As fitness leaders, we are not trained to deal with “I don’t have time, and I don’t know how to stay motivated to exercise.”
I almost changed my major at the University of North Carolina when I heard some guys in California say, “exercise with my wife is to take a bath, pull the plug and fight the current.”
What they teach us to say is ya gotta make exercise fun. Have you ever heard that it’s all over the place, make it fun, make it?
Folks, over the past 39 years, I’ve put over 10,000 Americans on exercise programs and I’m here to tell you I’ve learned a lot about exercise.
One of the things I’ve learned is: if what you’re doing for exercise is fun, I guarantee you you’re not doing it right. There are physiological requirements that must be met in order to benefit from your exercise program, whether you like it or not.
The intensity, the duration, the frequency of your exercise are all more important than whether or not it’s fun. You must work every muscle in the body — the cardiovascular system, flexibility, muscle balance, muscle strength and there’s no single activity or exercise that we know of that adequately works your total body. If you don’t sit down and design a total body workout, it isn’t going to happen.
So how do you solve this problem?
Well, I got to meet Dr. Mark Angel. Dr. Mark Angel has a dual professorship at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, do a professorship in the Department of Psychology and Health & Human Performance. He wrote an article conceptualizing a new fitness major, he was going to call applied exercise psychology which would have been what I majored in had it existed when I was in school.
But basically what he had done is wrote an article to the Journal of the Board of Sports Psychology explaining what he saw was justification for this new fitness major and explains the problems he saw in physical fitness. And it almost exactly mirrored what I’ve been speaking on for over 30 years to the point where I wanted to meet this guy.
So I flew back to Nashville, drove down to Murfreesboro, looked him up in his office, went up to him, gave a great big bear hug and said you’re my hero and he called for security. And – no, that didn’t happen — but I explained to him what I was doing and he was so appreciative of that and has a new book out and promised to send me a new copy which I haven’t gotten yet.
But what he basically said is this: this fitness problem is more about our mental failures than our physical failures. It’s more about your head, your attitude than it is about your body. He said you just can’t decide to exercise and have it sustained you for the rest of your life. So your brain is going to fight you.
You say I am going to start an exercise program. Your brain says what are you doing? Haven’t we been down this road? Look at you? Look at your dog.
But he says you have to win the mental battle. It’s tough. One guy said he got in his car, decided to go to the health club; he got down to the intersection. The light turned red. He said that’s a sign; turned around and went back home.
But if you can win the mental battle for five consecutive years, you will never go back to your previously sedentary lifestyle. But you got to keep it up.
How do you win the psychological battle associated with getting ourselves to exercise?
Well, make it just that a lifestyle. It has to become a habit.
Now we know that rather than working out every day – excuse me, three days a week, the way we’ve been taught, working out seven days a week, or quote American College of Sports Medicine, “work out most days or every day.” I should thank you. I’ve been saying that for over 30 years.
See, it’s easy to work out everyday than it is to work out three days a week. Three days a week gives you too many decisions. Monday, Wednesday, Friday mm-hmm. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday — can I skip the day and double up tomorrow? Folks, if you’re negotiating about whether or not to work out it’s over.
Do you work out first thing in the morning? You have a 300% greater chance of getting it done than at any other time of day because you have more control over your schedule first thing in the morning than any other time of day.
Try to confine your workout time to 20 minutes or less. The more time you spend exercising the less likely you are to do it and the more likely you are to get injured, will keep you from doing it anyway.
And then work against resistance. If you work against resistance you get tired faster. Now the most important rule in exercise physiology is called the overload principle. It says no benefit occurs in any exercise program until you get tired. The problem is as you get more fit what happens to the amount of work you have to do to get tired, it goes up.
In the public schools they did studies on high school boys and asked them to do as many pushups they could every day until they got tired, do that every day for a year. The boys who could do five push-ups on the first day after year were doing between 100 and 120 to get to the same level of fatigue that five got it on the first day; we’re talking major-league boredom even if you do have time.