Any advice for someone who truly loathes fitness? Plus, can exercising after an indulgent meal exonerate you? Smart Fitness answers your workout queries.
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Q: When I was thin I did not exercise. I've never enjoyed it. Now that I'm overweight, I work out but I struggle being consistent with my routine. I've gotten past the embarrassment of being so large, but my question is: How can I make myself remain consistent with exercise when I truly, truly HATE working out? I do it because I have/need to. I want to be healthy. But I don't like being hot and sweaty, I don't like the gym, I don't like the clothing, I don't like the smell. I'll do OK for two to three months, then something will interfere and I really struggle getting back on track. HELP!
A: Sure, there are fitness fanatics who can't get enough exercise, and it doesn't sound like you're ever going to be one of them. Join the club. Many regular exercisers don't absolutely LOVE it, not the way they relish chocolate lava cake or drinking beer with their buddies or plopping down in front of the TV after a long day at work — all the good things in life that, in excess, make us overweight and out of shape in the first place.
But you need to ask yourself if you truly hate all physical activity, or just the activities of your current routine.
Seems as though what you really hate is your gym, and either the equipment or the classes you take there. (Plus, if the gym smells, that can't help matters!)
So it's time for a change of plans, says Jenny Susser, a sports psychologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. "There are lots of ways to think outside the box that can make exercise have a different kind of meaning," she says.
If you really don't like the treadmill or that cardio groove class, the inner and outer thigh machines — or whatever you're currently doing — drop them. Really! You can even cancel the membership at that stinking gym.
Then try something new. How about salsa dancing, inline skating, tennis, mountain biking, volleyball, rowing, home workout videos or swimming? Swimming won't make you all "hot and sweaty."
Surely there is some form of movement that you enjoy, says Keli Roberts, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the Equinox gym in Pasadena, Calif.
"I think that people who decide they hate exercise are doing the wrong thing," she says.
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Roberts, a self-proclaimed fitness nut, says she used to hate swimming. She didn't like always having wet, green-tinged hair. So she gave up swimming and started hitting the gym instead. Dry hair and a perfect fit.
In your case, getting out of the gym may be the solution. Find an activity, or a few, that you enjoy — or at least like a bit — and then keep experimenting. Anything gets old after awhile, so mix things up.
Keep in mind that all physical activity counts. So try to be more active in your daily life: walk more, take more stairs, clean the house, mow the lawn, that kind of thing. You don't even need the workout clothes you dislike so much for these activities.
And on those days when you just can't get motivated to move, think of all the reasons why you should: it's good for your health, it can help you lose weight, it can boost your mood, it will help ease the guilt from that chocolate lava cake you ate last night, etc.
"Look for multiple motivators so you've got a little repertoire of inspiration," says Susser. "Have a slew of reasons why you should work out so that if one fails, you've got two to three backups."
Q: Is there a window of opportunity after you eat in which — through exercise — you can undo some of your wrongs and quickly work out more so that the weight stays off your waist? I heard this was true but am wondering if it's just another bogus theory. If it's true, how long is the window to get on the running trail before the pizza turns into a potbelly?
A: Such a magical window of opportunity would be nice, but unfortunately it doesn't quite work that way, says Mike Bracko, an exercise physiologist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and a spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine.
"It takes about 24 hours for the food we eat to either get stored as fat or carbohydrates (as glycogen in the muscles)," explains Bracko. "But we can’t 'take away' the food we just ate by exercising after we eat."
That said, working out a few hours after an indulgent meal, or the next day, can help you burn some extra calories.
But running immediately after the pizza party? That just can't feel good.
Smart Fitness appears every other Tuesday.
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