You finally got motivated to workout, you signed up for a class at the gym, popped in an old workout DVD or found a program online. AWESOME! You're totally stoked and ready to OWN this workout. You go all out and totally kill it.
The next day? You can't move.
"Why does it hurt to sit down, or go to the bathroom? Did you really have to buy a house with stairs? You sit down and realize you forgot your laptop in the other room. Leave it."
There's just so. much. pain.
Sound familiar? We've all been there. We get excited, we decide we're going to make it happen - and we do! BUT, we make it happen a little too hard, a little fast. In the moment, you're all about your new exercise - you're pumped - you know you can push yourself. You believe all those motivating phrases - sweat is just fat crying, sweat is weakness leaving the body. I am NOT WEAK. I AM STRONG!
You're absolutely right. You are strong. And you are capable. But maybe you started a little too fast? You had a killer workout yesterday (literally you feel like you're about to die now). But what now? Are you going to workout today? Tomorrow?
"ugh, no. I need at least a few days to rest. Maybe a week. Maybe forever? :)"
Maybe that wasn't the best way to start.
But you just know you can do this, right? You remember what it was like to workout when you were 15 years old - how much energy you had, how strong you were. I hate to break it to you, but you're not 15 in high school anymore. And that's ok (wasn't it an awkward stage anyway?) But that also means: you shouldn't workout like you're 15 if you're not. Even if that's the last thing you remember, I'm here to tell you that there's a better way. (A MUCH better way.)
Not sure how to gauge your pace? I got your back - here's a free exercise pace cheat sheet to help!
Believe me, I am all for you getting back into shape. It's important. You want energy, you want to be productive, you want to be healthy and feel alive!
Wait, didn't you just tell me not to start too fast? You're right, I did. And we'll get to that, but bear with me for a moment. I don't want to crush all your dreams. It's great to think big.
I'm always a fan of thinking big. What's your ideal? What do you really want? If you had NO limitations, what would your goal be? Do you want to be able to leg press 300 lbs? Do you want to bench press 100 lbs? Do you want to run a marathon or do an iron-man or perform in a ballet showcase?
Maybe your goals have nothing to do with fitness measurements. Maybe you just want to look good in shorts or be confident wearing a bikini. Maybe you want to look good naked for your special someone. Do you want to drop 2 dress sizes? Start eating out less and cooking more?
Whatever your goals are - THINK BIG! Think about your ideals. Know what you're chasing after. If you never think about that big picture, how can you accomplish it?
I for one LOVE pushing myself. Seriously, I get a rush from kicking my butt at the gym. I feel the adrenaline. It motivates me. I leave feeling like a champion. I live for that feeling of being exhausted, yet feeling accomplished - like I could take over the world. (ok, maybe I don't actually live for that feeling - it's important to have a well balanced life. But when I'm at the gym, I crave that feeling. When I miss a day or so, I'm itching to get it back. That confidence makes me feel like I can do anything.)
Don't get discouraged. Go for it - THINK BIG! In fact, think big and then go a little bigger. Let your goals motivate you.
Thinking big doesn't necessarily mean you go big. Once you have your BIG goal, it's time to get started. Not the way we described at the beginning of this post. Don't go all out and then be unable to function the next day.
Start small. It is absolutely fantastic that you're ready to workout again! Or ready to kick it up a notch! BUT, starting so hard or so fast that you can't move the next day will be more harmful than helpful.
You want to get started in a way that will excite you, make you feel confident and keep you motivated. Would you rather have one good workout or a lifetime of being fit? I'm over the quick fixes and I want you to be too.
Over a year ago, I seriously injured my shoulder. Everything hurt. It hurt to drive, get dressed, wash my hair, reach for a pen. It was bad. After some much needed rest, I wanted to get back to the gym, but I knew I couldn't jump right back into my old routine. I told you - I like hitting it hard at the gym. Going slow? Lifting SUPER light? That did NOT sound exciting. And in fact, it was a little discouraging. BUT, I knew that if I didn't start slow, I would be back at ground zero again.
When I hurt my shoulder, I couldn't even lift a 5 lbs dumbbell. No joke. Lifting my arm in the air was as much weight as I could manage. Even though I wanted to get back to my normal routine, I knew I couldn't jump right in. If I did, I would end up getting hurt again - and probably even worse this time. What would be the point of that?
Obviously if you have an injury, it seems like a no-brainer that you have to start slow. But why let it get to that extreme? The principle is still the same. If you start slower, you're able to continually build on your strength and progress, which allows you to sustain your fitness for a longer period of time. Remember - no more quick fixes. We don't want the crash and burn.
