Are you one of those people who hate to exercise but you do it anyway because you want to lose weight? You’d think that would be a good reason to sweat till you burn, but it’s not.
I’ve been reading a book called “No Sweat” by Michelle Segar Ph.D. She was one of the speakers at an event I attended. Michelle generously gave each of the attendees a complimentary copy of her book as a gift. I’d never heard of her before, or her book but took it home and put it in my bathroom to read when I had the chance.
I finally opened it up and found I couldn’t put it down. Michelle says that people are being told by every Tom, Dick, and Jane to exercise for all the wrong reasons. She offers a completely different view on the why of exercise and her theory makes sense.
I’ve written several posts about longevity and how people live to be over 100. One thing they don’t worry much about is sticking to an exercise program. Granted, they don’t sit around twiddling their thumbs but they aren’t rushing to hit the gym either. (Jack La Lanne excluded) Most of their exercise comes from activities like walking to the store, gardening, housework, dancing socially, picking olives, herding goats, lifting water bottles, or other everyday tasks.
The terms “lose weight” or “be healthy” don’t work
The problem with using weight loss or even health as motivations to exercise is that most people give up and quit when they get frustrated. It becomes a burden and a punishment instead of a joy.
Exercise marketing gurus, physicians, and fitness coaches add guidelines to their exercise program such as, “You must do cardio 30 minutes a day if you want to lose inches.” “If you don’t strength train 3 times a week you’ll get osteoporosis,” “Calories in, calories out,” etc. They try to “guilt” you into exercising and, eventually, it becomes a burden.
In “No Sweat,” Michelle states that when it comes to moving your body “everything should count.” Just because you aren’t huffing and puffing to run a 5K, swim 30 laps, or stand on your head, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Maybe you walked your dog, vacuumed the floor, picked weeds out of your garden, pushed a baby stroller, or stretched out on the floor. It all adds up. Exercise should be a natural extension of your day and not be regimented.
Before we had fitness trackers, exercise was measured in increments. 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there. Now we have devices that record every movement as we’re doing it. I think they’re helpful because you can see how much effort you put out each day.
Sitting on your rump all day in front of your computer or watching TV all night obviously doesn’t count. However, if you work at your computer for a while and then clean the bathtub, work a little longer and then walk to the end of your block, work a little longer and then climb up and down a set of stairs, sit in front of the TV and then stretch or do leg lifts during the commercials, it does.
Find an exercise program you love.
When your entire goal for exercise is to lose weight and it doesn’t happen, it’s a recipe for disaster. All of a sudden, you’re walking to the refrigerator to have a snack as a reward or because all that work made you hungry and it becomes a no-win situation.
When you exercise to be healthy, you start to view your workout as medicine and no one likes taking medicine. It’s the same as using food as medicine. If you’re gulping down a smoothie because it’s a prescription for good health it takes the pleasure out of eating. It makes you think of exercise or food as a pill. Pills come with side effects. When exercising or eating isn’t pleasurable, you’re less inclined to keep it up for the long term.
I’ve written about using food as medicine and am now rethinking that philosophy.
Some people love the fact that exercise makes them healthy and that’s great. If running gives you joy, keep doing what you’re doing. Others may worry that it will give them a heart attack.
“For health to be a real Right Why, it has to be a real motivator for consistent behavior. It has to be a reason for daily decision making that drives you to do it regularly.”~ No Sweat by Michelle Segar Ph.D.
Turn your exercise program from a chore to a gift
If you’re exercising because it enhances your sense of well-being and makes you feel good, then you’re moving in the right direction. Exercise then becomes something you love rather than dread. It’s a matter of finding a way to move your body that turns you on instead of off. Sometimes you can use a reward substitution as a motivating strategy. Think of reasons to make exercise connect you with others, lift your mood, give you focus and energy, and have fun.
“The next time you find yourself resisting exercise or don’t want to do the workout you planned, just stop a minute. Don’t do anything. Just stop, close your eyes and ask yourself what type of movement would feel good to do. If it’s nothing, that’s okay too.”~ No Sweat by Michelle Segar Ph.D.
Start with that.
You may find yourself doing a simple and fun exercise program and then decide to take it to the next level.
I adore walking. I gave up trying to lose weight walking awhile back because it wasn’t happening. I’d walk for an hour, stand on the scale and cringe because my weight was always stuck in the same place. I blamed it on gaining muscle weight, but now I realize it was the extra snacking I rewarded myself with for walking so long.
My love affair with walking began when I realized it makes me feel relaxed and happy. I walk with an easy gait, enjoyed watching the squirrels play and the hawks soar. It became my meditation and I can’t get enough of it. I know that it helps me stay healthy but it isn’t my most important “why.”
I’ve had gym memberships before but I hated driving back and forth. It was a time suck. By the time I dressed, drove there, worked out, cleaned up, and went back to my office, half the day was lost. There would always be someone who screwed up my schedule because they needed me to be available during my “designated workout” time. I’ve also never liked using a machine that someone sneezed on. For me, a treadmill will never take the place of walking past trees and looking at clouds. If I didn’t live in Los Angeles, where it’s warm most of the time, that might be a different story.
Focusing on the “why” will cause you to flub up your exercise program
If you change the“why” for exercise, you may find it to be a pleasant and invigorating experience rather than a method of torture.
I recommend you buy a copy of “No Sweat” to read more about Michelle’s theories. Let me know what you think.
What exercise program or movement do you enjoy the most and why? Please leave a comment below.