Working out is not a war with yourself

09.29.16 |

The fitness culture messaging can be self-destructive

At some point in recent years, the idea of exercising regularly was reframed to be some sort of painful battle with yourself. The fitness community started to spread around internet e-cards that say things like:

“Crawling is acceptable.
Falling is acceptable.
Crying is acceptable.
Blood is acceptable.
Pain is acceptable.

While talking this way may motivate a select few, the average person who is out of shape and perhaps a bit overweight is unlikely to find this appealing. In fact, it becomes a new reason to not exercise because the intensity is intimidating if not uncomfortable. A fitness culture that talks this way sounds more self-destructive than uplifting, and it likely alienates the individual who is uncomfortable with his or her body and not confident in their own ability to keep up with a pace that seems to celebrate blood and pain.

Reframe the way America views excercise

There is a difference between a challenging workout and a painful workout, and as we discussed last week, it’s actually very important that you find an exercise program you enjoy doing. Getting results does not mean beating yourself up in the gym the way sweaty fitness quotes might suggest.

Instead, let’s be a part of an effort to reframe the way America views exercise.

Some suggestions for getting started

  • Start with a program that is too small to fail. Creating Habits of Health is about consistency. You are better off in the long term picking a less intense program that you will keep doing for years to come than picking one that you will quit in a month. Start as small as possible. For some that’s walking 2000 steps a day, for others, that might mean starting with one push-up a day. Those might sound small, but they are a start to a healthy habit, and the only thing more important than starting is continuing.
  • Find an exercise program that you look forward to. You might pick up an active hobby or schedule workouts with friends, for example. If you turn exercise into a battle with yourself, there will be a day when you are simply too tired to fight, which is much different from feeling like you will miss out on something you enjoy if you don’t get out of bed in time.
  • Recognize that everyone starts somewhere. Fitness clubs and gyms are some of the most notoriously intimidating places for an unfit person. When you get started, know that many of the people in the room with you weren’t born natural athletes and that they likely started with you did. As you get more experienced, be welcoming to the new person that might be a bit shy and even a little hesitant.
  • When you encourage someone else to exercise—or yourself even—focus on what you gain rather than you lose. Dropping some pounds is compelling for a little while, but that mentality can crumble under the weight of a hard day. Instead, think about how time in the gym gives you more time with your spouse and with your children.

Let’s take back the conversation around exercise and make it something that everyone can enjoy and benefit from.