The other day I was talking to a client who has a weight issue (he's very overweight).
He said, "I know people who go to the gym, have a workout, and feel great afterwards. Well, I feel terrible the whole time, and I feel terrible afterwards. But I know I should do it."
Another client of mine wants to lose weight, so he's going to Crossfit almost every day. The problem? He tells me he hates it. And he has a history of going until he loses some weight, then stopping and gaining the weigh back again.
For both these clients, their choice seems to be either intense, uncomfortable exercise, or no exercise at all.
The dominance of intense workouts
We live in a society that really values intense workouts. From Crossfit to Weightlifting to Zumba to Hot Yoga, to "sprinting and lifting heavy things," the most "talked up" exercises tend to be the most intense.
But what are you supposed to do if you don't like those things?
Most of the time, the answer is "do it anyway, power through! You'll be glad you did later!"
Or, more likely—you'll stay home and eat a donut.
Well, here's what I say:
You need to find a kind of exercise that you actually enjoy.
From the start.
And if you've bought the idea that there is no such thing, you're going to end up trying to get better at doing an exercise that you hate.
Or simply giving up.
In my observation, there are a couple of really good reasons why such an intense style of exercise may not be right for you.
- You may have weight or inflammation or structural issues that make that kind of exercise uncomfortable, and possibly even dangerous, to do.
- That kind of intense workout might not suit your temperament.
People enjoy different things. If you are reading this and you love Crossfit, that's awesome. But it's too easy to make the mistake of thinking that if something works for you, that it ought to work for everybody, and that everybody should do it.
I think that is what has happened with our current crop of intense workout programs: They've become such a big deal that anything more gentle tends to fall by the wayside. And worse, people start to think that if they don't do those intense workouts, they are screwing up.
Gentle and effective options
There is another side, another kind of exercise that can be extremely powerful and beneficial. I'm not recommending anything in particular (I remind you, I don't tell people what they ought to do, I simply equip them to find what works for them). There are types of Yoga (like Yin Yoga) that are very slow, very gentle, and extremely effective in starting to bring the energy of your body back online.
Personally, I've been having tremendous value from doing Tai Chi, which is very gentle and zero impact. It's dramatically increased my strength, my balance, my endurance and my joint mobility. Plus I really love doing it. My wife gets similar results with another very gentle discipline, Qigong.
So here's what you need to understand: If you aren't one of those people who really likes the intense go-go-go workouts, or if your body isn't ready for that yet, it's not that there's something wrong with you, or that you need to force yourself to do workouts you hate.
What it means is you need to find some kind of gentle but effective exercise that really works for you, and that you enjoy.
And then do it.
If you have experience with gentle exercises that have worked for you, please add them in the comments below.
Also: I want to listen to you! If you haven't already, please take a few moments to fill out my survey and let me know about the biggest challenge you are facing with your health. That way I'll be able to direct my new information to topics you care about. Thanks!