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You have probably read something like this and other similar obnoxious advertisements at your local gym. And it annoys me every time. Can you imagine telling a child that they have to run 5 laps around the back yard to earn dinner? NO! Of course not. So why do we do that to ourselves? We often think in terms of:
30 min of biking for 2 pieces of chocolate
You can’t blame yourself for this type of thinking. It’s taught to you in just about every women’s magazine out there. But what would happen if we flipped our thinking?
2 pieces of chocolate for 30 min of biking
While I’m being a bit playful here, I’m serious about the principle. We have to start thinking about fueling our bodies for our busy days and physical activity rather than burning off our food and the associated guilt from eating. From a psychological and emotional perspective it is totally unproductive because it fuels the notion that eating is bad and is a sin that must be “atoned for.”
Why don’t you try turning your food/exercise equation on its head and let me know how it goes!
At the moment I have a book project I’m developing (in my brain for now). It’s geared towards helping people repair their relationship with exercise. If I was to write such a book, what would you want covered?
*In order for my exercise "to count" I have to do it 6 days a week, for at least an hour
*In order for my exercise "to count" I have to feel worn out after
*In order for my exercise "to count" I can't eat anything "bad" after
Ok, do any of the above statements sound vaguely familiar? When you see it written down, doesn't it looks somewhat abusive? Many people create totally unrealistic expectations of what their exercise should look like. And when they don't live up to those expectations, it's thrown out the window all together!
The Center for Disease Control has posted exercise guidelines for healthy adults. It states that in order to reap the health benefits from exercise, try to aim for 30 min of moderate exercise most days (not all) of the week. THIS INCLUDES: walking, riding a bike, doing water aerobics, mowing the lawn...perhaps hula hooping?
NEWS FLASH! You do not have to rake your body over the coals to benefit from physical activity. So lets let go of unrealistic, black and white goals around exercise. Your best bet to "making it count" for the long run is to find exercise that you not only enjoy but can sustain.
**Note: I tell all of my clients that a pre-requisite to any physical activity is consistent, adequate nutrition.
What are you feel-good exercise tips?
Recently at the pool I admired a guy swimmer’s newly peroxided hair. The guys around him said, “Yeah, we call him the Blond Baller now.” “Argh!” I screamed. For weeks I had been trying to come up with a female swim power phrase, the equivalent for “macho.” Our language doesn’t have many, or any, female swim power words.
The Blond Baller is a superfast sprinter, so I assumed the “Baller” part of his nickname referred to his fast (swim) stroke. I posted my female swim power language dilemma on the US Masters swim forum and got some interesting suggestions, many of them, ironically, from men—Piscine Goddess, Aqua Aphrodite, and Buff Babes—but none met my criteria of using body language words to convey power. I had my own pitiful list: Ball Busters (later on that one), Water Sweepers (thinking of housekeepers), Power Surgers, Tough-Breasted. Bleah.
Meanwhile, another thread on the masters swim forum was talking about Janet Evans’s possible return to Olympic swimming. A few guy masters swimmers close to her age began worrying that she would be able to beat them. One guy posted, “I used to think I was safe from being ‘chicked’ by masters women roughly near my age in distance races.” Another guy then suggested the term “outchicked” as a way to describe a powerful female swimmer, but this suggested a relational kind of power (aka “Ball Buster”) rather than pure female power.
I found some good nicknames for Olympic female swimmers: Faith Leech, a 1956 Australian Olympic freestyler, was known as the “Flying Fish” because of her streamlined length and “elegant” technique. Mary T. Meagher was known as “Madame Butterfly,” and AP quotes described Janet Evans as “a Force of Nature,” “a whirling dervish of a swimmer,” “perpetual motion.” There was one female-only suggestion from the masters swim forum that I sort of liked: “bitchin,’” as in “bitchin’ sprinter” (though it still has a slightly negative ring).
In the back of my mind, though, I kept thinking “Big Girls.” At a lot of swim meets, the really powerful female swimmers are big. Big shoulders, big arms, big backs, big quads, big muscles overall. They aren’t the majority, but they aren’t the minority either. I think of swimming as a sport where it’s OK to be “sized.” Big Women doesn’t do it for me—it’s gotta be Big Girls, to tie in to the link from childhood on that girls are supposed to be small. Petite. Svelte. Even if very strong, you can’t look it, else you risk being called manly or compared to former East German steroid-enhanced female Olympic swimmers.
I’ll take Evans’s “Force of Nature” any day, but I also want to say to every girl and woman who swims (or does any type of physical activity for that matter): Be Big. Take up a lot of space. Be a Big Force of Nature, a Big Whirling Dervish, a Big Powerful Bitchin’ Swimmer who doesn’t care about “outchicking” guys, but just wants to move with power and strength.
Be a Big Girl and be proud of it.
In the space of 7 days I had 3 clients tell me that they recently discovered that they truly loved getting physically active. Yes, I mean exercise (a dreaded word for some of you, I know, bear with me). And I had to blog about this because all 3 stated that they started loving exercise when two things happened:
1. They were eating enough on a consistent basis. They were no longer overly restricting but getting adequate fuel to be able to sustain a workout.
2. They were NOT doing it with the intention of trying to lose weight. They were exercising because it was fun and felt good.
Now that, my friends, is what makes my job feel totally worthwhile. So many people, particularly women, dread working out. And I’d gamble that those women who hate exercise choose an activity they hate (does 60 minutes on the elliptical sound like hell to anyone else?) and are overly hungry (ie on a diet and trying to lose weight).
Just imagine what would happen if you had enough energy to dance your way through a zumba class, hike through the mountains, go for a stroll with a friend, take a restorative yoga class. If this sounds like something only dreams are made of, consider my tips for finding peace with exercise.
1. Don’t call it exercise if you hate that word.
2. Don’t do it in the name of weight loss. Check out this blog post for more detail as to why this point is so important.
3. Select activities that rejuvenate your body, not exhaust or deplete it.
4. Make sure that the types and amounts of exercise you are doing alleviates mental and physical stress, rather than contributing to or exacerbating stress.
5. Find the things you genuinely enjoy and NEVER with the intention of providing pain or punishment.
While my 5 tips may fly in the face of the advice in every Shape magazine article ever written, they just might help you find a happier, healthier balance when it comes to keeping your body strong and healthy.
And now, I gotta’ get out of my office to take stroll!