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  • Writer's pictureJackie

5 Ways to Make Your Workout Your Own

When it comes to workouts, we can feel like we need to “keep up with the Joneses.” Social media tries to sell us one-size-fits-all exercise programs. Group classes, while incredibly motivating, can feel overly competitive. Even our own inner visions of who we want to be (or what we USED to look like) push us in ways that might not actually benefit us. If we take some time to recognize these influences and to focus on our personal workout, we make strides toward greater fitness.

Here are 5 important ways to make your workout your OWN:

Forget “no pain, no gain.”

This antiquated mantra has led to many an injury. Pain is an important signal from the body that we’re pushing it too far too fast. Back off when you feel ANY sharp and/or stinging sensations, including intense cramps. Having said this, some discomfort during workouts is normal and does lead to fitness gains. You can expect some fatigue, burning in the muscles, and perspiration, but even these in the EXTREME should be cause to take your effort down a notch. And between workouts, according to the CDC, “It’s normal to have some pain, stiffness, and swelling after starting a new physical activity program. It may take 6 to 8 weeks for your joints to get used to your new activity level, but sticking with your activity program will result in long-term pain relief.”

Follow the doctor’s orders.

If your physician has told you to avoid certain activities, movements, or intensity levels, please, by all means do so! Not everyone deals with the same health challenges, and different conditions have different exercise parameters. Type 1 diabetics, for example, have very specific blood glucose levels to track. Know the ins and outs of your personal health issues and discuss them in relation to exercise with your doctor.

Make sure you can carry on a conversation.

Unless you are doing a high intensity interval training workout (which is a fairly advanced mode of exercise), then just be sure that during exercise you can chat with someone — with some huffing and puffing happening between sentences. (And if you’re solo, try chanting some inspirational messages to yourself. Sure, it seems silly, but it’s tremendously inspiring!) This is a very individualized factor, and it changes as your fitness changes. Some people can chat while running, others while walking. Again, know what works for YOU. For a good description of the “talk test,” check out this explanation on WebMD.

Meet your body where it’s at.

It will thank you for not making ridiculous demands before it’s prepared to meet them. In other words, know your level of fitness. Many exercise classes, for example, are rated at level 1, 2 or 3 (aka, beginner, intermediate or advanced). There is NO shame in starting at the beginning. In fact, a good instructor will respect you for caring for yourself and gradually gaining fitness by starting at the appropriate level. This is because fitness is built in layers over time. It requires practice, learning, meeting appropriate demands, and staying the course.

Know what you enjoy.

Per the last paragraph, because you have to be in it for the long haul to be fit, find a workout that inspires, challenges, delights, and/or uplifts you. For some, this means a solo hike in the woods. Others may jump at the chance to exercise in a group. Whatever you choose, it should not leave you feeling brow beaten or punished or inadequate. However, a little challenge can go a long way. According to the “effort paradox” , humans highly value activities that require exertion, focus, and a sense of conquest, all of which leaves us feeling extremely rewarded, even without extrinsic rewards. So, look for a balance within your chose activity, settling on one that gives you opportunities to “reach” and also to feel fulfilled. Ultimately, this leads to enjoyment. How many moments of joy are there in the day? (Hopefully, many.) Why not make exercise one of them?

Photo by Kampus Production:


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