Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why Do You Exercise?

I think I have asked this question before on this blog. I have been working out very consistently for the past year, but recently I had to ask myself the above question again. And here are my answers:
  • Exercise is my “me” time
  • Exercise makes me physically feel great – the older I get the more aches and pains I have if I don’t move and stretch my body on a very regular basis
  • Exercise makes me mentally feel good – It appears that my hormones have become a bit “whacky” and my doctor would like to see me on meds, but I’ve refused. Exercise seems to regulate a lot of what’s out of whack…
Okay, so far the list sounds great, doesn’t it? And I would love if these were the only reasons I exercise daily. But the list doesn’t quite stop there:
  • Exercise helps me control my weight. A recent study suggests that it actually takes quite a bit of exercise each day (about an hour of moderate activity a day) to keep weight gain at bay as we get older…
  • Workouts at the gym give my week structure. I schedule them at the beginning of the week to make sure they get done.
Still valid reasons, no? Yes and no. Because when we get to the structure and weight part, it’s unfortunately all too easy to start obsessing.

My gym tracks how often members visit each month, and I’m in the 99th percentile, which means I work out practically every day. One reason I get to work out so much is that the toddler loves the childcare and has many friends there. However, for the past few weeks, the toddler has been battling one infection after the other, and we therefore didn’t go to the gym as often as normally. And I really started to feel uneasy when I missed two gym workouts in a row. Now, can I only work out at the gym? No. Absolutely not. And I was physically active every day in one way or another.

What I realized when I missed my gym workouts was that I had become a bit too dependent on my workouts, and I really had to question why I work out. There was guilt and related unpleasant feelings… I remembered that working out should make me feel good and missing a workout or two should not make be feel guilty.

I have decided that it’s time to take more of my workouts outside and move out of the 99th percentile of gym attendance… It’s okay if I miss a workout. What’s important is how I feel physically and mentally. I can put the toddler in his jogging stroller and go for an easy job or a brisk walk. Being outdoors does wonders for my body and soul… It’s all about finding balance and being well…

Questions: Why do YOU work out? Do you sometimes feel guilty when you don’t work out as much as you think you “should”? What is your favorite workout? My favorite workouts are long, challenging hikes… It’s been too long…

Be well,
Andrea

35 comments:

  1. I exercise because I have to-I had Gestational Diabetes,so that's means my chances of developing diabetes are more if I don't take care of myself. I hate exercising,but I try to workout for an hour at least 3-4 times a week. I do feel guilty when I don't work out and I love the way I feel energized when I've worked out. I hate working out in a gym but I love jazzexercise!!!

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  2. it's so weird, i talked a bit about this on my post last night and your blog is the fourth today i've read touching on the subject! great post!

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  3. Great food for thought (sorry) Andrea. You are right- there is a balance that needs to be struck. I happen to love to work out. It's a part of the fabric of who I am. I don't go to the gym every day, but I do exercise most days a week. My fave exercise changes from week-to-week or month-to-month. Sometimes step class or Body Combat. Sometimes it's jump roping or old-school weights with the big boys. Sometimes I prefer to work out at home by myself, but kick my ass nonetheless...as you know my latest love affair is with kettlebells. I'm not just a gym hussie but a workout hussie in general- I'm fickle.

    Having said ALLL that, I do feel guilty if I've taken more than 2 days in a row off. By the third day I'm fit to be tied. Guilt, yes. But I do listen to my body-- if it wants the day off (even if I planned Body Combat or a hike), it gets the day off.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

    Deb

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  4. Exercise keeps my blood sugar at normal levels - my last doctor appointment my doctor said "I wish all my diabetic patients were like you!"

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  5. Did you write this post for me??? No, really, I ended up skipping my run today - just wasn't feeling it - and I've been struggling with a lot of guilt. I need to remind myself why I run in the first place - as "me" time, as a way of reducing stress, and to keep my body strong. When I focus on those reasons, skipping one day is no big deal, so there's no need to obsess or feel guilty. Thanks for the reminder! :)

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  6. I definitely agree with everything you say about exercise. I would also like to add that it's very theraputic to me and is a great stress reliever. If I'm having a tough day I head to the gym and feel instantly better!

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  7. your post is just what I've been thinking lately about workout. I used to get obsess or feel guilty if I don't work out for few days in a row and forgot the main reason that I workout. I workout because it makes me feel good, it relaxes me, it takes my mind away about work. but if work gets busy and I'm not sleeping well...forcing myself to workout is just adding another source of stress. so in those times (recently) I just don't workout at all and don't stress about it anymore. if I feel like doing something short and relaxing, I'd rather do 20 min yoga or a short walk, if I feel something more intense, I'd go for a jog. This way allows me to truly enjoy working out and not making a to-do list. :) well... this is such a long rambling. i'd better stop.

