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Is your exercise routine helping or hurting?

As it relates to the general population, exercise is basically a thing us humans developed in order to help keep our bodies “in shape” as our day to day lives became more sedentary. Since then we have seen the fitness industry explode and nowadays there are too many tools, implements, recreational sports, methods, programs, disciplines, count. I think it’s great (and necessary) that fitness is becoming such a dominant theme in our culture, but I also think that a lot of information circulating is influencing misconceptions and steering people towards workouts that are either inappropriate for their skill level or more complex than necessary. If the goal is just to look, feel and/or perform better in day-to-day life, exercise doesn’t need to be a monumental effort. You can and should be challenging yourself to some extent if you expect measurable results, but every workout doesn’t need to and shouldn’t feel like a competitive event. Excessive stress can discourage, sabotage progress and/or cause preventable injury and that is the exact opposite of how exercise should be impacting our health and fitness.

It took me many years to truly appreciate and respect this concept (and I lost some valuable time learning hard lessons along the way) but it has changed my whole relationship with exercise. I appreciate it more than ever now that I’ve wrapped my head around how much is really enough for me and how my goals, approach and attitude can impact things for better or worse. I am still adventurous and competitive, but I am also much more respectful to and gentle with my body.

That said, it would be impossible to identify a prescription that would be just right for everyone out there because people are too individual and circumstances too varied but here are a few things that you can reflect on to help determine if you are on the right track or not:

1. Have you noticed any progress? Can you do some things you couldn’t do before you started and/or doing things better? Do you look and feel better? Did your feedback improve at your annual physical?

Balanced exercise programs will always reap results. If you can't notice any positive changes, it might be time to switch things up.

2. Have you sustained any injury that is made worse by or as a result of your training?

We all get sore after a good workout and a little “creaky” as we age but exercise, in the long term, should make you feel better, not worse. Nagging discomfort is a good sign that you might need to step back and rethink your current approach.

3. Is there significant emotion tied to your workouts?

We all have those days where we don’t feel like working out or can really use a good release but if your routine causes extreme emotional responses on a regular basis, that might be a red flag.

4. Do you know what your goal is? Are you trying to lose weight, feel better, hike a mountain, perform better at work, lower your cholesterol…?

Progress is so important for adherence, but you can’t hit a target you’re not aiming at.

Be honest with yourself and remember, as Mike Boyle, one of my mentors, said: “Cool and good aren’t the same thing.” Do what's right for YOU.

To share your personal experience or ask questions specific to your individual situation, please feel free to contact me directly or drop a comment below.

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