I hear from clients and gym-goers all the time that they know they should run to lose weight, but they just can't stand running.
Or they know they should lift weights, but they really just don't want to and have no desire whatsoever to pick up that mode of exercise.
Why do we do this to ourselves when research has shown over and over that forcing ourselves to do something just because we think we should actually results in us doing less of the desired behavior or abandoning it altogether?
With the barrage of information online these days, not to mention the plethora of fitness magazines and books available, we frequently get stuck in this place of "should."
I should do this. I should do that. I need to do it this way. There's no mention of what we would actually like to do as being a viable option.
We read an article about how distance running is making us fat and how we need to be doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) instead.
A blog post lists the 5 most effective exercises that we should be doing but aren't.
Our colleague at work tells us about how amazing her Body Pump class is.
A friend raves about her CrossFit box and the crazy workout she just completed.
And all this information is great, but it makes us forget that exercise should be enjoyable on some level. Yeah, it won't always be in our comfort zone and we'll need to work hard and endure some muscle soreness, but getting in shape doesn't have to be a miserable slog.
We don't need to punish ourselves with a routine that leaves us sore for a week or that we dread doing.
We keep hearing about all the things we should be doing. We need to flip that around and ask ourselves, "What do I enjoy doing?"
Doing something that makes us feel good and that we enjoy (or at least tolerate well) is critical for long-term adherence. There's only so much willpower and motivation to go around, no matter how badly we want something.
Sooner or later, we'll start skipping workouts and not giving it our all consistently. We'll be frustrated by our lagging efforts and perceived lack of willpower and discipline.
And even if we get the results we want, they won't last. Life has a way of throwing us curveballs, and if we don't get some kind of immediate reward from our choice of movement (enjoyment, stress release, etc), then our chances of sticking with it is next to zero.
If we think the only kind of workout that counts is one that leaves us lying in a puddle of sweat and nauseated, how likely are we to do it if we're already mentally and physically exhausted from stressors in our lives? And could you keep that up for the rest of your life? I know I couldn't.
When we purposefully choose our preferred mode of movement, we are giving ourselves the best chance at success.
Some goals will require certain types of workouts (half-marathons require lots of distance running, physique competitions require weight training, etc), but for the most part, we get to choose exactly how we want to move and how much.
There are many paths to health, fat loss, and fitness. Don't get caught up in all the hype and the do's and don'ts, and just move.