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  8. Wah - I just wrote you the lonest comment and it wouldn't take for some reason? Basically, it's this: I used to suffer from severe gym guilt and can relate to this post. Sure, I like to feel "healthy" and the gym is my ME time, but I would be lying if I didn't admit it wasn't 90% vanity. I am trying to get better about it, but it is reassuring I'm not the only one that thinks this way! Like you said, there are a variety of other activities you did that counted as exercise...there's no need to obsess over a little gym!

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  9. I work out mostly because it makes me feel great....once it's over, of course ;) I also know that the better shape I'm in now, the better I'll feel in the coming years. And lastly, I like to eat so it does help me comtrol my weight. I use to feel guilty for missing a day, but took a step back and promised myself that if I wasn't feeling it, not to do it. No regrets.

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  10. I don't go to gym to do my work out! Don't laugh if I tell you about it. haha.... I actually doing it at home with my kids... PS dancing game! hahaha.... Gosh, not easy at all but definitely lots of fun.

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  11. Been there, done that. I also used to be a bit obsessive about working out. If I didn't work out at least four times a week, I felt guilty and slug-like. But I smartly realized that when our lives get busy, we can only do the best that we can do. And if there's a week where I miss a workout, I now know that it's not going to kill me, nor will it put 20 pounds automatically on my backside. I think balance is the key to everything -- workouts, included.

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  12. i work out b.c i love to and also b/c i feel for my health, it's a very use it or lose it thing. I have some issues i dont blog about but that it's very important for me to stay very fit and strong as it is just good insurance for overall health for me. Great for you for taking it outside, that is KEY for me. I NEVER go to the gym,it's yoga or outside or bust!

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  13. love this new layout?! where did I miss this! its looks so great! I workout becuase i LOVE that feeling of accomplishment and really pushing myself!! I love to sweat and work hard, and i love it so much I motivate others through my personal trainining and spin classes!! :)

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  14. Wow Andrea! Good for you. I work out 5 days a week, and that's because about 3 years ago I was working out twice a day (eating disorder) And somehow found that I had become burned out on exercise. haha, go figure! I hated going to the gym after my bought with an eating disorder, I really did. Now I am finally to the point where I enjoy my workouts because I'm not consistently focusing on calories. Now I focus on how my muscles and my body feels, and whether I'm enjoying the exercise. Now that Nick and I are moving, I won't have my free apartment gym. What will I do? I will take advantage of the huge park we are going to be living next to!! I'm so excited. I may also buy a few pieces of gym equipment. In the long run it will help me save money.

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  15. I work out to control my weight mostly. If I didn't have to do cardio to maintain my weight and eat the things I wanted to, I would probably just be a walker/hiker.
    When the workout is over, I always feel so good, physically and mentally, but I never go in excited that I'll feel that way at the end.

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  16. I really like the new lay out!

    I no longer exercise for the calorie burn. As someone in recovery from disordered eating, it took me a long time to get out of that mindset because I used to really beat my body up with exercise and that didn't get me very far. Now, I only exercise in ways that feel good to my body. My new mantra is " I only exercise in ways that honor my body and my feminine spirit". This typically translates to practicing yoga a couple classes per week, a couple long walks with my husband and a yoga-esque strength training dvd a couple times per week. I have found that with my new mantra and outlook, I actually workout more consistently and don't have the guilt I used to associate with food and exercise.

    Food and exercise should not be intertwined in my opinion, too much guilt involved. Each is an aspect of a healthy lifestyle but since I also try to eat in a way that honors my body (not my emotions or my random cravings) it all balances out.

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  17. My favorite workout is hockey, and that has to be indoors. I agree with you, though...I need to get out more and leave the treadmill behind. Because running is my "me time" I like to catch up on TV, but I need to not be so mindless while I'm exercising and allow myself to digest what's going on in life and just process..and breathe.

    Isn't that study about exercise duration a BIT depressing? :)

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  18. I love this post and I completely agree with your reasons for working out. I love the therapeutic nature of exercise most. My favorite activity is long walks on my greenway. It's the most enjoyable "me" time and I feel so energized afterwards. I feel vibrant and full of life. Exercise is a commitment to myself and i love to do it in any form.
    I used to feel that guilt about missing workouts, but I've had several experiences where I've been unable to exercise for lengths of time so it helped me to break that connection between exercise and food and mood.
    Great great topic!

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  19. Great post, Andrea. I think it's great that you examined your reasons/motives for exercising and are able to pull back a little.

    This is something I struggle with, as you know. I am new to the gym- I joined almost 3 weeks ago and have been every single day. I keep scheduling in rest days, but the guilt nags at me until I go- despite being pretty active regardless of whether I am there or not.

