EXERCISE! I know – not everybody loves it and I know not everybody wants to do it. Let’s talk about why it is that some of us have an aversion to exercise and some of the things that are responsible for that. What’s behind it? Is it insecurity? Is it lack of knowledge? Is it lack of training? The last thing that we want to do in our lives, in our 100 years on this spinning globe of chaos, is to limit our opportunity and limit our potential. So, let’s dive into this and talk about all of the reasons we avoid exercise and maybe why we could look at it a little bit differently.
- Heart health. The heart is a muscular organ. That means that we need it to be strong in order to function optimally. The benefit of a strong cardiac muscle is that it’s more efficient at pumping blood through our body which means more oxygen travelling to our organs. This is what keeps our organs functional for all of the years that we’re on this earth despite all of the potential damage we do to them – intentionally or otherwise.
2. Lean muscle tissue. The effort exerted in exercise (particularly resistance training) builds muscle. Muscle = lean muscle tissue (LMT). LMT needs more energy to support its function – even your most basic function and at rest. That means, the simple movement involved in walking to your car, or when you’re shopping the aisles at Costco. So, the more lean muscle tissue you have onboard, the more energy is used to complete even these basic, innocuous tasks.
The Biggest Loser style diets were all about extremes. Eight hours of exercise a day, absolute starvation, fat burners, dehydration – and what really happened in those weight loss scenarios, was lean muscle tissue loss. As you probably already know, muscle weighs more than fat so when that starts to disappear you see much bigger losses on the scale. However, then the metabolism slows down because with less lean muscle tissue on board, you don’t require as many calories. So now you need to eat fewer calories to avoid gaining weight. That’s the exact opposite of what we really want to happen.
3. Fat loss. I want you to understand that even if you exercise incessantly you still have to be in a caloric deficit in order to lose body fat. So if you’re exercising an hour a day and eating all-the-things you’re not going to lose body fat. In fact, you’re probably going to gain weight.
Another reason exercise is a great way to produce a caloric deficit is that most people love food! Why put ourselves in a position where we have to create a deficit only with food? We could choose to exercise slightly and reduce calories slightly and still get the same result as a steep caloric deficit with no exercise. See this diagram:
4. Me-Time! So the final point here is a really great one for parents. The reason I say that is I don’t know anybody who needs me-time more than a caregiver. Maybe you’re a caregiver to elderly parents, or maybe you’re a school teacher. No matter who you take care of, me-time is critical. Even if your me-time is only at a gym for half an hour – you can put on your earphones and not talk to (or care for!) anyone. Listen to your favourite music while no one is interrupting you or climbing up your leg yelling “I WANT A SNACK”. (If they are, you need to change gyms because that’s just bizarre.)
Even if you just like to just walk and that’s exercise for you, to walk outside, breathe in the fresh air and listen to the birds in the summer! (Don’t go out in the winter. The winter is terrible. It’s hostile.)
Be with our thoughts. Do our own thing. Do activities to contribute to your goals and values.
Exercise isn’t always possible, though.
I had a baby at 40 and that is very different from having a baby at 30 as I now have the experience to share. My mobility was so limited after I had my daughter. I was a competitive powerlifter right up until midway through her pregnancy. I competed for the last time when I was 18 weeks pregnant. Here I am in the best shape of my life and suddenly my daughter comes out and my body is destroyed. I developed SPD, sciatica and had chronic back pain from my body trying to adapt to what is literally trauma to a woman’s body.
It took my body took a really long time to recover and exercise wasn’t an option for me in that period of time. So I had to focus on my mobility and my small muscle movements in order to get back to a place where exercise could be considered an option again.
I’ve also had numerous clients who simply cannot exercise due to physical limitations or mobility issues. It is STILL possible to lose weight. In fact, some of our most successful clients never exercised a single day in their time with us. Don’t like exercise? No problem, mama.
Many years ago, I tried to convince myself to be a runner, which failed epically because I just didn’t have the body structure for it. I decided, after the umpteenth injury, to join the local gym and start weight training. I was insecure and overweight, and I remember walking into the free-weight area of the gym and just feeling so judged. However, this was a feeling – it wasn’t what was actually happening. It was my insecurity – I had a definite lack of knowledge about the equipment and exercises and that was all I could think about. “I don’t belong here and they all know it.”
When I first started, I hated sweating and I hated the smell. My son is autistic and one of the things that a lot of autistic families have a hard time wrapping their head around is how it’s difficult to parent a child who has aversions to things like sweat on their skin or smells or textures. But for me, it was easy to get that part because I have those same aversions! So, in theory, this was not a great thing for me to dive into. But, I really felt that I needed to give this a try, even though I hated it EVERY MOMENT of it.
