Friday, August 19, 2011

Do what you love or love what you do?

The standard advice for beginning or maintaining an exercise program is to do the things that you enjoy, as you're more likely to stick with it. In general, that's great advice, because who wants to slog away at activities they loathe?

Sometimes though, doing what you enjoy can lead to a habit of only doing the easy stuff. After all, who enjoys activities that they're totally crap at, or that are hard, or even downright painful? Everyone has exercises or activities that they hate - just ask them.

My theory is that whilst you do need to find activities that you enjoy, you also need to challenge yourself. Often, the things we hate are the things we need to do more of. They're hard or unpleasant because we never do them, so never get a chance to become accomplished at them.

When I first began exercising, I had a long list of things I "hated", and I'd avoid them at any cost. The list included lunges, pushups, running, elliptical workouts, stationary bike, and more. I happily went along, doing my weight training, my walking on the treadmill or outdoors and the occasional class that didn't require too much coordination. At some point though, I recognised that the things I avoided were the things I was really awful at, and that the reason I was crap at them was usually because they specifically targeted muscles or systems that were weak. If I wanted a healthy body with everything in balance, I needed to become stronger in those areas.

So I sucked it up and began to push myself through a range of exercises I didn't enjoy, along with those that I did. I set myself small challenges and was stoked when I could finally do sets of pushups on my toes, walking lunges back and forth across the group fitness room without stopping, and one of my biggest thrills: a 5km fun run.

Since I've been in the fitness industry, I've observed most of my clients hating on the lunges and pushups (among other things) and in every case, I've made sure to work some of those into their programs. No, I'm not nasty or a sadist, I'm looking after their interests. And the best part is watching them be surprised and then proud of what their bodies can do, as their strength and abilities develop.

I've re-learned this lesson over recent weeks. I've never been a fan of group fitness classes, and have successfully avoided doing any for years now. I love to do my own thing with training, I'm not there to socialise. I'm also completely unco and have never enjoyed complicated choreography. And for the past few years, the no-frills gyms I frequented had no classes anyway. So I was more than a bit apprehensive when I saw that Liz had been trawling my fancy gym's online timetable and was including various classes in my new program. Uh-oh.

I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and fronted up for RPM, boxfit and x-trainer classes. The first couple of weeks were incredibly hard and I felt like a beginner again, fumbling my way through some moves that I wasn't used to - and in a group environment to boot! But I chose to see it as a challenge, and six weeks on I've improved in all areas and am now (mostly) enjoying the classes.

So you can stick to what you love, sure - but remember this: When you're coasting, there's only one direction you can go: downhill.

How about setting yourself a challenge? Pick something you don't enjoy and that you're no good at, and make it your goal to work at it consistently for say, six weeks. Then reap the rewards of being stronger and fitter. :) Let me know how it goes...


Cherub said...

I used to like training on my own. Do my own thing. Don't want to talk, but am also finding now that I enjoy the outdoor group training.

Your head doesn't get in the way as much because someone else is thinking and doing for you. To reach my goals though I do have to supplement it with some of my own programs.

With regard to 'do what you love', I agree with you. To be sustainable you need to find something that you love but give everything a go - and more than once. Even exercise has an acquired taste!

Do what you love 90% of the time and add in a little bit of what you just have to do and the results will be evident.

Sara said...

For me, it's a matter of figuring out *why* I don't like an exercise. If it's because it hurts me in a bad way (like - squats with knees to the front hurt my back) then it's ok to leave it. However, if I just don't like it because it's hard, or (with certain yoga poses for example) I just can't DO it yet, then I know I actually need to man up and get on with it.

Katie Paul said...

"When you're coasting, there's only one direction you can go: downhill."

OR ... alternatively

If you're paddling downstream you'll get further than if you're paddling upstream.

In the end, it all hinges on your metaphors LOL

Great advice Kek, just not for me -- I'm only doing the exercise I love these days (mostly sex).

Lunges be damned!!! :)

Kek said...

LOL, Katie - it all depends on where you want to be heading, doesn't it? Letting the current take you downstream might be easy, but not if you have a long hard trip back the other way to reach your desired destination.

And Sara, the only pain I want to be embracing is a stinging muscle burn. And maybe some DOMS. ;)

Claire, I like your 90% prescription. That's exactly what I'm talking about!

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