Know your limits (& listen to your body)
In addition to starting small, you have to know your limits. It's ok to push yourself at the gym, or on your run or whatever your exercise of choice might be. BUT, you have to listen to your body.
There's a difference between feeling the burn and feeling the break. You don't want to break. If you're not sure if you should push yourself to that level, don't do it. Today is not your only day to exercise. Go easy at first. Start slow. If you end up going home and feeling like you didn't get a good enough workout, push yourself a little harder the next day. If you go home and have a hard time walking the next day, take it slower next time. By slowly building yourself up, you'll be more aware of what you can and can't do.
Each time you exercise, you should be taking mental notes of how you did. Or even better, write it down. As you start to pay attention to how you feel during and after each exercise, it'll start to be easier to gauge how hard you can push yourself. If you're in the middle of an exercise and the pain level is 10, you should probably stop. Let's be honest, if that's how high the pain is, you've already stepped WAY over that line.
Of course, you want to push your limits, but you don't want to bulldoze through them. That's where injuries happen. That's also where "it hurts to use the bathroom" happens. You don't want that.
I made you a free exercise pace cheat sheet to make sure you're staying within YOUR limits. Because none of us want to feel bulldozed and we can all use an easier way to check ourselves.
Don't let anybody shame you
Do you feel like you have to be in good shape to show up at the gym? Don't. For some reason, we feel all of these outside pressures to wear the "right" outfit, do the "right" exercise and lift the "right" weight. We see pictures, videos and real life examples of our health and fitness goals. Guess what? They didn't get where they are today by doing what they're doing today.
Everyone starts small.
I'm no exception. Sure, I love to get to the gym and do a killer workout, but that's not what I did on day 1. Not only that, if it's been awhile, I have to ease back into it again. When I hurt my shoulder, the idea of going to the gym and hardly lifting 5 pounds made me embarrassed. "Come on, I'm in shape - I should be able to do this." NOT TRUE.
There's no rule book of where you should be. It's so defeating and unhealthy to think that way. You are where you are. End of story.
You have a goal, which you're now working toward and you're going to take the appropriate, small steps to get there. THAT is exactly what you should be doing. You should NEVER be ashamed of that. Please, please, please, don't fall into those social pressures. The only "should's" you should tell yourself are these:
- I should have a goal.
- I should be progressing.
- I should do what I can.
- I should be realistic with myself.
- I should do what I enjoy.
- I should know my own limits.
- I should stay within my limits.
- I should be okay with small steps.
- I should cut myself some slack.
Be confident, my friend. You can do this. Don't pay attention to what other people think.
Get help if you need it
We all have strengths, but we definitely also all have weaknesses. As very capable as you are, I'm betting there might be one or two things you could use help with. And that's ok.
I'm not a fan of relying on anyone or anything else full time as far as your health goes. Life-long subscriptions and payments in my eye are more of a crutch than anything. However, I am a fan of getting help when you need it and using it to learn.
There's two different reasons you should get help:
- You don't know what you should do (how to get started, etc.) but you're getting help to learn.
- You know how to do it, but you'd rather pay someone else to do it for you.
You should NOT get help so you don't have to learn how to do it yourself. That will just be a never ending cycle that you don't want to get into. That doesn't lead to lasting results because you'll always be depending on someone or something out of your control.
Even if you would rather pay someone to do it for you, you should know how to do it yourself. That way, if your class, trainer or meal plan is suddenly unavailable, you'll be able to make due until you find a new one.
I get help too. When I hurt my shoulder, I hired a personal trainer and later went to physical therapy (probably the wrong order). I knew I needed help and there was no way I would be able to slowly get strength back to my arm and shoulder on my own. I finally had to realize that it's ok to ask for help. In fact, sometimes we need to ask for help.
Getting help is totally normal and in no way means you're not capable. I think this is a common misconception we all have. But again, get the help you need and use it as a platform to learn. Let it make you better and empower you to have control over your own health and fitness.
As a reminder, you should set big goals - dream big! However, when it comes to putting those goals into action, you need to be realistic with yourself. There's no advantage to going so fast that you crash the next day. Your workout should never put you out of commission. Slowly make your workouts more intense. No matter what level you're at, you should know your limits. It's important to always listen to your body - if it's screaming to stop, stop. You can always push harder the next day. Your goals, your pace and your motivation are 100% YOURS. Own it, be confident, and don't let anybody else tear you down. Lastly, do what you can on your own and get help on the rest. BUT, make sure to use that as a way to learn to do it on your own, not as a crutch.
It's not fun to get motivated, just to crash into a wall. Don't forget to download your free exercise pace cheat sheet. It'll help you ask yourself the questions you need to keep the pace that's right for YOU.