I also assumed that others saw all of my perceived flaws. I was still struggling with depression after my son was born, so I was entirely focused on my perceived flaws. “Did they see my stomach jiggle? Is this top too tight? Can you see my rolls? Is anything hanging over the top of my pants?”
I know a lot of you can relate. This was a huge deterrent for me at the gym. It wasn’t a small inconvenience or something that crossed my mind maybe once or twice a week. It was all-consuming for the entire workout, every single day. When I looked around, I felt like everybody else looked like they knew what they were doing. They all had their little groups and seemed to know everyone. I just genuinely felt like I didn’t fit in. If you’re experiencing this, I want you to know, I understand how real it feels.
Eventually, time passed and I got better! I fell in love with the process and even decided to enter the world of competitive bodybuilding. I also went back to school and started studying physiology and metabolic science. I was hooked.
But here’s the thing – I moved to an area of town which had a brand new gym. Now, here I am starting over. I knew no one. Even with all of the experience under my belt of being a competitive bodybuilder, trophies in my office that said “you’re good at this” – I STILL felt like a new kid all over again!
The thing is, everyone feels insecure to some degree in new situations, no matter the situation or their experience in it.
Another piece to this puzzle for the women reading this, we’re up against social conditioning. I ranted about social conditioning in a recent podcast episode, but as women, we really are more likely to feel judged for our appearance. We are socially conditioned to obtain perfection and to be consumable. That’s really heavy to carry around on our shoulders everywhere we go, but especially into new environments where we are trapped in comparison.
Of course, I got more comfortable at this new gym too, and it took a lot less time the second time than it did the first time. There are some things I realized along this journey that I want to share with you because if you have any of these thoughts or fears or feelings, I want you to know there’s a reality to the situation:
- First, people don’t smile mid-rep or when their muscles are burning. I remember thinking when I walked into a gym “Oh, my God, these people are glaring at me”, “he looked at me so intensely like he’s disgusted, what’s his problem?” What I now realize is once you put that weight down, if you’ve worked that muscle hard, it burns, friends! So, yeah, he’s not going to smile at me.
2. “Why are these women giving such mad side-eye?” You know, when you’re driving on the highway and you want to make a lane change, you’re looking through the corner of your eye and using your peripheral vision. You need to make sure there’s no vehicle there before you change lanes so that everybody lives and makes it to their destination. I allowed my insecurity to interpret her peripheral vision checking as side-eye. If I was too close, then obviously I was going to get hurt and she probably didn’t want to do that. So, yes, side-eye or peripheral vision, as logical people call it, is important.
3. Each time of day has different challenges. People just want to get in and get out – especially the after-work crowd. They just want to get home and relax with their family. Not not as many people like the gym as you probably think.
4. I was new, remember? How did I know half of the people I saw weren’t also new? They could have all just started the week before, too!
5. Some of the most amazing people I know I met at the gym. One couple that I now absolutely love always had this intensity about them – it terrified me. What I would learn, though, is that this couple has a business together and they exercise together – EVERY DAY. So they’re literally together all the time. What I thought was intensity and that they just didn’t want to talk to me, was the fact that they were bickering with one another like couples sometimes do when they are ALWAYS together. It wasn’t ME.
After we finally spoke and got to know one another, I learned that they too found me very intense – so avoided me. So, here we are both assuming these things about one another. And it took six months to say “hello”. And you know what? Two years after we met, this lovely woman was planning and creating all the food at my baby shower.
So, just go. Don’t worry about your clothes or your lack of experience. Assume others have their own insecurities and don’t have time to worry about yours, too. Say “hi”. It will break that awkward wall sooner. I can’t tell you how many times I wished that I had said “hello” to Shannon sooner because I could have used her wisdom so many times, especially knowing that they’re entrepreneurs, too.
We all want to belong. Connection is a basic psychological need, and with it, we can more easily make decisions that align with our goals and values – like sticking to the gym. It’s not enough to just GO. We want to go, but we want to stay, fit in, do well, learn and we want to grow big muscles and eat more food!
So again, the gym might not be for you, and that’s OK. But, don’t assume that it isn’t based on your own insecurities or fears. I almost let my insecurities remove me from the gym and what I would have missed were some of the most amazing accomplishments of my life and some of the most amazing friendships.
So if you can and if you are able, just go. You won’t regret it!
These are show notes from: The Musclebound Mama – Eat the Fucking Cake Podcast – episode four.