Do you look forward to your daily workout? Some people eagerly anticipate the release exercise offers – the chance to work up a sweat and relieve stress. Others approach exercise with a sense of obligation. They HAVE to do it and the main thing they think about is getting it over with. Who do you think will more likely stick with exercise long term – person A or person B? Most importantly, do you have a balanced approach to fitness?
Balanced Approach to Fitness: Do You Have the Right Attitude?
Making exercise a lifetime commitment is about having the right attitude. There are a number of reasons why you might see working out as more of an obligation than something you enjoy. For one, you may be overtraining. Pushing too hard and not giving your body time to rest can quickly lead to fatigue, apathy and even hostility at the thought of having to exercise. It’s important to create a balance between exercise and rest time.
Another reason people have a negative attitude toward exercise is they aren’t clear in their own mind why they’re doing it or they’re simply doing it for the wrong reasons. A study showed women who stay motivated to work out focus on the way it improves specific aspects of their life NOW. For example, most people who exercise regularly know it helps to relieve stress. The stress relief benefits of exercise may be a stronger motivation to work out than the thought of achieving a less well-defined health benefit in the future like thinner thighs or flat abs.
Think about what good things exercise does for you on a daily basis – how it gives you more energy, makes you feel stronger, decreases stress and improves your mood. Consider the daily benefits exercise offers and how it makes your life better in the here and now. It’s easier to stay motivated to do something when you get immediate rewards from it.
Here are some other ways to create balance and find more joy in working out:
Balanced Approach to Fitness: Build Flexibility into Your Workout
Don’t be too rigid and inflexible when you plan exercise into your life. Things happen. There may be days when you can’t do a full workout or you have to do it at a different time of day than you’re accustomed to. Go with the flow. Keep an exercise DVD in your DVD player and take advantage of it when you can. If you can only spare ten minutes to exercise, congratulate yourself on doing something. If you have to break it up into more than one session, that’s okay. You’re in this for the long haul. Don’t beat yourself up when life forces you to do a shorter workout or no workout at all.
Balanced Approach to Fitness: Vary Your Workouts
Doing the same workout over and over leads to psychological staleness. A study published in the Journal of Sport Behavior found people are more likely to stick with a fitness program and get more enjoyment out of it when they change the exercises they do with each workout. Don’t let things get stale. Vary the workout DVDs you do. Challenge your body in different ways with step workouts, spinning sessions, high-intensity intervals, circuits and more. Variety is at the very core of circuit workouts. Make sure your workouts are challenging and diverse enough to keep your body and your mind stimulated. It’ll help you avoid reaching a plateau too.
Balance High-Intensity Workouts with Lower Intensity Ones
When you do a high-intensity workout, do low-intensity exercise the next day for balance. Lengthen your muscles, engage your core and relieve stress with a yoga workout or lighten things up even more with a stretch workout DVD. You don’t need to do a high-intensity workout every day to get the benefits. Doing so will increase your risk of injury and lead to fatigue from overtraining. Strike a happy balance.
Balanced Approach to Fitness: Take a Much Deserved Day off Once a Week
A balanced approach to fitness means rewarding yourself for working hard with a day of rest once a week. If you want to stay active, go outside and take a walk or a nature hike. If you exercise, make it recreational rather than something you’re doing to reach a fitness goal. Plan a fun activity that’ll keep you active if you don’t like the idea of complete rest.
Whatever you do, give your body and mind a break so you can come back with a fresh attitude the next day. There may be occasions where you need to take an unplanned day off due to fatigue or illness. Listen to your body and make the appropriate adjustments. You’ll come back stronger and have a more positive attitude if you give your body rest when it needs it.
Balanced Approach to Fitness: Shorten Your Workouts
Many people still have the mindset that they need to do 45 minutes or an hour of endurance training to get cardiovascular benefits and burn fat. Not so. High-intensity exercise sessions as short as 10 to 20 minutes offer benefits. It’s much easier to motivate yourself to work out if you know you’ll only be exercising 20 minutes. If you’re getting your cardio by hopping on an exercise machine like an elliptical machine or treadmill for an hour, you’re setting yourself up for a tedious, mind-numbing workout you’ll tire of quickly.
Cut back the amount of time you do cardio and increase the intensity. You can get cardiovascular benefits with as little as 4 minutes of exercise if you do it Tabata style (20 seconds maximal intensity work followed by 10 seconds of recover x 8). You’ll get the most benefits if you do several Tabata cycles for a total of about 20 minutes. Still a far cry better than an hour on the treadmill. Tabata-style workouts have the added benefit of improving anaerobic fitness as well.
The Bottom Line?
You’ll get more joy out of exercise and ultimate more benefits if you keep things balanced. Intensity is important but so is variety, rest and recovery. Learn to enjoy the daily, short-term benefits of a good workout rather than concentrating only on a specific fitness goal.
International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:94.
J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Jan;27(1):244-51.
The University of Florida News. “Adding Variety to An Exercise Routine Helps Increase Adherence”
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2013) 12, 612 – 613.
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