Sometimes we push ourselves too hard.
I remember when I was with first getting into working out and was a part of a big community, the advice was always to push daily. Make sure you got in that workout. Push push push. Every day was an intense 30-60 mins. ‘Never miss a day’. This is exercise culture. The mindset of pushing your body harder and harder.
I call bullshit. That is HARD for your body. Your body does not want to do that every day – it literally isn’t wired for that. I always wondered why I rarely saw someone complete a program. If they are so great why are they often not completed? You will burn out, or get injured, or lose all motivation. This is not your fault. The mindset is often that we need more willpower, or a better ‘why’, we just need to be more committed, or to just do it. (I think the statistic is that 80% of people who buy a workout will never complete it!)
Your body is telling you to slow down. Yes, your body wants some intensity and strength training but not daily.
Think for a minute about how we moved for most of our existence as humans.. Daily we moved slow a lot. Walking to gather food, parts for the shelter, get water. We lifted heavy things occasionally – lifting the heavier things for a shelter or a dead animal. Once in a while we’d sprint to either chase food or escape being food!
We didn’t choose to go out of our way to exercise because calories were precious. We could, at anytime, go without food and would need our stored calories (glycogen stores and fat) to get us through. We only expended energy in an intense way when it was necessary.
Our genes are almost identical to our ancestors. Our genes do not thrive with the chronic exercise we put it through. This is why we see people giving up on workouts, or injuring themselves, or pushing through pain.
I wrecked my knees because of this mindset. I pushed myself hard every day because the belief is that this is best. Going hard every day will change your body, build muscle, and keep you healthy.
What’s best is listening to your body and taking an ancestral approach. We may not have the same need to hold onto stored fat anymore but that doesn’t mean chronic exercise is good for us. Chronic exercise is a huge stress on your body. Causing chronic release of cortisol and increased oxidative stress/damage. (Plus exercise is not the way to lose fat)
What’s your intention? Recognizing your intention can be key. Putting a reason to why you want to move your body can help!
Is fat loss your goal? Cool, take an honest look at how you’re eating. Cut the grains, vegetable oils, sugar, and legumes.
Want to build muscle? Cool, strength train twice a week with either weights or your own body weight.
Want to increase cardiovascular health and insulin/glucose sensitivity? Sprint. Once every 7-10 days do a short (15-20 minute) sprint session.
And every damn day move. Walk more. Do whatever form of movement lights you up (yoga for me!) but that isn’t too intense. Get up from your desk or off your couch every hour or so to move. So many of us are sitting to commute to work, sitting at work, commute home, and sitting in the evening. Even if we worked out for 30 minutes that doesn’t give us a free pass to sit for the rest of the day.
We don’t need to punish ourselves daily. We can give less and be doing the right thing. We don’t need to feel guilt for missing a workout. Nor do we need to think that our only options for exercise are hitting the gym or committing to a long program. I think this holds people back from doing anything because it’s overwhelming to start.
We need a whole new mindset when it comes to movement. If we could just focus on incorporating movement into our day (and not commit to a 30/60/90 day challenge of 6 days of intense exercise a week) we’d be much better off! But, if you are someone who loves hitting it hard every day and your body feels awesome then that’s great. As long as you’re listening to it, not getting injured, and aren’t exhausted then that’s cool. It’s just my experience that it’s challenging to stick with those intense programs because it goes against the natural inclination of the body.
Ways I try to incorporate movement into my day (I’ll share more on how I exercise in another post):
Twice a week I walk part way to work. One day it’s about 40 minutes, and another day it’s 15 minutes. I choose walking over getting up insanely early to workout. This gives me sunlight in the morning (you know I love that), some fresh air, and moves my body in a natural way.
Get outside on my break. If weather permits I’ll sit outside to eat then spend the rest of my break walking around. Not only does it feel amazing to leave work for a bit but I’m also getting more sunlight! Yay! And depending on the time of year and sun intensity I could be getting vitamin D!
Avoid sitting for long periods. This is much easier at work and a lot more challenging in the evenings at home. I’ll try and leave my yoga mat rolled out so that it’s easy to squat and stretch whilst watching tv. This is still something I need to do better at!
Where can you find more movement in your day? Does the idea of doing less appeal to you?