When it comes to exercise, stop trying so hard

Have you ever tried to fly a kite? Trying to get it up in the air can be a lot of work. You just cannot control the wind. When you allow the wind to take it, though, the kite effortlessly sails upward. It’s like that with Recharge mode. The more you try to get there, the more you stay in Alarm mode.  

Several years ago I attended a talk by Dr. Jud Brewer. He did a meditation called Noting Practice, where he invited us to just notice different areas of our body. When it was done, he asked, “How do you feel?” Everyone said, “Relaxed” and you could feel it in the room. He said, “Isn’t that amazing, I never told you to relax”. That moment stuck with me because it was so simple yet so powerful.  

Recharge mode is your natural state. Your body and mind want to be there, because that is where it functions best. When you allow the moment to take hold of your attention, without trying to control it, you sail effortlessly into greater calm.  

When exercise is used to control the body—trying to burn calories, trying to push through pain and discomfort, trying to get enough steps—the body stays in Alarm mode. In Alarm mode, the body holds on to excess fat in case of an emergency, keeps pain signals higher to let you know there is a problem, and puts less energy into defending against illness.1, 2.  Isn’t that ironic?  All that trying to get the healthy results you want from exercise actually makes it harder for your body to give them to you. 

Studies show that mindfulness reduces food cravings, lowers pain levels, and improves health.3, 4, 5 It does this by training the brain to not control, but just notice, with an open mind and kind mindset. However, when you are carrying extra weight, or in pain, or are worried about your health, ignoring your body or using your mind to overcome your body seems like the way out. Distraction and mental toughness are two tools commonly used to get through exercise in order to get results, be healthier, and feel better. This takes a lot of effort, however, and perpetuates Alarm mode. Eventually, putting off exercise becomes the way to feel better. 

Because Alarm mode is your body preparing for movement, to fight or flee the threat to your “safety”, moving with presence provides a complete shift for your mind and body to get back to Recharge. When exercise is done without a mindset of trying to control, but simply noticing, with openness and kindness, it restores Recharge. Just like letting the wind take your kite up into the air, putting less effort into trying to get enough exercise and stay motivated puts you into Recharge mode, where you are more likely to get what you want.  

This is simple, but not easy. It takes practice, especially if you are used to ignoring your body or you think of exercise as a way to control your body. Our Recharge Pause today helps your mind and body learn to work together again. It’s called Active Noting, adding movement to Noting practice. On the outside, it may not seem like you are doing much, and most people would think it is not worth the time because you are not burning calories or challenging your body. The magic is what is happening on the inside:

  • Movement helps your lymphatic system fight infections
  • Mindfulness restores calm, the state where healing happens
  • Mindset helps restore the ability of your mind and body to work together

All together, this simple movement break brings you back to the state where you are most likely to get what you want from exercise.

Bottom Line:  When you combine the power of mindfulness with the power of movement, you raise the quality of your exercise time, increase your ability to get the healthy results you want, and stay motivated with much less effort. Give Active Noting a try this week at the first sign of stress build-up and share what you notice in comments.

Stay WELL,

Janet

Sources:

  1. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057–1072. Published 2017 Jul 21. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480
  2. van der Valk ES, Savas M, van Rossum EFC. Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals?. Curr Obes Rep. 2018;7(2):193–203. doi:10.1007/s13679-018-0306-y
  3. Peter la Cour, PhD, Marian Petersen, PhD, Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Chronic Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Pain Medicine, Volume 16, Issue 4, April 2015, Pages 641–652,
  4. Dunn, C., Haubenreiser, M., Johnson, M. et al. Mindfulness Approaches and Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, and Weight Regain. Curr Obes Rep 7, 37–49 (2018).
  5. Merkes Monika (2010) Mindfulness-based stress reduction for people with chronic diseases. Australian Journal of Primary Health16, 200-210.

Unleashing Your Natural Motivation for Exercising

With all great reasons to exercise, why are we not more motivated?  Because reasons like heart health and weight loss don’t connect exercise strongly enough to our natural motivation to do what we love, with those we love.  Check out how this natural motivation was unleashed for one client recently,  and learn how you can unleash your natural motivation for exercising too in the Exercising WELL tip of the week.

 

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!  

