We all know the importance of exercise. But it’s also important to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to working out. Here are my top 5 rules for working out that everyone should consider before starting a workout program.
5 Rules for Working Out
Rule #1: Listen to your body.
In today’s sedentary and media-filled world we are increasingly more disconnected to our body. Head on over to your local gym and you’ll see plenty of folks zombie-running on a treadmill with their music blasting while watching subtitles on a television bolted on the wall. There are hundreds of messages out there telling us to ignore pain and push through discomfort. And while I do believe that strength training, endurance training, and flexibility do require a certain amount of pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone to see progress and results, it’s a whole different matter when we think throwing up, bleeding toes, or other “look how tough I am” markers are considered normal.
- Pain is one of your body’s most precious tools of communication. Listen closely to know when a red flag is being waved. Respect your body enough to know when to stop, slow down, or re-evalute. Talk to trained professionals to help with proper form, technique, or (if necessary) rehabilitation.
- Start noticing your body’s other signals. Extreme exhaustion and stress, for example, are good indicators to take things easy. Our metabolic health is critical to everything, and over-doing any workout at the expense of your metabolism usually results in major damage later down the road.
- Hunger and thirst are the most basic signals. Eat to move. Drink when you’re thirsty. Replenish fluids and electrolytes wisely.
Listen to your body. No matter what.
Rule #2: Do something you love.
There’s a myth out there that exercise is some sort of torture device to get a body that meets society’s ideals. Um, no. Wrong on all levels.
Here’s an experiment worth trying: Head on over to a playground and observe children at play. Notice how they explore movement. Notice how much energy they have.
Remember that an object in motion tends to stay in motion (thank you, Mr. Newton)… If you don’t love what you are doing it probably won’t last long. And even if you have the sort of militant discipline to keep at something you hate, wouldn’t you rather invest in something that brings you joy?
Haven’t found what you love yet? No worries! Keep coming back to Fitness Friday to read up on all sorts of opportunities to move and exercise. Be willing to try something. Give it a good chance. Be willing to move on to something else if you hate it. Bike, swim, dance, hike, walk, garden, play with your kids, ski, surf, do yoga… the possibilities are endless. Find something that makes you happy.
Rule #3: Start slow.
If you’ve been really inactive for a long time don’t expect to run a marathon in a month. Make a decision to start your journey toward healthier living, and don’t plan on reaching your destination for a long time (or ever). It’s about the journey. Even if it means you start by walking around your block three times a week. If it’s more than what you did before then you are on the right path. The real key is to start.
Rule #4: Keep at it.
Once you’ve begun, keep going. When it feels appropriate, add more into your own workout routine. Add more time, or weight, or do it faster… all the while be sure to keep following the previous rules. Keep at it does not mean you have to workout every single day. It doesn’t mean that you’ll always feel like you did better than the day before. Keeping at it is about a commitment to a healthy life style.
Rule #5: Know when to take a break.
There’s a lot of pressure out there to be faster, stronger, better. And while I do believe that many people fall victim to lame excuses for not moving more, there are others who don’t stop when they should.
- Feeling sick? Let your body rest.
- Over did the weights yesterday? Let your body heal.
- Didn’t sleep last night? Maybe you should do something gentle and recuperating.
- Just had a baby? Cuddle up and know that you can workout later.
- Stressed to the max? Listen to your body.
These simple rules aren’t revolutionary, but they will shape the way you approach fitness, body image, healing, nutrition, and yourself. Respect your body. Listen to it. Move it. Rest it. Nourish it.
Tell me… what’s your rule for working out?