What is your attitude to exercise and why does it matter?
Over the last 8 years I have trained hundreds of women and I have noticed that there are a few main “attitudes” to exercise that really affect how often and how much effort women put into their training. This is turn affects how much they benefit from the exercise in terms of well being and health. The ideal is someone who thinks this way:
- Exercise is a part of my life. It is non-negotiable. I treat training the same way as I would treat a very important meeting. I schedule it in. If plans change and I am not able to attend I make a different plan. I don’t see exercise as a “chore” or an “obligation” it is just something I always do by way of self care. Its like washing my hair or cleaning my teeth. I would never consider not training for any length of time.
Not surprisingly, women who see exercise like a thing that they “just do” on the whole seem to be very fit specimens who are well aware of what exercise does for them – the way they look and feel. They have built exercise into their routine even if they have a lot on. Every now and then they will have to miss training (illness, travel, injury, sick kids or ageing parents) but because they are so consistent at all other times it makes barely any difference. Most of the women in this group are not training to “lose weight” or “stay thin”. They love the way that exercise makes them feel.
- Exercise is something I see as a chore or an obligation. I don’t really enjoy it. It is something on my “to do” list. I sometimes feel resentful that I “have” to do it. I often feel quite good after a session but I never seem to remember this when I think about going.
The women in this group are a bit “hit and miss”. They tend to go through periods where they are being “good” and train on a regular basis. They then disappear for weeks at a time. Some women in this group are lucky enough to be in good shape but most of them know that with a little more consistency they could be looking and feeling a lot better. The allure of a “week off” or maybe a few months off will often win though with exercise being seen as a hard slog. The women in this group also see exercise as a way to “lose weight” and they rarely focus on all of the other benefits that have nothing to do with weight loss.
- Exercise is something I do “if I have time”. I like it but I just slot it in when I can. And more often than not I don’t have time. It is low on my list of priorities.
I worry about the women in this group because getting regular physical exercise should be a priority as you get older. What use is money, a career, family if you are in chronic pain or suffering from a disease or brittle bones? Why wouldn’t you make sure you did everything you could to get healthy and maintain that good health well into old age? It is also overlooking the amazing boost to your well being that regular training can give you. But I guess that sometimes is better than not at all. The women in this group (annoyingly) seem to get frustrated because they are not seeing any results from the small amount of training they do.
- Finally there is a group of women who do not exercise at all. Some of them are slim and control their weight by restricting their intake of food. This might allow them to stay in a healthy weight range but it means that all of the benefits of exercise (bone density, increased energy, cardio vascular and heart health, maintenance of muscle mass, prevention of many chronic illnesses and diseases) may not be coming their way. Others are overweight but have given up. It all just seems too hard. I think this group too would be better to focus on the benefits to well being and mindset exercise can provide and get away from seeing it as a weight loss tool.
What group are you in? Would you like to become someone who trains out of habit? These women rarely have to have that conversation in their head about ” I don’t want to go to training but I really should”. They have just got up and done it.
I have seen women who have successfully become habitual exercisers. I think the secret it to “fake it until you make it”. Keep showing up and one day you will find yourself showing up without even realising it.
Not to complicate things even further – but there are 2 ways to be “habitual”. Some people prefer to train most days because then they do not have to have that mentally exhausting conversation around “do I or don’t I?”
Other people find it easier to be more “realistic” with themselves as they know they will not keep up daily training and they will quit and do nothing. So they make three times or two times a week a habit. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.