 

Solving the mystery: what is the right way to exercise? Part 2

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

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 this second part,  we solve the mystery of choosing the right exercise for the real results you want. First, let’s clarify that this is about exercising right for improving health and well-being with lasting results, not temporary ones. 

Who is the exercise for? 

Even if what you’re doing is based on movement science, there are many branches within that science. Sports and military exercise training is designed for the specific purpose of competing and winning, not for improving health and function in daily life. Athletes train for temporary results. They have to ignore pain and discomfort to get to a goal. Once the season is over or their career has ended, they don’t continue. Clearly, if you are exercising for health and well-being, sports training is not the right way to exercise. Yet, how often are these approaches used in popular exercise programs? If an exercise or program was designed for athletes, keep looking for exercises specifically designed for improving function in daily life and health long-term.   

What do I really want?  

Get specific about what you want from exercise, because your body will get used to what you give it, specifically. General goals like weight loss are a perfect example. You might be exercising to lose weight, but are you sure that is what you really want? If you reach a goal weight but don’t feel better, would that be a success? If you reach a goal weight but don’t stay at that weight, would that be a success? For most people, achieving a number on the scale is not the real goal—ultimately what they want is to lose weight to feel better in some way and they want it to last. Don’t exercise to lose weight, exercise for the reasons why you want to lose weight.    

If you are exercising to help a medical condition, just like any medication, the correct type and dosing will allow that medication to help you. Clinical exercise physiologists (CEPs) are specifically trained in not only exercise, but all of the medical conditions that can be helped by exercise. Look on websites and organizations that use CEPs to guide people with exercise for the medical condition you are wanting to help. Learn as much as you can about how to exercise for that medical condition. See the links below for some resources.  

Where will I do this exercise? 

The result of any exercise, no matter how great it is for you, will disappear once you stop doing that exercise. If the place you are doing this exercise is inconvenient, costly, or you do not feel good about yourself when you are there, it is not sustainable. Your brain will start making excuses why you cannot go and exercise. If you are doing an expensive program to make you exercise until you can reach a goal weight or fitness level, without a plan of what to do after you reach that goal, the results are more likely to be temporary. Consistency is the most important factor for the real results you want. Choose exercises and programs that are in a location you know you will come back to long-term. 

When will I get the results I want from this exercise? 

Your brain likes you to do things that make you feel better instantly. If you are doing an exercise and feel worse but tell yourself you just need to get used to it, it is not the right type or intensity of exercise for you right now. You can convince yourself that it will be worth the soreness and fatigue when you see results, but the reality is your brain believes your body more than it believes what you are telling yourself. If an exercise does not feel good instantly, it is most likely not right for your body (or any body), and your brain is most likely to tell you to skip it at some point in the future. The real result your brain wants is for you to feel better now. That’s how you will build confidence you will stay motivated. The right exercises for you are the ones that make you feel better now.  

Why am I interested in this exercise?  

Is it because it worked for someone else? Your body and life are unique. Just because an exercise worked for someone does not mean it is right for you. Is it because it worked for you in the past? Your body and life are in constant flux. Your body is only in the present and what worked for your past body and life is not a sure thing to work now. Is it because that person doing the exercise looks the way you want to look? Getting the long lean muscles of a dancer, or the abs like your personal trainer, has more to do with their genetic makeup than the exercises they are doing. If you find an exercise or program that sounds good to you, but it does not match your body or life right now, list what appeals to you about that program. That list will help you find a program that is right for you now. Eventually that program may be right for you, but the only way to get there is to do what is right for your body and life right now.    

Bottom Line: The right exercise for the real results you want from exercise is the one that is specifically designed for those results, leaves your body feeling better now, and you want to keep doing consistently. In the last blog of this series, we’ll look at how you know if an exercise is right for your body right now.  

Be WELL,

Janet

Exercising WELL™ puts your Why into action

Exercising WELL™ is unique because it combines the power of coaching with the convenience of online learning.  This makes it a cost effective way to get guidance from a clinical exercise physiologist and work with a coach.  The easy-to-use online program teaches you how to exercise right.   Our video or telephone coaching sessions,  personalizes that information and keeps you moving forward without doing too much too soon.

Enrollment closes for the year on November 15, 2019. 

Click here to learn more and get started today!  

More resources: