In the 60’s Timothy Leary lead the charge of people changing their lives by becoming more aware, more present, and less rigid in their pursuit of life. He decreed that taking Acid (LSD) would help us brake free from the tight pigeonholed structure that our society had evolved into.
Now we are in a time period where life’s rigidity seems to have taken hold again. People work longer hours, drive further distances (often through stressful traffic), eat faster less healthy food, and on the whole, have a hard time focusing on anything for too long. Consequently, we have a mass populous that is uptight and unhappy with whom they are or how they look and live.
But I feel we can take a page from Dr. Leary’s book – but not with drugs – with exercise. It’s very simple. When stressed and tense, take a moment to become more present and aware through exercise. The release of physical tension that exercise brings will allow for emotional clarity to enter and you’ll likely find a better perspective or solution to allow you to “break free” of what’s bringing you down.
So stop worrying about having a meal that was “cheating” (you know I hate that word) from your self-imposed strict “diet” (another taboo word for my clients). Quit obsessing over a missed day of cardio. Stop spewing chronic negative energy over a job you hate or a relationship that is detrimentally dysfunctional.
Just take each moment when you are agonizing over whatever you agonize over, and just BE. 90% of what we humans worry about (excluding serious illnesses and financial strife) is trivial on the grand scheme of things. Be more aware, be more present, be more willing to relax and breathe. Then, drop and give me 20!
I’m serious. Get on the floor and do some push ups, or stand up and do jumping jacks, burpees, crunches, triceps dips off the back of your desk. It doesn’t matter what it is – just that you take that moment to do something physical.
It’s all about the baby steps. If every time you find yourself stressed out/tensed up (excluding when you’re driving of course), you quickly leap into 1-2 minutes of any high intensity exercise, you will gain not only physical release of some tension, but usually a fresh clarity in your mind. Once you start getting addicted to that renewed clarity and reduction of tension – you’ll be more open to changing what’s not working in your life (job, relationships, body, perspective).
Sorry Timothy, we don’t need acid this time to Turn on and Tune In – we just need exercise to get the juices flowing into mind-expanding perspectives of how we can create happiness for ourselves.
Now stand up and JUMP! (I did right after writing this!)
When I was a very slim 20-something it seemed like every woman who was overweight would say to me “wait until you hit 40, then you won’t be skinny anymore.” Well 40 came and went and I was still underweight. Then it became “ha ha when you hit menopause, then you’ll see!” Menopause abruptly came to call when I was 48 and I’m still not overweight at 52.
But all these forecasts of my physical doom haunted me for years and as I became a fitness professional I looked hard at why age 40, or menopause would automatically trigger weight gain for so many women. What I discovered was that it’s not so much about the age, as it is about what lifestyle you lead, any medical conditions, and your perspective.
Let’s tackle the 40’s first. People say your metabolism slows down by age 40. While there is truth to the fact that metabolism (“the chemical process that results in production of energy and elimination of waste“) does slow down with age, it is not automatic or inevitable. The typical adult slows down their energy output voluntarily, i.e., they work longer hours, drive longer distances, and are more sedentary when home. Also, as we get older we eat more, having more money as well as a wider taste pallet, therefore causing our calories to increase.
Menopause is a different hurdle. There is no question that with the absence of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone (all present in a pre-menopause woman), the body will gain weight and the metabolism will slow down. But again, if an individual stays consistently active and maintains a balance between calories in vs. calories out, the weight gain can be slight and manageable (as it’s been in my case).
Medically speaking, often with the onset of menopause, the thyroid will also give out, tending towards the hypo-activity (under active) which definitely causes weight gain and a loss of energy. But with proper medication, the missing thyroid output is restored and that portion of the weight gain can be reduced. Also, if menopause is a result of a full hysterectomy, or induced as a result of cancer treatments, a woman can experience rapid weight gain. This weight is very stubborn to remove. That’s when our last criteria comes into play.
Perspective. We are a society focused upon the hollow ideals that women have to have perfect bodies and look young and fit all the time. My mother used to say it was too bad that the Zoftig bodies of her generation weren’t in vogue any more because that was a more realistic perspective of women’s bodies and the beauty that they possess. I have a client who would be considered over weight by most standards. Despite her roundness, she is super fit and flexible, and loves to salsa dance and take yoga. She eats well, laughs a lot, and feels sexy anyway. Her husband agrees whole heartedly!
So if you exercise regularly, eat well and clean, and can achieve whatever reasonable physical challenge or goals you desire, then you are perfect the way you are. Your body as it ages is going to change. In some ways I look better than I did when I was 20, and in other ways I don’t. But my perspective is that I can keep up with my 7 year old, I can climb rocks, trees, and lift weights for hours at the gym, and I can sit on my butt and drink wine and eat chocolate and not stress over it. So I’m okay, and life is good. Now if only these hot flashes would go away! Wink wink.
Okay, so you’ve finally gotten the exercise bug and are working out on a regular weekly basis. You’ve embraced that it’s not all about cardio (resistance training is your friend) and you are joyously seeing results! Then the true “gym-rat” addiction takes hold. You dig deeper, start lifting heavier and more often, and spend more time in general obsessing about your workouts.
But suddenly you find you are no longer losing weight, or growing muscle (whichever your goal may be). You’ve plateaud and you can’t figure out why. You change your routine trying in vein to achieve new results. You increase your cardio, throw in more more stressful combination core/lifting moves, and then you add another day and worse yet, maybe even cut back on calories! Soon you’re training six, maybe even seven times a week. Still your results are small, your body is exhausted, you no longer sleep well or you’re sleepy all the time.
Now you’ve overtrained! It’s true, you can work out too much. The body needs time to recover. I have seen it many times, clients who understand not to work the same body part two days in a row (so the muscles have time to heal and grow), but they seem to ignore that the body as a whole needs time off. They fully understand the need for protein and healthy carbs to help the muscles replenish and thereby burn fat, but they get so preoccupied with scale results that they taper back on food. Facing a wall to their success, they often suffer discouragement and therefore go to the other extreme and slack off on their workouts and nutrition.
Any of this sound familiar to you? If it does, here’s the key to stopping this yo-yo cycle of over training, followed by under training. REST! It’s that simple. If you work out more than one-hour five times a week, you MUST rest (i.e., NO exercise) for the remaining two days. These do not have to be consecutive, but at least every three to four days there is a day of rest.
Sleep is also an essential factor to your goals. A minimum of seven hours is needed per night to help your muscles and organs recover from the onslaught of constant weight lifting and barrage of non-stop food intake that goes with this kind of training.
As for stress, everyone should know by now that stress is a huge factor in weight gain and there’s another reason for the two days off. Life is all about moderation. During those two days you can spend time playing with the kids, or playing as a big kid does and enjoy life!
With proper rest and sleep, a consistent level of nutritionally healthy calories, and time spent decompressing – you will not overtrain, and you WILL continue to see results.
Speaking of kids, this is even more important advice for children. I’ve seen many parents or coaches pushing children involved in sports to train or practice every day. Their bodies need even more rest than an adult body, and their emotions need it too. Driven too hard to train for a sport, they’ll likely lose their passion for it, and/or their school work will suffer due to their body’s exhaustion.
“It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness” ~Leo Tolstoy.
One of my missions as I endeavor to spread physical and emotional health via Dane Life Fitness is to help Women find their self-esteem, and not be martyrs. The number one culprit behind women’s’ feelings of inferiority, jealousy, and lack of appreciation of what and who they are is the ever-in-your-face demand that we be physically perfect. As I scour DLF’s pinterest site (www.pinterest.com/danelifefit) daily, I am saddened by how many posts are focused on quick ab fixes, ab challenges, killer thigh and butt routines, and boost your metabolism diets — all affixed to photos of 20-something fitness models who spend 6-8 hours a day exercising, eating specifically limited diets, posing with just the right lighting, and of course, photo re-touching! There is NO way your average 30-50 year old woman (whether career woman, stay home mom, or both) can compete.
My clients vent why can’t I look like J-Lo, or Heidi Klum?! My response, because you’re not them! You are you, you have a different set of circumstances. You must work with what and who you are. Yet off they go, sweating away precious hours of life all the while miserable, or following fad diets to little success — again feeling deprived and unhappy. So I ask, what price do we pay for fitness. How many hours of your day, week, month, year — life — do you spend exercising? How many hours a day to you think (and in some people’s’ case agonize) about what you will/should eat, when, how much, and how it will affect you? Is your quest for fitness enhancing your life, or draining away your spirit?
A gentleman named Tim Ferriss wrote a book (“The Four-Hour Body”) in which he outlines a plan of minimal exercise, minimal sleep, and minimal food choices to achieve rapid weight loss and physical fitness. Some of his theories fly in the face of conventional fitness (i.e., claims that cold showers can burn calories; no dairy except for cottage cheese; no whole grains or fruit of any kind; minimal weekly exercise, and a binge day once a week). Many busy, exercise-hating individuals will find Mr. Ferriss‘ plan enticing to say the least. However, I again look at how much happiness there is to be had in such a restrictive diet, cold showers, and for me who loves exercise, an absence in my daily dose of exercise-induced endorphins.
But happiness is ultimately in the hands of the beholder. Decide what/who you want to be and what makes you happy. If you like exercise and are a fruit-a-holic — then go for it — in moderation, and be happy. If you hate exercise and want to eat the same few things day after day so you don’t have to think about it and can spend the rest of your time enjoying all that life has to offer — go for it and be happy.
For me, life is best served in moderation.
Take care of the have-to’s and the need-to’s, but make sure to do some of the want-to’s as well. This applies to everything from how you spend your money to your exercise or what you eat. There are certain have-to’s when it comes to exercise and nutrition (walk, stretch, hydrate) and definitely some need-to’s (resistance training, cardio, 4 servings of veggies and fruit), but do not forget the want-to‘s as they are often the most rewarding (rollerblading, dancing, ice-cream).
Fitness is different that physical perfection. Be fit. Be healthy. Make sure whatever you do allows your body to move the way it needs to, have energy, have a healthy internal system (circulation, heart, lungs). Then you will have fitness but not at the expense of happiness.
How many times a day do you worry about your weight? Do you spend hours wishing you looked differently, obsessing about what you’re eating (or not eating), and/or trying every single “get six pack abs” video, exercise pins on Pinterest, and/or radical weight loss diets?
We are a Nation of obsessed bodies! I have clients, friends, and family who spend massive amounts of time fretting over what they can eat, when they can eat, and how they can change their diets to accommodate quick weight loss, while still enjoying all the things they love to eat and drink. First everyone followed The Zone, now it’s Paleo; P90X was replaced with Insanity (literally).
On DLF’s Pinterest page (http://pinterest.com/DaneLifeFit/), I see at least 25 new and different “these are the best exercises for toning the abs” pins every day! Of course, many of the people (mostly women) who pin these to their boards might not remember (or know) that the models in the pictures are usually women in their early 20’s, who work out 2-3 hours a day, and eat a very strict and regimented diet.
I am routinely questioned by clients obsessed with reinventing the workout to affect a change faster and better: is alternating sprints with incline walking better use of a treadmill than 40 minutes of straight running? Are core workouts on a ball or TRX cable better than old-fashioned weight lifting (now re-named the less intimidating “resistance training”)?
Dear friends and followers, the answers to these questions that plague you day and night, and all that you obsess about when it comes to nutrition and exercise, is this:
ACCEPTANCE is the first step.
Accept your body type.
Are you an ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph? (Look ‘em up!) Take two people of equal age, height, and frame. They may look the same, but they can have a weight differential of as much as 15 pounds. There’s more to a healthy body than an average height-weight scale that our doctors impose upon us. There’s more to you than what size shirt you wear.
Accept that permanent change happens slowly.
There are no quick fixes to re-shaping the body, especially if you want these changes to stick. Remember too, that a”diet” implies temporary. Therefore, as soon as you resume your “normal” (old habits) of eating, you will gain weight again. As for exercise, if you have or make little time for it, or just plain dislike it – no video, class, trendy running of 100 steps in Brentwood will work in the long run because you will get bored, or see so few results that you’ll give up.
So rather than obsessing, let’s accept. With that hurdle jumped, we can address those issues that we can actually do something about.
Set a realistic goal for what your body can look like.
Once you figure out what your body type really is, and how much time you can give to exercise and proper nutrition (see the points below), you can set a realistic goal – one that you can actually achieve and then feel satisfaction and accomplishment about.
Where there’s a will there’s a way. If your job or home responsibilities are too stressful, I guarantee with a little “un-panicked” soul-searching you can find a way to make even a small change that will allow you enough time to schedule regular and consistent exercise. Between the positive stress-reducing effects exercise offers, and the changes in your body that will please your head, even that small change will result in something huge.
As for financial concerns, there are very inexpensive options to exercise and nutrition that you can adopt. You don’t have to join a gym or shop at Whole Foods to make these changes.
Again – change happens slowly. So make a plan, and step by step execute it. Think of all the time you sat around wishing and obsessing instead of doing. If you start taking baby steps towards your goals – and stay focused – within a matter of months, you will be closer (or even there) to achieving what you wish for.