Monday, August 31, 2015

What to Do When Working Out Sucks

Way Back When...

So, here's a little history about me. When I was in high school, we HAD to play one sport every season. This, to me, was torture. I hated sports. I hated exercise. The thought of running literally brought me to tears. I wasn't overweight or even really out of shape. I just hated competitive sports. Before high school, I was into dancing and gymnastics. These weren't deemed sports by my high school, and so I was thrown into a world where I was basically forced to do activities I hated and that made me feel bad about myself every single day.

So, to say I developed a serious aversion to fitness was an understatement. I could care less about the health benefits of anything active. I held on to my past experiences with being active, and naturally associated fitness with punishment. I avoided it at all costs, and for a long time had a serious negative view of myself as I watched friends running races, or participating in various competitions. The more I compared my inaction to action, the more negatively I viewed myself and the greater my aversion for fitness became. My thought was: Why am I so lazy/bad/unhealthy/sad that I can't just suck it up and punish myself enough to run a marathon like those awesome people?

Fast forward ten years and I'm writing a blog post all about fitness. Funny how life works...

Let's talk real facts

OK, so you decided it's time to start getting active. You dust off your gym membership, google the nearest park and start walking or running. Or maybe you get some motivation to try that workout routine you pinned on Pinterest months ago. You push yourself to complete said workout, perhaps you've even logged several weeks worth of workouts, but you can't shake the nagging feeling that quite honestly, you just DON'T want to do it. 

This is most of us as we begin our fitness journey. It sucks, but we're motivated to make a change. So we deal with the suck. But soon there will be a day, or a week, or month where we start to realize dealing with the suck just isn't worth it. 

So what happens now? 

Multiple Choice Time:
A. Give up and go home. This 'working out' thing just ain't for you.
B. Push through it. No pain, no gain, right?
C. Umm, duh....It's much more complicated. 

So, obviously, C. For me, if staying active to be a permanent part of my lifestyle, it HAS to be enjoyable, at least 90% of the time. I've read so many fitness blogs that are like "Push past." OK, yea...there's times when you want to beat your personal record. There's days when you'll run an extra mile, do an extra rep, or add extra pounds to your lift. That feeling is super empowering and those are the days that make you excited about living an active life. 

But, having that mentality for every workout doesn't work for everyone, especially those just starting their fitness journey. I think it's unhealthy - mentally and physically - to "push past" in every situation. Not only could you seriously injure yourself, it's not sustainable. If every workout is this horrible chore, you're going to find excuses to avoid it.This is basically where I was, mentally, in my high school story. I hated the physical activity I was doing but had to "push past" and keep doing it. It didn't help me in any way to continue to do an activity I hated doing, and instead I developed some seriously unhealthy views about fitness, being active, and even my self-worth.

So, instead..its:

Workout Reflection Time

 Yes, I'm serious. You don't have to break out a journal or anything (though if you want to, that's awesome!), but if you find yourself in a situation where working out is feeling like a punishment, it's worth taking a few minutes to reflect on your fitness journey and where you're headed. It's basically like going on a road trip and getting lost. Would you really continue driving if you have no clue where you're going (well, besides if you were my boyfriend), or would you take the time to pull over, check your GPS, or even your old school map from the dashboard, and get re-focused. Your fitness journal is no different.

Some important questions to ask yourself during your workout reflection:

1) What is my ultimate goal? 
Go beyond the general goals of wanting to lose weight, or get healthy. Push yourself to find a goal that is personal to your and your life. Perhaps you want to be able to coach your child's basketball team, or run a race that supports a cause close to your heart. When you connect your fitness goals to your 'real' life, fitness is no longer an isolated thing. It becomes a part of who you are. Remember: your goal is YOURS. It should not be for anyone else, or compared TO anyone else. When you own your goal, you own your workout. 

2) What about this activity do I really enjoy?
This question can be about how the activity makes you feel emotionally, but I would challenge you to identify what physical movement in your body you enjoy as you are doing it, not just after. Does yoga help the muscles in your spine lengthen and feel more relaxed? Do you enjoy how running helps deepen your breathing? I personally love how kettlebell swings lengthen and pull the muscles in my core and back. The point here is to identify what is enjoyable about physical movement. While you can always enjoy and celebrate your workout when you complete it, it's key to enjoy the workout as it is happening. When you identify and focus on this aspect, you begin to view the movement, and the exercise as a treat, rather than a punishment. But what if you can't even find ONE single thing that you physically enjoy during the exercise....? Don't worry, keep reading....

