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.

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.

Move from faux results to real results

Click here to listen to this session

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This post is part five of a series based on my new FREE audio program. 

Have you ever watched a plant grow?  Not so exciting, is it? The fact is, growth happens slowly in nature and in our bodies. Thanks to marketing, though, you might have a different impression. Time-lapsed video and before-and-after images give the illusion that change happens quickly.

The exercise science Principle of Progressive Overload says that when you:

  • challenge your body at the just-right level it can adapt to, it will get stronger
  • challenge it too much, too soon, it can’t adapt and is more likely to break down

Yet, the idea of quick results is much more marketable than this idea that change happens slowly.  In other areas of life, it is true—if you work hard, you are more likely to be successful.  Fitness marketers combine our desire for quick changes with this “work hard” mentality and come up with some pretty “insane” exercise programs. Our most popular fitness programs today, perpetuated by reality TV, reinforces this ‘work harder, get more results faster’ idea about exercise. The Principle of Progressive Overload does not stand a chance against the power of this marketing!

Well, if we are going to work harder, we are going to need some incentive. Seeing the scale go down, giving yourself a “cheat day”, winning a competition are all great ways to make you want to work harder.  External rewards like this are perfect to help you stay motivated, to ramp up your willpower, so you can get to a goal.

This is why external motivators are so luring. They work!  But they are really faux results, not the kind designed to last.

Motivation scientists tell us clearly:

  • External rewards lead to temporary motivation
  • Internal rewards lead to lasting motivation

Internal rewards are not as tangible, so they are easily missed.  When you learn how to use them, their power makes staying motivated so much easier!  Listen to part 5 of my audio series to find out how to resist that lure of quick, faux results and start using your intrinsic rewards to get real, lasting results from exercise.

In the next session, we will wrap up this series with a helpful summary of all that we have covered.

Whole-heartedly,

Janet

P.S. Know someone who could use this information?  Share this link with them.

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Move from ‘tough love’ to Inner Trainer

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Click here for the playlist for this podcast  

Psst! Lean in a bit…I am going to let you in on a little secret. You—yes you—have an Inner Trainer™.  This Trainer resides right inside your intelligent body and is your best and most accurate guide for exercise. It’s there 24/7 to guide you through the most personalized workout each and every time, and keep you from going astray. The bonus is that this Trainer is free, for a lifetime!

Working with a personal trainer can be helpful. But without your Inner Trainer™ working alongside you, the results are most likely to be temporary.

Why?  Because science tells us you are unique. No two bodies will respond exactly the same to the same exercise. It’s the science-based Principle of Individuality. But how often are we sold on an exercise program because it worked for someone else? Using personal success stories is a great marketing strategy, but not a way to find your own personal exercise success.

Your body is also unique moment to moment, day to day, and year to year. Only you know how your body feels moment to moment.  When working toward a temporary external goal, like winning a competition, pushing through pain and fatigue is part of the training.   Because we often equate exercise with being athletic, the tradition having someone to push you harder with some “tough love” is often seen as the best way to exercise.  But remember, athletic type goals are meant to be temporary,  and so is this type of motivation.

Your Inner Trainer™ is your most reliable source of information about what’s right for you, when you define exercise success as lasting results.  Learning to listen to and trust your body moment by moment is the only way to adjust what you do so your exercise experience is positive. Remember, a positive experience is the key to lasting habits.

This is supported by neuroscientists’ findings that when you pay attention with an open mind and an attitude of kindness, it leads to lasting motivation. It’s called mindful self-compassion and although it goes against how we have been taught to exercise, it truly works for how we are meant to exercise when we are doing it for health and wellbeing.

This is one of the most challenging approaches to put into place. However, unless you are one of those people who enjoy the “tough love” of pushing your body to work harder and look forward to doing that for the rest of your life, listen to part four of my podcast (duration: 4:21) to find how to use your Inner Trainer for easier motivation and lasting results.

Then, stay tuned for the next session to be released soon.

Whole-heartedly,

Janet

P.S. Know someone who could use this information? Share this link with them.

Sources: