But I don’t have ______. But I can’t ______. But I don’t want ______. Three popular phrases that automatically erase any and all momentum — and confidence — you might have in reaching your goals.
It’s automatic, those phrases — the knee-jerk argument we say either out loud or in our heads (without even realizing it!) when we start considering life(style) changes. Or they’re what come up after we blast ourselves into an overly-radical change with too many things all at once. Of course those phrases will come up — we’re sending our bodies into shock by doing too much, too fast in too little time. And it’s an easy and fast way to burn out on a goal — or goals — fast.
I used to be an avid gym goer. I went precisely five times a week for about 90 minutes every time. Note that I said “used to be”. What happened?
I burned out. I even burned out on my beloved yoga.
I got tired of having no time in the evening on the work days I went to the gym other than exercising, eating, showering and then going to bed. I looked absolutely fabulous, but I had no time for anything else. No time to read or write (my favorite hobby). No time to go out with friends after work. And so I found myself saying, “I don’t have time for _______.”And I didn’t for two reasons — one I was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, and, two…I didn’t.
If you recall the photo I posted in my first entry, the photo on the left is the result of my burnout. The photo on the right is about nine months after my gall bladder surgery; the weight loss was due to long workouts again, and I felt like I was back on track to my goals. But I was really tired of the time the workouts took, and the fact I was tired. All the time.
On weekdays my schedule was something like this:
Gym: 5:30 pm
Hit the gym floor: 5:45 pm
Workout: 5:45 – 6:45/7:15 pm
Home: 7:30 pm
Shower: 7:30 – 8:00 pm
Eat: 8:30 – 9:00 pm
Bed: 10:30 pm
Erf. I’m getting light-headed and want to curl up into a ball of a nap just looking at that.
Mornings for working out? No, no, no, no thanks. At least not for that schedule; I’d have to get up around 4:30 in the morning. Eeew.
The thought of cutting back on my mega gym visits made me balk. But, then, exhaustion set in and I went thoroughly kaput…Hence the weight gain. It did turn out that I had a defunct gall bladder and I had it removed, which seemed to stop a lot of systemic blockages I felt inside. My health returned, my energy returned, and I returned to 90 minute routines, five times a week at the gym. But that not only bored the living patootie out of me, I hit a major plateau. Fast. The weight stopped coming off, I stopped putting on muscle (yes, I did want that and again, no, ladies you will not bulk up.) The only thing I gained more of was exhaustion. And depression started to set in.
The response and suggestion to me from personal trainers and websites to break through the plateau (even though I was so tired I could have ten shots of espresso and not feel it)?
Longer/more days of (longer) cardio, mixed in with longer days of longer lifting. Remember the schedule above? I was hitting bed by 9:30 pm I was so tired, and yet I wasn’t feeling rested. I had to be prescribed a small dose of a sleep aid because I couldn’t fall asleep and stay asleep. I became a Gold Medal Olympian at the Snooze Alarm Tango.
Did the marathon sessions break me out of the plateau and get me to my goals? I think you can gauge the answer by that last paragraph: No. They worsened it. And I just got even more tired. I was stuck in the flat loop of Chronic Cardio, as Mark Sisson calls it. The must please pass out for proof I’ve exercised push. I found myself exhausted to the point of despair and teetering on the edge of stopping altogether. I mean, who wants to spend 7.5 – 8 hours a week at the gym? Or more?
Nobody. Well, I suppose some people do. But a lot of people think they need to do that to get the changes they want. And you really don’t.
That’s why, in my opinion, people tend to give exercise the evil eye.
If you’re working full-time and you have a family, as well as other obligations, who has the time for an additional total time of a full day of work?!
No wonder I got burned out, bored and, after a point, gave up. It was that plateau and that frustration that led me to getting involved with CrossFit. I fell in love with it. In part because it was the challenge I needed and because —
— the workouts are, at the most 20-30 minutes long. That’s it. 20 minutes — about the length of time it takes to watch a sitcom on TV. I also began working with Brad McLeod, who owns a CrossFit gym in Atlanta, GA, and runs the website SEAL Grinder PT. His online coaching provided me with chunks of challenging — but short — workouts I could fit in and around my schedule.
15 – 20 minutes felt like a cheater’s workout, even though my heart rate got up and I could tell I’d been pushed. (I still have trouble keeping to the 20-30 minute idea of a workout as it still feels too short. Ten years of “Globo Gymming” is hard to undo).
But doesn’t that sound wonderful? A 20-minute workout 3-4 times a week? Longer ones here and there as you feel like it?
I had a routine I could do in the morning, leaving my evenings free, or, if I did exercise after work, having three hours of free time? I started needing the sleep aid less and less. I began getting good sleep and waking before my alarm, and feeling energized. No eight rounds for the count of snooze alarm slapping. I saw more progress in three weeks of CrossFit and working with Brad than I saw in 2-3 years of working out at the gym.
Example. One of my goals was to have the muscle strength for chin-ups. Never could, in all the years of my Globo Gymming. Ever. Unless it was assisted. Three weeks after I hired Brad and a month after I started doing CrossFit…I knocked out three in a row. (Pull-ups…weeellll….That’s another story. Still working on that bit of skill and strength).
Now, I don’t mean you have to go out and search for a CrossFit gym. Your one workout for the day could just be a nice walk. Or a walk carrying a dumbbell in each hand for a farmer’s walk.
If you don’t have dumbbells, fill up two milk jugs with water or sand (50lbs for about $5 at Home Depot) or put something of equal weight in two reusable shopping bags (or plastic). Take a walk around the block with your family (or with yourself for some You Time).
Heck, maybe even go up and down the stairs a few times…but the total time need only be about 20 minutes. And you’re done! If you want to add on something else, you can. But, remember — small changes. More is not necessarily better.
But that one 20-minute workout with some milk jugs is one moment of your life where you can eliminate the horrid phrases used in the title of my post.
The freedom of working out at home in 20-30 minute sessions (sometimes broken up between the morning and the evening) and tucking in CrossFit classes around my other short — but massively healthy — routines has made it so I’ve seen easy, big progress, and I’ve yet to burn out.
So the point here is this:
(Hearing it in Barry White’s voice is optional, but quite effective.)
Easy does it — in every sense of the phrase. Which means you do have and can. Because you do want.
Okay, okay…confession time. I do still get into (occasional!) phases of must please pass out for proof I’ve exercised. I did so on Saturday with a great workout, but my whole body is still whining and sore.
But here’s the thing: Now I do it because I want to. Not because I feel like I must.
Though I admit I was a bit over-exuberant this time around…I reeeheeheeeely (insert Ace Ventura, Pet Detective voice) need that easy does it reminder from time to time myself.
Questions? Quips? Quotes? Comments? What did you come up in your head as you read this for what you can do? Leave a comment below, or stop by the discussion forum.
Email me at heather (at) smallchangelife (dot) org, or leave me a message on my Facebook page or send me a direct message on Twitter at @SmChangeLife.
Top picture courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net