3) What other activities can I try that I haven't yet? 
It's no secret - most women are focused on cardio and that usually means treadmills, cycles, ellipticals, and other  hamster on a wheel type machines. If this is what's holding you back from working out, then it's okay to let it go and find something else! You can still reach your goals with weights (my personal FAVE), yoga, zumba, and all the other amazing new ways to stay active. If you've never ventured further than the treadmill, now's time for a (walking) lap around the gym. Look at every single machine. Check the schedule for upcoming classes. Don't be afraid to go to the weights section. Every gym has trained staff that, at minimum, can guide you on how to properly utilize a machine or free weight. No gym; no problem! Spend 5-10 minutes on Pinterest, and you can find every kind of bodyweight routine imaginable. The point here is that there are SO many ways to move your body, and especially when starting out, it is important to be respectful of your body and the exercises and movements that your body enjoys, that motivate you and help you reach your goals.

Exercise should NOT be a punishment, or a chore. Being active should be enjoyable! 
Finding movements and exercises that you enjoy, building a variety of workouts in your routine, and allowing yourself to deviate from your "plan" depending on how your body feels is key. Some days you may need to walk instead of run those miles. That's better than no miles, right? Accepting where you're at in your fitness journey, and focusing on enjoying the journey to a better you is what will create change.

This is not a battle of how much suckiness can you deal with, but a journey of finding activities that help you become a more vibrant, healthy, well-rounded version of yourself. 

I'll be real: All that I just said above is really hard work. Like, super hard. 
Before I began lifting weights, my only workout experience was treadmills and ellipticals. I hated both because I had no goal in mind, and I was bored. I hated myself because I couldn't run fast enough, or far enough as other people. So I frequently quit, because no one wants to constantly do something they feel unsuccessful in.  

It took some serious soul- and internet - searching for me to identify my ultimate goals, besides just looking good naked. I decided I wanted to complete an elite obstacle course race because, for me, that is one of the coolest ways I can prove to myself my mental and physical toughness. That goal is all about ME growing as a person. After that, I accepted that I'll never be a marathon runner. I have friends that do long-distance running, and it was hard to accept that I would never get to bear that medal along with them. However, I don't just don't enjoy running. After 5 miles I'm bored. That's just me, and I accept that. Trying to push myself to run 26 miles was a losing battle because I didn't enjoy it, and I didn't want to continue to associate exercise with negative feelings. 

After letting go of someone else's goals and finding my own, I went into experiment mode. I did it all. I payed serious money for all kinds of workout routines. I literally tried every single machine in the gym, just to see if my body enjoyed the workout. I stumbled across kettlebells and finally found my niche. But yours might be hot yoga.. or pole dancing...or crossfit...or ultimate jump roping or water aerobics. (and trust me, I've tried them all in my fitness journey.) Maybe you just need to take it outside instead of being cramped in a gym.

Seriously, this is your time to find something for YOU that you can enjoy. YouTube, and Pinterest allow you to at least test just about every kind of physical activity known to man with little cash. And if you haven't, get on Groupon and Living Social to get discounted rates for a drop-in class.  I continue to be amazed at the amount of neighborhood parks that are adding areas for working out, and Google will be your best friend in locating them. And if you live near a beach, mountains, or other awesome scenery then 1) I kinda hate you because I'm jealous and 2) take advantage of the FREE beauty you have right next to you, and take your movements outdoors. 

Mind-body connections and other earthy-crunchy stuff

Hopefully by now you see the gist of this post is more about your emotional relationship with fitness,and less to do what you're actually doing during your workout. There is no magical pill that will make me suddenly LOVE running long distances, and I'm okay with that. 

When you find an activity that truly fits with you, you'll know it because you suddenly feel more vibrant, not to mention you won't dread lacing up your sneakers to go do it. When you carve time from your busy life to do something that you love, you can't help but feel more fulfilled, self-aware and grateful.

I'm not saying the road to finding the 'perfect' exercise will be an easy one, but know that you're not alone! This blog is created EXACTLY for those of us on our fitness journey. Jump into the comments sections to share how you #OwnYourWorkout and what activities are keeping a smile on your face these days (...but, uh..keep it PG rated please) ;)

Keep it active,

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