How much should you be working out?
We humans are extreme. All or nothing. Feast or famine. Beast mode or couch potato.
I hear two opposite ends of extremes re: working out:
- I hate working out. I set my alarm to get up in the morning, but when it goes off I snooze. And by the end of the day I'm too wiped to even think about... anything other than all the things that are required of me post work.
- I work out basically seven days a week. I work out hard, and I make sure my workouts are efficient: i.e. burn lots of calories. I avoid classes like yoga that are slow paced and don't burn calories. What's the point?
Who's wrong? Who's right? (For the record, I've been a proud member of both camps in my lifetime.)
As y'all probably know by now, I'm not a fan of right or wrong. I'm also not a big fan of "shoulds." So my answer to "how much should I be working out" is:
However much you damn well please.
But let's break two myths down to get to YOUR truth.
Myth 1: Your body doesn't know if you're running from a saber tooth tiger or just running for exercise. Extreme exercise is bad for you.
Okay, well, yes, I agree that anything to the EXTREME is not necessarily the best for your sweet bod. But your body is smart, and she DOES know the difference between running and extreme exercise in response to danger (i.e. running from a threat/escaping danger) and joyful play. Think about kids playing tag. Or when you go out dancing. Or having a nice roll in the hay. Your body LOVES physical exertion when it's paired with joy and fun.
However, a lot of recent research is pointing to the fact that, when it comes to any physical exertion, short periods of exertion like HIIT (high intensity interval training) are better for your overall health than, for example, long distance running. So, running 1-3 miles 1-3 times per week seems to be a pretty great choice for your body; no need to force yourself to run a marathon if that ain't your thang.
A 2014 study (which was backed by more recent 2017 research) found that even 5 minutes of running a day (as well as walking, bike riding, and "other activities") can decrease the chance of premature death by anywhere from 12-40%. (12% for walking/cycling and 40% for running.) The study does point to the fact that runners tend to live overall "healthy" lifestyles, so there are certainly other factors at play.
"The new study found that, compared to nonrunners, runners tended to live about three additional years, even if they run slowly or sporadically and smoke, drink or are overweight."
And what about the study that says smiling while running improves your efficiency and the efficacy of your exertion? Turns out that the perceived effort, or how hard you feel you are working, is paramount to your endurance during exercise. A simpler way to put this:
When you're having fun, it doesn't feel like a workout.
Think again of the joy of kids playing tag in a big field. Or that episode of Friends where Rachel is mortified by Phoebe's bizarre running style.
Phoebe tells Rachel: I'm more free, you know. I run like I did when I was a kid because that's the only way it's fun, you know? Didn't you ever run so fast you thought your legs would fall off, Iike when you were running towards the swings?
I think about that Phoebe wisdom a lot when I run, and I remind myself that I'm doing it because it brings joy to my heart, strength to my lungs, power to my legs, and, yes, callouses to my feet.
So when your yoga teacher suggests you soften your face and smile, it may just make your perceived effort less as you remind yourself that this is play. Relax. EnJOY.
Maybe one of the reasons we hate working out is because it's NOT FUN.
So what's fun for you?
Myth 2: I'm not flexible enough for yoga/yoga isn't exercise or a sport, and (as it's not enough of a workout) it's really not worth my time.
Admitting this upfront: I'm a yogi and I love yoga. I teach yoga and I believe in yoga. But these things are true about me for good reason: yoga is for every body.
You do not have to be flexible, bendy, made of rubber, or a contortionist. All you need is your body and maybe a mat to keep your hands and feet from sliding. I highly encourage the use of props like blocks and blankets and straps.
But when it comes down to it: all you need for yoga is your breath, your body, and your intention.
Yoga IS a full body workout. It is one of the few forms of exercise that is constructive rather than destructive. There are inumberable different styles of yoga to choose from: for those of us who want a slow, gentle practice, for those of us who want a heart pumping body warming practice, for those of us who want something in between. I found this gorgeous chart from The Huffington Post, and I hope you'll find it makes yoga seem even more accessible for you:
Yoga can be whatever YOU want it to be.
The most important thing when it comes to moving your body is:
it CAN bring you joy.
It doesn't HAVE to bring you joy. Listen, I'm not in the business of telling people what to do. But I am in the business of shifting perspective and offering alternative ways of being. So, that's my offering for you today: instead of "working out," move your body in joy.
Some of us prioritize our sleep more. Some of us prioritize an early morning wake up and work out. Who's right? Who's wrong?
If you ask me, it's somewhere in the middle, and it's based in what actually makes you HAPPY (which sitting on the couch binging Arrested Development to get ready for the new season release may do, but after a bit your body is gonna start crying out for some movement, and waking up every day to go run or smash a workout may make you feel really powerful for a bit, but after a while, your body is going to start crying out for rest).
The pendulum doesn't have to swing so wildly back and forth.
PS: Ready to love the food you eat and live the life you love? Here are a couple ways I can help you with ending the cycle of shame and regret when it comes to food and your body:
1. Join the Glowing Goddess Guru Beast Mode group and connect with women who are investing in their health and happiness, too.
This is my new Facebook community where women learn to get more of what they want in their body, food, and lives. Click Here
2. Get yourself a copy of Glowing Goddess Guru Beast Manifesto.
If this is the kind of food & life philosophy that you find intriguing, or if you're interested in this kind of approach to eating and living well, you'll really dig the book I'm wrapping up and getting ready for print right this very moment: Glowing Goddess Guru Beast Manifesto. It's now available for pre-sale!
3. Come to my free virtual workshop on May 30th, Fed Up: ditch food confusion, emotional eating, & control re: dieting and your body.
This class introduces you to the framework I designed to help women move the needle from food obsessed to obsessed with living well. One of the greatest myths we've come to believe as women is that dieting is the solution to our body woes. Nah, girl. It's time to bust that myth and smash the foodtriarchy. Reserve your spot here (it's legit limited to 100 people so I'm not just saying you should reserve your spot. I hate that slimy sales speak!)