Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Why Do You Exercise?

I do some consultation for the healthcare industry and I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a number of individuals and speak to them about their exercise, dietary and lifestyle habits. A large proportion of these people had the same response:

"I've hated exercise since childhood"


"I had a bad experience exercising once"

and even

"I don't like to get hot and sweaty"

It got me thinking - why do I exercise?

I enjoy physical activity and sports at lower intensity levels but the truth is, my training sessions are tough. When I go out into the garage I know that I'm going to be pushing myself to the point where I won't want to continue - the point where that one extra repetition feels like the hardest thing in the world. There is no point in 'sugar-coating' the fact that exercise, especially at the levels that are beneficial, is hard work.

So why do I do it?

No matter how hard the training session has been, afterwards I get a huge sense of achievement - even if I've just managed to add a little weight, do an extra repetition or on some days just get through it. I feel like I just climbed a mountain. That sense of success and elation is powerful and addictive. It's a change of mental and physical state.

While it's nice to maintain a low bodyfat, look good and be able to do lots of cool stuff - it's really about the state change that exercise brings. Everything else is just a bonus for me. And, after 20 or so years of consistent training I know that it works for me.

One thing I've noticed is that people who consistently fail to stick to exercise programmes have one or more of the following traits:

  • They think exercise is a chore and they think the idea of discipline as being negative
  • They overly focus on the arbitrary goals of aesthetics or weight loss
  • They've followed bad advice without first asking "does this make sense to me"  
So, if you've struggled to follow an exercise programme before, try shifting your focus a little. Exercise is your opportunity to set goals and achieve them - not matter what they are. Discipline is a positive thing, especially when you are exercising control over yourself. I think this is one of the major reasons people don't stick to programmes - it's not that they are too hard, it's because they're too easy. Not only do they not achieve results but people don't feel challenged. I mean, if I had to spend the majority of my training time in the fat-burning zone I think I'd go mad. 

When people tell me they dislike exercise I have to laugh to myself as I imagine getting that 20th repetition in a squat set or finishing 100 pull ups and I think, "yeah, me too".

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