Although I believe lifting weights is the best form of exercise to undertake if your goal is to improve your body’s physical appearance, it does not necessarily mean it is a blanket prescription fit for all of my clients.
Resistance training provides a whole host of benefits, such as improved strength and power, improved health (with particularly positive effects on the cardiovascular system, insulin and blood pressure), better posture, and increased confidence and self esteem. However, these benefits are not exclusive to resistance training.
Some people really love running, or yoga, or swimming, or rollerblading, or rock climbing – and that’s great! What may come as a shock is that, if I had to choose between only dancing or lifting weights for the rest of my life, I would pick dancing. Although it would be sad to say goodbye to lifting, dancing is my first and greatest love, and I simply cannot imagine giving it up.
For a long time, running was my exercise of choice. I – still to this day – find it incredibly relaxing and stress-relieving. However, I know a lot of people who hate running and yet force themselves to do it anyway, as they believe it to be essential to weight loss. This is so unnecessary and cruel to your body!
Ultimately, you must find a form of exercise you enjoy. It is important to note that your motivation towards one particular style of exercise may ebb and flow.
I struggle with motivation, too
Personally, I am one of those annoying people that never really has to motivate themselves to exercise. I treat my workouts as essential parts of my day, and as appointments I would never break – nor would I want to as I always look forward to my training sessions.
That is, until about three months ago. You may have noticed a shift in my attitude towards lifting, and you might have picked up on the fact that I was training less than usual. Part of it was because I was travelling so much throughout December and January (so I only had access to a gym once or twice a week), but part of it was that I just didn’t want to lift.
It is hard to admit that, on my lifting-focused blog, but it’s true. Even when I was in Antigua, and my gym was literally around the corner, I really struggled to motivate myself to go. Every morning, I bargained with myself and conjured up some kind of reward for working out. The fact that I already felt weak demotivated me even further.
I maintained four workouts per week, but the nature of them changed completely. Instead of following a strength-oriented program, I switched to shorter (around 45 minutes) bodybuilding-style workouts.
I did not really want to lift, but I always felt better when I did. I also knew that I would soon be arriving in Paris and resuming a proper training schedule with no distractions, so I didn’t want to make things even harder for myself than necessary. I would like to compete again some day, so I needed to maintain some level of strength.
Because exercising has been an almost-daily occurrence in my life for the past two decades, I never really related when people said they would rather flop onto the couch after work instead of hitting the gym. But now I understood.
In Guatemala, I was still motivated to exercise, but I didn’t want to be in a gym. Even with all our late nights out, we never missed a single salsa lesson. In the evenings, my friend practically had to drag me away from the dance floor. And my body responded well.
I didn’t beat myself up for not feeling the love for lifting, as I knew it was temporary. The only other time I have felt similarly was after my accident three years ago, when I was very limited in what I could do in the gym. As a result, I was tempted to throw in the towel completely. But my motivation eventually returned, stronger than ever.
As I expected, since arriving in Paris, I have fallen back into a “normal” workout regime. I don’t need to spend an hour motivating myself to go to the gym. I simply wake up, have my breakfast and go. I have already found a couple of salsa clubs nearby, I have checked out some hip hop classes and I’ve already jogged a couple of times. My regime is balanced and it makes me happy.
If you hate a certain form of exercise, do not force yourself to do it. While I encourage my clients to do two lifting sessions per week as a minimum for best results (and I structure those workouts in a style that appeals to them, not me), I also allow them some flexibility with regards to incorporating other types of exercise they enjoy.
These days, so many people are afraid of incorporating cardio for fear of it “killing their gains” but, provided you are not doing it at an intense level every day, it is an acceptable – and desirable – part of a well-rounded exercise program. I’ve even seen people feel guilty about doing yoga, as it means they are skipping out on time they could be lifting. Most people spend too much time worrying about constructing the “perfect” workout, when they are missing the point of exercise: to stay healthy.
You should not feel guilty for exercising in a way that makes you happy. It’s perfectly fine to listen to your body, and do what you want to do in that moment. Like I tell my clients when they are faced with injuries or big life changes that keep them out of the gym for a certain time, the iron will always be there. Taking a few weeks, months or even years off training does not mean that you will lose all your strength forever.
What’s your favourite form of exercise? How often do you lift?