Rational fitness

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In this week’s blog we have borrowed heavily from an article on fitness that appeared on the shape.com website, not because we are too lazy to write our own text but because this article and it’s author makes so much sense.

What is irrational fitness?

Writing under the pseudonym Refinery29, the topic is ‘rational fitness’. The author explains how she had got into a routine of speed walking at 6.30am to a yoga class that started at 7am. She didn’t do this to get centred and ready to take all the day threw at her, no, she did it to get activity points. The speed walking gave her three points, the yoga four, meaning she could eat pizza at a friend’s birthday party later.

man running up a hill

The article went on to describe all the author’s fears about failing to meet her points quota or eating/drinking more points than she had burnt off. It was written with a humorous slant, but the message was a clear one – she had become enmeshed in irrational fitness.

Taking it too extremes

As I write this, I have a step counting device on my wrist. I have just finished an hour and twenty minutes on the cross-trainer – not because I wanted to do some exercise, but because I had not completed my daily step target. The ridiculous thing is that I had done a heavy weights session, but that didn’t rack up the steps.

It is this rabid score-keeping that is turning us from people who enjoy doing fitness to maniacs who fear failure because we have missed a training session or not reached a target. So how do we re-discover rational fitness?

1. Take calorie burning out of the equation.

We all know that the calorie counters on exercise devices differ wildly depending upon body composition, fitness level, familiarity with the exercise and many other factors. And while you are at it, stop turning the calorie into a mystical entity, it is purely a figure denoting the fuel we need to function. If you have the energy to exercise, you are probably good on calories.

2. You don’t need pain to gain

In other words, exercise that you enjoy is as good for you as exercise that you hate. In fact, it is probably better for you because if you enjoy the activity, you will work harder, for longer and in a happier state.

3. There’s a difference between being a gym junkie and an active person

It’s not just hours in the gym, on the treadmill or rower that counts. You can get exercise playing volleyball with friends, doing a dance class or chasing the dog around the park. I love the gym, but occasionally it is important to remember that being active doesn’t only happen there.

4. Exercise is a priority, not a mandatory sentence

If you miss a session, it may be annoying but its not a tragedy. If you have to work late, visit the in-laws or take your mum to a doctor’s appointment, don’t just fume and imagine your body growing lumps of lard where your muscles should be – it is just one session. Exercise supports and enriches your life, your life shouldn’t revolve around your workout.

men and women doing Broga Yoga

Here’s an easy way to check if you are being rational about exercise. Think about all the other things you do and how you treat them. Going to the dentist is important to you and your health, but if something comes up and you need to move the appointment, do you feel like a failure?

How you treat your friendships is another pointer – friendships aren’t as easy to reschedule as dentists appointments—or the gym, for that matter. So, there will be days when you have to choose between working out and something else. Sometimes, it makes more sense to choose the workout. Sometimes, it doesn’t. The important thing is that it’s always a choice you make—not an order you follow.