Exorcise the Demons

Normally my brain space is occupied with cooking and recipes.

But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about exercise.

In his book Food Rules, Michael Pollan famously suggests that we

Eat food

Mostly plants

Not too much

It simplifies all of the confusion surrounding food, diets, scientific research and recommendations.

I believe the same simplistic mindset can be applied to exercise.

Be active

Be consistent 

Don’t do “too much”

1. BE ACTIVE

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Somehow, exercise became synonymous with being a gym rat. I would argue that true exercise are the things you do in your daily life that have the added bonus of keeping you fit. These are the things you either have to do like cleaning the house and shoveling snow or the things you do for fun like playing a pick-up game of basketball or walking the dogs. Every move you make is an “activity.” I think of exercise as just a more “structured” activity.  Don’t beat yourself up if you had to mow your acre of land with a push-mower but didn’t make to the gym in time for spin class. You worked plenty of muscles mowing. Now, if you have a riding mower and haven’t walked more than 20 feet today, get your ass on a treadmill.

2. BE CONSISTENT

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I think this is probably the most important concept for anyone trying to be more active or exercise more. It really doesn’t matter what you decide to do, it only matters that you are consistent. When I first started exercising, I loathed the gym and the thought of running made me vomit in my mouth a little bit. So I did something I was already good at.

I walked.

And I committed to walking for 20 minutes at least three days a week.

It may not seem like a lot, but I knew that I could accomplish that consistently.  Over time, the walks increased, I added yoga and eventually I picked up my feet and started to jog-sloooooowwwwwly. I knew that if I wanted exercise to become part of my lifestyle, I would have to enjoy what I was doing so I took things slowly until I was ready for more.

Note that being consistent does not mean doing the exact same thing over and over again.

Which leads me to my next point…

3. DON’T DO TOO MUCH

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Don’t go all out, guns blazing, and try to run a marathon after you’ve been a couch potato for 20 years.  You probably could do it, but at what cost? Is the risk of injury, broken toe nails, and grueling training schedules really how you want to make your foray into an active lifestyle? Its hard to get motivated to be more active when spend all of your free time recovering.

Or maybe you are fit enough to run a marathon.

It doesn’t mean you have to train for one year round. It’s no surprise that in a country where bigger always equals better, that exercise that is harder, longer, and more demanding is scarily becoming the trend.

It’s more natural to choose a variety of activities, take breaks from doing repetitive exercise, and let your body rest so that it can rebuild and repair.

Think about it.

Back in the day, farmers worked the land all spring and summer-an extremely physically demanding task.

And what did they do in the winter?

They rested.

They rested so that they had the strength and energy to do it all again next  spring.

I realize that in this day and age, we don’t have to gear up to till hundreds of acres of land, but if you spent the summer running, biking, hiking, and racing, feel free to take it in a different direction for a while.

Do some yoga, lift heavy things, or try some high intensity interval work-outs.

Doing the same workouts for years on end is a sure fire way to burn your muscles and bones out.

And I’m really trying to be a 90 year old professional ski jumper.

So I need to keep myself healthy until then.

I’m sure this goes without saying, but I’m not a freakin’ doctor, I’m not a trainer, and I really have no formal education in exercise other than picking the brain of my ninja friend.

So please consider these observations and not advice.

In other words, don’t sue me.

A law suit would surely affect my future ski pro status.

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3 thoughts on “Exorcise the Demons

  1. I LOVE this post! At it’s core, it’s very similar to what we were just talking about with food and demonizing entire groups. I also needed to read this – as I’ve been burnt out on the gym lately after years of taking x number of spin/bodypump/generally intense classes every week. I feel guilty for taking a break this winter, yet overwhelmed by the prospect of going back to that. Your post reminded me that exercise should (mostly) feel good and be enjoyable, and walking is good too. Thank you!

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