How to Make Exercise a Treat, Not Torture

Posted by on May 26, 2014 in Fitness Tips | 0 comments

hula hoopRecently I was talking to a client about lifestyle — in particular diet and exercise. When I asked about how often she worked out, she replied, “I know that I SHOULD exercise but I have so much to deal with now, especially the infertility. I feel that I’m entitled to a break — I need to treat myself — so I am not exercising.”

How sad, AND how counterproductive!

Let’s evaluate her message:

1) I hate to exercise, and I have to force myself to do it.

2) I am so stressed, and making time to do it just stresses me out more.

3) I want to treat myself to make myself feel good because the infertility makes me feel so bad.

As I listened to my client, I realized that she needed help understanding that exercise should be a treat, not torture. I wondered about how she arrived at her conclusion – that exercise was an unhappy, stressful chore – rather than seeing it as a great way to not only blow off steam, but also to get herself in the best shape possible to be fit for fertility.

Think back a moment to elementary school: while gym may or may not have been your favorite period, most say they remember that recess was a blast. Whereas PE followed a strict curriculum, recess was unstructured and fun. This didn’t mean that it was time to do nothing; the games played during those treasured breaks were just as fast-paced and intense as any activity in gym class. Still, the message was loud and clear: unstructured, fun, “playtime” was less effective fitness-wise than a structured class.

The key, then, to turning exercise into a treat rather than torture is to make fitness fun. And the definition of what’s enjoyable in terms of getting in shape will vary from person to person. Some like the structure of an exercise class, but for others, that feels like work.

My advice to those like my client who equate exercise with stress and strain is to think past the usual suspects and consider more free-form, “play” types of activities, including running, swimming, biking, dancing, hiking, yoga, martial arts, walking, roller-skating, rollerblading, and horseback riding. Even hula hooping and jumping rope are excellent cardiovascular workouts.

Working out with a group can also help you stay motivated—your friends are counting on you to show up. Also when you want to give up, classmates and friends can push you and encourage you to not quit.

An effective strategy to becoming active and ultimately fit is to first find three physical activities that you enjoy. The variety helps prevent boredom and also allows you to use different muscle groups each time. Not only does that support better overall fitness, but you may be less sore, which in turn allows you to work out more frequently — with one less excuse for not being active!

Further, the idea that exercising causes stress is a myth. When you are stressed out or feeling anxious, exercise is actually the perfect antidote. After a workout, most people glow.

First they feel good just because they did it. Of course there are also the health benefits, but beyond that, fitness leads to decreased heart rates, less stress, and less depression. Body chemistry adjusts during and after a workout, and the endorphins make people feel more relaxed. Deeper breathing during a workout can also help release tension. Finally, the power of accomplishment leads to positive thinking, which spills over into other parts of life.

When you first start a new exercise routine, your muscles may be sore, but with time and perseverance you will feel your body changing. You will lose inches as well as pounds. You drink more water to stay hydrated and this, in addition to the activity itself, helps improve bowel function. Exercise also allows us in tune with our bodies, and can help us make better food choices.  With time and repetition, your body adjusts to working out and you actually feel more invigorated. This shift actually makes you feel like you physically crave working out!

Taking time for yourself is indeed a treat. When you focus on fitness and prioritize your health and well being, both physical and mental, you are treating yourself — and your future child — right.

Join us and have fun getting fit for fertility. CONTACT US for more information.

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