Q: How do I stick with doing what I know I should? I am pretty good about exercise, but I eat things I know I shouldn’t. I just have to make myself do it, right?
A: I talked about motivation in the first part of my response to this question. You should read that post, but the essence is about finding a driver within you so that you aren’t making yourself do anything, but wanting to do something for your health (eating right, exercising, etc).
In this part, I want to address the ‘something’. Let’s look at exercise first. Some people have this idea that you have to go to a gym, feel awkward, get super sweating, wear cheap flip flops in the shower, and rush off to work late and sweating all over again. You have to sit (literally or figuratively) on a machine, staring at a wall, mirror, magazine or small TV screen. You have to do it for at least 60 minutes or you won’t lose any weight.
Does this sound enticing to you? No, I’m sure it sounds more demoralizing to you than enticing. As a work out addict, that doesn’t appeal to me at all. If it doesn’t appeal, you will dread it. If you dread it, you will have to make yourself do it, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.
So how do you do it? You need to find what you enjoy doing, and do that.
|I had to stop during a CUYOP run to get
this photo of the great scenery I get to run in
OK, that’s too simple, right? Well, not really. For me, I learned that I prefer outdoor exercise, so I took up cycling and running. I use machines in doors when weather really keeps me off the roads, but I combined those two things with my commute to balance my time (check out my post on CUYOP, and the Twitter hashtag #cuyop), get some varied scenery (I have a few routes I can take, including a nice riverfront section), and found that when I have an actual goal, I enjoy it more (i.e. getting to my office vs. just running a loop around my home). So I found exercises I generally enjoy more than others, and found modalities for doing those exercises that I prefer.
I also have gym exercises I prefer, so I try to do those more than those I don’t prefer or care for (I’ll run on a treadmill, but find it really mind-numbing, same for upright bikes though oddly not for recumbent bikes). Then the question is how do you do them and for how long. I recently had a long discussion with a client who couldn’t get past the idea that she needed to do at least 60 minutes of cardio to make it worth anything. That’s just not so. The key is not to do things at a constant pace. Use intervals on a machine where every so often, it makes you go faster or deal with more resistance. Pick an undulating hill course (on a machine or in real life). Use intervals out on the road by going faster for a minute, and then slower for a minute in a pattern throughout your run/walk/ride/rollerskate/XC skiing/etc. The run/walk approach is a great way to get into running and build your cardio-respiratory ability while not over-taxing your system. You can use a stop watch set to signal each minute, or better yet, download any of the great, free interval apps for your smart phone (I use Seconds for iOS).
Scientifically, intervals work better than constant work as the up and down in effort sparks a fat burning response that can last for hours after your workout. As a result, you don’t need to do it as long for the same result as if you did a constant effort workout. The key is to not just choose an interval workout, but actually do it. By that I mean when the interval hits, move faster. It’s pretty easy to get lost in your reading or a show and ignore the machine telling you to pump it (or miss the point where you were supposed to start running again if you’re out on the road).
Unscientifically, the variation keeps it interesting, and keeps you engaged (since you have to pay attention to when the interval hits, and you’ll want to pay attention to when its done so you can slow down). I started using a second interval program on my elliptical to spice things up, so I split my workout between the base interval program and a Speed Work program I found that really kicks my butt and is super fun.
I was recently participating in a month-long competition that included doing 100 burpees a day. Burpees are a mix of a squat thrust and a jump (unless you do the cross fit version, which substitutes the squat thrust with laying down on the floor). They’re great, and terrible, too. I found that I really dreaded them, and would procrastinate starting, which just ate into the rest of my workout time. Due to an injury, I had to stop doing them before the competition ended, but I also realized I should have dropped them from my routine because of how I felt about doing them and the cost that feeling was having on my workout overall.
The same exact story applies to healthy eating. Kale is the greatest food in the world and the only thing you should eat according to some fanatics. What if you absolutely hate it? Well, then, forcing yourself to just eat kale will be a recipe for not sticking with healthy eating. Find healthy things you love (and I’m not talking about packaged foods that advertise low fat or low sodium, but actual food that was alive at some point (whether veggie or animal or both is up to you). If you hate chicken but want to avoid red meat, experiment with turkey, seafood or veggie-based meat alternatives to keep your protein up. If you don’t like leafy greens, try baby broccoli, which is a hybrid of kale and broccoli. Try some foreign veggies like baby bok choi (aka youcsai) or daikon. Open up those spices you haven’t been using to give your dishes a kick. Check out some of my recipes for inspiration, or look at Twitter for healthy cooking ideas – it’s LOADED with them.
So, find your true motivation, and then find the things you enjoy doing. Just find how to transform your life into one you choose to really live healthily and fully. That’s how you enlighten.your.body.