    It's also tricky to find a balance with something like exercise (or healthy eating) if you veer towards extremes because it is, by most people, seen as highly admirable to eat clean/workout daily. I think that's where some of my guilt stems from. Weight control is another big issue for me.

    But, I also love the structure, having a place to go where I feel like I am on the same wavelength as people and I love working out. Though a day off or meeting those needs in a more balanced way without guilt would be nice.

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  20. I work out for many of the same reasons you've said...1. it makes me feel better. For example, I had a horrible headache one day this week, went to the gym and got moving and bam, it went away. 2. I also workout to control my weight.

    I used to feel very guilty over a missed workout, but I dont anymore. a few missed workouts wont do any damage...If i start missing weeks at a time on a consistent basis, then I might need to rethink things.

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  21. Mostly I workout for mental health and job security. ;) I couldn't really be a personal trainer and not workout now could I?

    I do sometimes feel guilty when I miss a workout, but the guilt doesn't last for long as I know it doesn't really matter if I miss a workout every now and then.

    Working out outside is the best! Hope you enjoy spending less time in the gym.

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  22. Exercise is a great way to get a healthy body. I love how it doesn't matter what type you do, it all counts! I think that once you find a type of exercise you like it's so empowering and it makes it easy to add it into your daily routine. Of course it can be tough sometimes but if you keep your goals and the vision of your success in mind you'll get through it!

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  23. oh I love this! I need exercise and it really affects me if I miss it. (and there are always things that get in the way)

    consistency is really a goal of mine (and I don't use a gym) but I do have a personal tm.

    an hour a day as we age???
    oye vey!
    xo

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  24. I used to work out to "fit back in." And I still do... BUT now I love it. I love how good it makes me feel, how much stronger my legs are and how challenging it is. My favorites are my now twice sometimes thrice-weekly runs! :)

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  25. Great thoughts here, Andrea. You're clearly being as objective as possible with yourself, which is tough to do. Personally, I need to be better about my diligence with workouts. I've really let myself slide TOO much in one direction. Mentally and physically, I don't feel my best. I think it's less about how much or how little you workout, and more about how you FEEL about that. As you said, you shouldn't be feeling guilty.
    This is the perfect time to be moving your workouts outdoors! Hope we can catch up soon about how we can maybe work on that together :)

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  26. This is a GREAT questions, Andrea. I think we often get caught up in the routine of doing something every day (including exercise), so that we forget why we're doing it in the first place. I exercise because I know it's good for my heart - plus, it gives me good muscles ;) I have a number of chronic diseases in my family, and so I exercise to keep myself from becoming a statistic. And, like you, I love my "me time" :)

    Have fun taking your workouts out of the gym and out of doors! Those are the best workouts of all!

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  27. I exercise mainly because I love it and all the benefits it offers. My fav workouts are pilates and running.

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  28. i workout for my sanity, lol! It clears my head and really makes me a better mom and wife. I prefer to workout alone, so I can really enjoy my "me" time but it doesn't happen very often. We don't belong to the gym so I've been forced to get very creative with my workouts! :)

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  29. Great post! I love working out because it helps to relieve stress so when I miss a work out I try not to stress about it! Since I currently do not belong to a gym, my favorite work out is anything outdoors- walking/jogging at the park, biking, etc. I wish there was a place near me to hike!

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  30. I don't feel like I workout formally because I don't go to a gym or designate time to exercise. Instead I do a lot of running about in New York to get errands accomplished. Most days I walk 3-5 miles and lug home 10-30 lbs of groceries. I work out to keep from falling behind.

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  31. i exercise to stave off depression. i really don't enjoy doing it, so a walk is all i'll do these days.

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  32. Great post! I exercise for physical health, emotional health, and weight loss. I do feel guilty when I miss a work out (which this past week has been frequent). But when I think about the days I missed a workout, it's generally because I worked on my house for 5 hours or so. Anyway, there is usually a reason and sometimes there isn't. It's the days when there isn't a reason that I feel really guilty. :( You gave me a lot to think about.

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  33. I workout out to lose weight, to get energy and for a positive self-image. My schedule is usually working out for 2 days, 1 day of rest.

    I do feel guilty when I skip a scheduled workout but don't feel guilty if it's a rest day or I'm mentally not up to it.

    My favorite is running outside so I'm happy it's Spring and running outside is more pleasant.

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  34. I like the new design! My favorite workout is a long unhurried run, with my favorite companion: my camera! have a great Easter weekend with your family Andrea!

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  35. That's a great topic for discussion. For me, I work out to lose/maintain weight. I like to eat. I don't want to weigh 250 lbs again! But in my journey, I realized that working out makes me feel sooo much better!

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