal
  • some other things in life get put on hold while working toward your goal
  • what you do to reach a goal, does not build the skills for lasting change
  • when the goal ends, so will your motivation

This approach can work, but it requires a lot of mental energy.  With a goals mindset, you are more likely to be an all-or-nothing type of exerciser.  This is why goal setting drains motivation in the long run.  

Is your main reason for exercising to be healthy and well for a lifetime?  If so, there is no point B.  You never want it to end.  Save goal setting for the results you want from exercise that are temporary.  For the results you want all the time, you need a different mindset, one that taps into your natural and more sustainable motivation. In the next blog, I will explain how.  

Whole-heartedly,

Janet

PS:  Have you had enough with being an all-or-noting exerciser?   My Exercising WELL coaching program is designed to guide and support you through shifting to a more sustainable way of exercising.  Take advantage of the amazing introductory offer only available until January 31. For only $85 you get a coaching call with me, an email-based online program, and personalized weekly email coaching! Rates will never be this low again!  Click here for more information.