Why Working Out Isn’t Working Out For You…

One of the first things I hear from every prospective client is: “I hate working out; I’m just doing it because I have to”.   That remark is usually followed by comments like “It’s easy for you – you love it” and “I’m not like you, I don’t get excited about exercise.”  Well, before I tell you why it doesn’t have to be that way  here’s a short story:

I graduated from Babson College with an MBA a number of years ago. I spent two years sitting next to CFO’s, accountants and other people who saw the world through numbers and spreadsheets. I loved the leadership courses and everything else we called “the fluff” but when it came to finance I was a fish out of water. I didn’t know how to read a balance sheet or run a discounted cash flow analysis.  In class, I remember feeling like it was all going right over my head.  I told anybody who’d listen how much “I hate finance” and that I’ll put in the work to get a good grade but that won’t make me like it.  In retrospect, I didn’t HATE finance, I just didn’t know how to approach it and I wasn’t good at it.

So when people tell me they hate working out but will do it because they have to, I know how they feel. However, there’s a big difference between my struggles with finance and my prospective clients’ feelings toward exercise:  Nobody is born knowing and loving finance, but we were all born knowing how and loving to move.  No matter what you’re feeling about exercise now, you used to love it.  You spent your first years exploring the world freely.  You ran, jumped, hopped, and played.  Your body intuitively squatted and deadlifted with perfect form as part of your daily play routine.  These movements were so natural you didn’t even think of them as exercise.  But then, grown ups trained you how to sit still.

Almost everyone falls into some form of academic life at the tender age of six and it’s all downhill from there in terms of physical activity.  We sit more and move less with every passing year and chances are, by the time we’re Thirty, we haven’t moved the way our body was intended to for more than a decade.

Fast forward to that point in life when a doctor tells you that you really need to start exercising.  Or, to that point when you can’t eat the same way that you used to without gaining weight. So what do you do?  If you’re like most people you download a few upbeat songs to your iPhone and join a gym.  Or jog.  Or lift weights.  And, if you’re like most people, after a few gung-ho weeks you run out of steam.  You’re either wandering around the gym wondering what to do next or you’re resting to recover from bursitis, shin splints or lower back pain. WHAT HAPPENED?

In a nutshell, your body wasn’t ready.  You took a body that forgot how it was supposed to move and moved it as if it were the same as it was when you were sixteen.  You see, while your younger body used to move naturally and intuitively, it’s more than likely that over the years you replaced your natural movement with less than ideal mobility patterns and compensations as a result of  your sedentary lifestyle.  Now you’ve reached a point where certain basic movements are no longer intuitive and your body can’t access those patterns. At that point, working out hurts or feels awkward, results are slow, your muscles are sore and injuries happen.

Here is where you need to be honest with yourself: Do you really hate working out? Or, like my finance story, you just don’t know how to do it and you’re “not good at it”? We don’t like doing things we are not good at. It makes us feel awkward and inadequate but it’s 2015 and we all know we need to be active in order to stay healthy. So how do we get from hating it to loving it (Ok….to not hating it)?

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Find things you like to do.  Saying you hate working out is like saying you hate food.  There are some foods you must like and there must be some activities you enjoy…..find them.  Then do them.  A lot.
  2. Start slow and be patient.  If you haven’t moved in a while – don’t look for the killer workouts. Give yourself  six weeks to work on activities that make your body feel good: mobility exercises, stretching, walking and foam rolling.  Do these things consistently.  Every day.
  3. Stop focusing  on how your body looks and start focusing on what it can do. Instead of asking yourself: “what pants/dress size do I fit into”, ask yourself:  “Can I run a mile?  2 miles?  5”? “Can I hold a 30 second plank”? “How much weight was I lifting 3 months ago as opposed to now”? When you focus on improving what you can do the improvements you want in your appearance will follow!
  4. Find experts you trust.  Like any other new skill – give yourself time to learn and make sure you know who you’re learning from. You wouldn’t take legal advice from anyone off the street, right?  Why should your body be any less important? A good place to start is working with someone who teaches you how to work out so eventually you’ll be able to do it yourself.  Make sure you get evaluated  and your body is ready to endure the activity you choose!
  5. Train, don’t just “work out”. Sign up for a 5K, a mud race or anything that scares you enough to make you work for it. It will give you a sense of purpose while you train, it will keep you focused on what workouts you should be doing and will give you the best feeling of accomplishment when you crush that goal. Nothing compares to that feeling of crossing a finish line.
  6. Make it a priority.  Excuses are always there.  Your health may not be.  I’ve heard every time- restrictions and financial-restriction there is as excuses to not exercise.  I understand that life may get in the way and you may need to get creative with figuring out your schedule and/or your budget, but you need to move!  If it means eating out less, giving up Starbucks, or cutting your cable bill in half – do it.  You only get one body – you have to take care of it.

I’ve seen skeptical people catch the fitness bug so many times and it’s like watching magic.  It happens when you find the workout style that challenges you and that you enjoy.  It happens when you invest in it, emotionally, physically (and if you’re a Lulu Lemon fan – financially as well!).

So here’s to re-discovering what your body is capable of and having fun while doing it. — if you focus on that, your exercise regimen and your health might just be fun again!!



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