As a certified personal trainer, I see a lot of clients and gym members who are motivated to change their lives, because they are convinced the loss of a few (or many) pounds will dramatically improve their outlook.
There is nothing wrong with being motivated by vanity or even the belief that happiness lies inside a pair of skinny jeans or a little black dress, but “looking good” is not a strong enough motivator for adopting and sticking with a healthier lifestyle. Despite losses, you may never feel you look good enough, which will leave you discouraged. Or you might get there and give yourself permission to fall back into old patterns. Or the most common theme is that I see people constantly stopping and starting their workout programs before they begin to actually see results. I’ve been there many times as well.
The trick is to find deep and personal reasons to stick with a healthy living commitment and reasons that reveal how good it feels to reconnect with your body. My deep and personal reason to finally stick with it and make a healthier lifestyle a habit was that I wasted most of my 20’s feeling like crap. I wasn’t fueling my body properly and really limited my potential athletically and academically. Not to mention I’ve seen a lot of my family members and friends watch their health and ability to move slip away from them, because they didn’t fuel their bodies properly when they were younger. Harsh reality, but it’s true and I even had a close family member genuinely call me fat. That’s when I decided it was time to change my life. I couldn’t keep pretending nothing was wrong.
The other trick is to start with nutrition. Nutrition is honestly 80-90% of the reason why we do or do not succeed. For example, I’ve been an athlete and a gym member my whole life, but was never really in great shape. I was in good shape, but didn’t really look fit and that was due to my intake/poor nutrition. So after you get a good understanding of proper nutrition, then the goal is to make sure that you’re eliminating stress as well.
After those two things are falling into place, then it’s time to move on to the fitness and exercise part. And here are five reasons why exercise is more about feeling good versus looking good:
1. Exercise turns you into a fat-burning machine. As you push your body to work in new ways, you literally tear up your muscles. Hence the soreness we feel after working out. As these micro-tears heal, your muscles get stronger and more lean.
If you match muscle-building exercises with proper nutrition, you change the makeup of your body to lower body fat percentage and increase lean muscle. Science tells us that muscle burns more calories at rest than fat does. Basically, muscle requires more energy to exist and function while fat doesn’t.
That’s why it’s important to refuel properly after a workout to encourage the repair of muscle tissues. Go for a good balance of healthy carbs, so you don’t crash, and healthy protein to start the recovery process.
2. Exercise strengthens your bones and helps prevent bone loss. Exercise, particularly high-impact and weight-bearing exercises such as running, aerobics, dancing, resistance training, weight lifting, etc., cause both muscle and bone to become stronger as the muscles tug against the bone during exercise.
Unless you have an injury that prevents you from doing so, incorporate weight-bearing and high-impact exercise into your routine. Non-weight-bearing exercises like swimming and cycling are still helpful, as they help you build muscle. If you have an injury consult someone like myself who can help you modify certain exercises or movements.
3. Exercise makes your heart work more efficiently. Of course you know that your heart works hard during exercise to supply more oxygenated blood to those hardworking muscles. As you increase your endurance and strength, you reduce your resting heart rate as well. Your heart won’t have to work as hard and you will also decrease your blood pressure as new blood vessels form.
This is probably the most important reason to exercise, because you’re strengthening the body’s most vital muscle so it works more efficiently. Engage in exercise that gets your heart rate up to your target heart rate zone for at least 20-30 minutes at a time. Curious about what your target heart rate should be? Ask a certified fitness professional.
4. Exercise is amazing for your lungs. In order for your muscles to support you in exercise, they need oxygen. This is the vital role your lungs play. Your lungs bring in more oxygen to fuel your workout and to make this possible the muscles around your lungs expand.
Once these muscles have moved as fast as they can to expand for more breathing, you have reached what’s called Vo2 max aka the maximum your body can work for oxygen. However, a wonderful thing happens as you work out more and more, your Vo2 max increases.
Long story short, your lungs become more efficient at bringing oxygen into your body. A great reason to get fit if you ask me.
5. Exercise changes your brain. Studies have shown that exercise creates profound changes in your brain. For example, do you ever notice that after a workout you’re often more focused and even more successful at work or in school? Exercising promotes the growth of new brain cells, which can improve memory and learning.
Studies also show that exercise is an effective way to prevent and treat depression. During physical activity, a number of neurotransmitters are released by the body, including endorphins and serotonin. These hormones make you feel good, such as the “runner’s high” you may have heard about. Tap into the way you feel after a workout; chances are you will become addicted to this healthy activity.
You will also combat disease, boost your memory and make your muscles and organs work more efficiently. Isn’t this the real reason we should get off the couch and move?
If you find it hard to get into exercise, then find a sport or activity that you love and do whatever it takes to get yourself moving. Nobody has ever said, “Man, I’m really mad that I worked out tonight.”