Don't Work Out Too Hard
Is working out fun for you or is it just a means to an end? If you’re not enjoying exercise you may need to rethink how physical activity fits into your lifestyle. New studies suggest that how you view exercise could determine not only how effective your workouts are, but if you’ll stick to it long term.
Pushing Yourself for the Wrong Reasons
Picture contestants of the Biggest Loser getting screamed at by their personal trainers as they gasp for breath, begging to stop. It makes for good television, but it’s no good for a regular exercise routine. The yelling that usually relates working harder to guilt or improving self-worth. A study published in the Journal of Obesity finds those whose motivation for exercise lies in avoiding self-inflicted guilt or feeling better about themselves, known as introjected motivation, may set them up for failure. 41 runners were tested during a self-paced run. Those with a high level of introjected motivation were found to associate how hard they ran with more satisfaction following a workout. However, the satisfaction those with low introjection had following a workout was not dependent on how hard they worked. This finding suggests the latter group enjoyed the act of physical activity more so than the former group. This is important given that finding intrinsic rewards for exercise is an important requirement for maintaining a workout routine. That is, if you push yourself to the point of punishment, it may be harder to keep up the good work. Your workouts should be challenging most of the time, but not too intense that they have little to no enjoyment.
The Choice is Yours
Three separate studies were published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. The results found increasing ways to enjoy exercise for its own sake is the way to maintain a regular routine. Many of you may start an exercise regimen to lose weight, but may have found your trips to the gym grind to a halt once weight loss was achieved. Because exercise is essential to maintaining weight loss, after your physical activity slowed down, the pounds may have piled back on. Avoid this trap by finding ways to enjoy exercise apart from its use to help you lose weight. Find physical activity that you can identify with. For example, if you like dance, skip the treadmill and try Zumba or Hip-Hop classes. If you're a competitive person, try joining an adult sports league, or getting a workout buddy. Exercise that feeds the psychological needs of the individual, specifically autonomy, relatedness, and competence should be your focus according to the studies. In each of them, participants were encouraged to make their own choices regarding physical activity, and left to their own devices as to any specific demands or pressures regarding intensity, time of exercise, or specifically prescribed routines. Instead, physical activity was self-initiated and exercise options were given along with classes that helped participants align their values and life goals with health-related behavior.
The key then to making exercise a regular part of your life is to blaze your own path with a little help from health professionals. Make sure that you are the central figure in determining how you'll go about staying physically active. Consider how your personality, goals, or physical abilities may be affected by a number of different programs and choose one that you most identify with first. If you think you can do it, you will probably follow through. On the other hand, if it seems too hard from the outset, or does not take into consideration your way of doing things, you may find reasons to sabotage efforts or worst get burned out. One of the biggest aspects of becoming an exerciser is finding a sport or exercise that connects with who you are. Are you a runner, a dancer, a basketball player? Find something that validates you and you won't have to work so hard.
What strategies have you used to make physical activity a regular part of your healthy routine?