Turning exercise information into motivation, part 3

Turning exercise information into motivation, part 3-3One 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.

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.  
  4. 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.

Sustainability 

Mountin path in BieszczadyLet’s take a look at one more critical difference between training for athletics/military and training for well-being.

Athletes and military professionals need to train right at the edge of a very fine line between improving skills and risking injury. Athletes and their coaches find that line and push the body as close as possible to that line, in order to stay in the competition. Step over that line and injury risk is greater than the training benefit.

This type of training does not consider what the body will be able to do ten or twenty years from now. It is focused on the next level, improving by pushing that limit as much as possible. There is only so long the body can sustain that type of training. At some point, an athlete needs to retire from competition, or at least semi-retire and take a few steps back from that line if they want to keep moving.

In training for well-being, choosing the level to train at considers what is needed to be well right now, as well as for the rest of our lives. This type of training does not require pushing to that risk/benefit ratio line. To the contrary, part of training for well-being is listening to the body to know when we are stepping too close to that line because we know an injury keeps us on the sidelines of life rather than out enjoying life. Training to be well considers how we feel, now as well as decades from now, by preventing injury, illness, and disease as much as possible. “Retire” from this plan too early, and that risk along with the rate of aging ramps up…fast!!!

Training for well-being means we find the types of movement that give us energy rather than drain it. You might be one who needs more adventurous types of physical activity, such as skiing or rock climbing. Remembering it is more important to be well than excel at that activity keeps it energizing and the risk/benefit ratio in check.

Bottom Line:  It is not necessarily the activity, but the attitude that makes training for well-being so sustainable. The ultimate goal is to feel better on the inside, not be better through some external goal. Let’s stay aware of activities that are more about proving ourselves instead of being ourselves, because when it is more about well-doing, it takes us away from well-being.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed the attitude of no, pain no gain, look better, be better, push harder, ignore the body, trick the body, is so enmeshed in the world of fitness we often don’t even see it! The confusion over these two very different ways of training the body has made exercise stressful (which is ironic because when we are stressed, the body preparing to move!). Even the word exercise overwhelms many people, which drains motivation in the long run, causing them to miss out on the great benefits of fitness for well-being.

In my first online video workshop, Unleash Your Superpower of Calm, I’ve incorporated  information and tools to guide you through the process of resetting your approach to being healthy and well – an approach that works with the way the mind and body are designed to work, based on mind and body sciences. This workshop is foundational for finding the way out of the confusion and stress of “trying to be healthy” and discovering how you can be well now!

Click here for more information about this upcoming series.  

Be Well Now,

Janet

Guidance 

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Let’s continue to look at the difference between training for sports/military performance and training for well-being.

When it comes to fitness, how much is enough?   

  • How hard should I push my body?
  • How much weight should I lift? 
  • How many miles should I walk or run?
  • How many steps should I take? 

If what you are doing never quite seems enough, always feels like you should be doing more, you may have strayed from training for well-being.

In athletic training, there is always a next level to strive towards. That ‘never enough’ provides the motivation to push harder. For this type of training, then, we need to rely on external guides to inform about our progress. Numbers such as miles and minutes provide accurate feedback. Coaches help assess our performance, giving valuabe information about how to keep pushing the limits to excel at the sport.

In training for health and well-being, enough is the level that allows you to achieve the definition of fitness for well being – “do activities of daily life with ease, having enough energy left over for recreation and to meet emergencies.”

For this type of training, you have a guide more accurate than the most advanced technology or experienced professional available. The best part is this guide is free and with you all the time! It’s your body! What your body tells you in the present moment is the most accurate and reliable information available for training for well-being.

What makes it not so reliable is when our mind starts dictating what the body “should” do.  I should not have pain with this exercise, it was fine yesterday. I should be able to lift that much weight, run faster, walk further. I should push my body harder to lose more weight. 

Our judgment about what the body is telling us right now squelches this most accurate guide. When we use the body as a guide, we realize we can have the ultimate “personalized fitness program” available. When we listen we might hear the body saying:

  • That pain you feel when you exercise is a warning signal… possible injury ahead!
  • Those tight muscles cannot tolerate what you are doing right now. The nervous  system has taken over and tightened the muscle to protect it.
  • That pain and stiffness you feel when I am still for a while means I need movement to help get rid of some of this inflammation.
  • When you feel exhausted after a busy, stressful, yet sedentary day, it is because I have been working hard all day, ready to move to respond to your stressor.  Please give me what I have been preparing for and move so I can really relax.  

It is really easy to get caught in the shoulds when fitness marketing and the culture tend to mesh together sports training and well-being training. Mindfulness helps us develop the skills for listening to our body without judgment, uncovering the most accurate and reliable guidance available when it comes to training for our own well-being.

Be Well Now,

Janet

Specificity 

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Let’s take a closer look at training for well-being  versus training for athletics.

There is a principle in exercise science of specificity that basically says “you get what you train for.” The body will adapt to what you give it. If you want to be able to run faster, then practice running faster. If you want to be able to get up off the floor more easily, then practice strengthening the movements you need for that skill. If you want to be able to sightsee with friends all day, then gradually practice walking longer distances.

In sports training, the focus is on the physical skills needed for the sport.  In well-being training, skills for being able to enjoy life are the focus.

In sports training, the goal is to excel in the time spent in competition, for several seconds to a few hours. Well-being training is for functioning the best you can 24/7.

It is pretty obvious that one would not do the training program for a body builder to excel in competitive dance. Why then, do we use these and other sports training programs as the basis for fitness programs to improve health and well-being??? 

You get what you train for.  What do you want to train for? Sports training is fine, of course, as long as you know the results of training are very specific and don’t cross over well.

Be savvy. Ask anyone giving you fitness advice: What is this program based on?  Why am I doing this exercise? What specifically am I training for?  (And please don’t take “you are confusing the body” for an answer, unless you want a confused body.)

If your goal is to be healthy and well for as many of your 24/7s as possible, then check out what you are doing during as much of the 24/7 as possible. You see, when training to live better, it all matters – sit, stand, work, play, exercise, rest.  The specificity of training does not apply only when exercising.  It is a principle. It applies all the time.

Sitting with rounded shoulders. Guess what? The body gets used to what you give it. Standing in alignment, the body adapts to that too. We are always training for something (mentally AND physically).

For the  “all or nothing-ers” out there, this does not mean you move perfectly all the time. Simply pay attention to your body, check in often.

Bottom line: Training for well-being is an all-day awareness of how to give this body (and mind) what it needs to be well. Yep…sounds like mindfulness to me too!

The body gets used to what you give it. What do you want it to get used to?

Be well now,

Janet