I read a short, entertaining e-column, Why Yoga Stresses Me Out, today and found a nugget of wisdom.
It’s an apt reminder for all of us – but particularly for those who are new to fitness or who have begun and quit exercise routines repeatedly – there is no formula for becoming fit. People often ask me things like: what’s the best workout to tone my abs, what cardio workout burns the most calories in the shortest amount of time, or how can I learn to enjoy running? All of these questions are results oriented. Results, aka goals, are important and they can be a positive incentive. But, hidden in these questions, is a misconception that will ultimately de-incentivize in the long-run.
“What’s the best workout to tone my abs” really means the person believes that if she could just trim her waistline, she can attain her fitness goals. There is no workout, no formula, that will tone abs. In order to accomplish the goal, one needs to have a cardio and strength training regimen in place, done regularly and faithfully, to increase lean body mass and decrease fat mass. This will take some time – 6 months to a year – for most people. Then she has to increase the intensity of her strength training regimen in order to actually see visible toning in the abs. Most people who say they “want to tone abs” wouldn’t be willing to make the exercise commitment it would take to realize that goal, much less enjoy the process.
“What cardio workout burns the most calories in the shortest amount of time” means she wants to lose weight fast and without investing a lot of time exercising. I can give her the answer to her question. Exercise studies prove HIIT (high intensity interval training) burns the most calories during and after the workout than any other type of cardio workout. And, if you’re doing it right, you can only last about 20 minutes per workout. And, the experts recommend doing no more than 2 or 3 of these workouts per week. But, to do it right, you need to workout hard, really hard. There isn’t a safe way for a novice or non-regular exerciser to do a proper HIIT workout. And, even if she could manage to get through a couple of them without injuring herself, it is highly unlikely she would enjoy it. It’s far more likely she would never want to try exercising again.
“How can I learn to enjoy running” really means “I’ve tried running, I hate running but I see people who run and I want to look like them and I want to experience whatever it is they experience when they run.” I have converted a couple of people from the status of non-runner to runner, myself included. But, running isn’t for everyone and not everyone can learn to enjoy running. Believing you can lose weight, be fit and enjoy working out only if you choose a vigorous intensity form of cardio exercise is a false belief.
I tell clients constantly, and repeat it in this blog, the best workout is the one you will make the time to do because you enjoy it. If you haven’t found that exercise yet – that workout that makes you feel like you could conquer the world when you’re done – then your first step to a fitter you is try, try, try, try again different workouts (cardio, strength training, recreational activities, mind-body) in different forums (at the gym, in your home, at a studio, at a park, in a pool, with a friend, alone, with your kids…) until you stumble upon a few that make you say, “That really wasn’t that bad and I feel so much better than I did an hour ago.”
When it comes to your fitness, it isn’t about a book, a celebrity trainer, a TV show, a gym, a class, your friend’s workout, or a fitness blog, it’s all about you.