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“Fitness Should Be Fun” And Other Terrifying Stories

Sometimes, those of us in the fitness industry bandy around phrases like:

  • Fitness should be FUN!
  • Go hard or go home
  • Reach your potential
  • Find your limits

and we don’t think very hard about how those phrases, whilst motivating to some, may be massively off-putting to a LOT of others.

The point that’s implicit in all these phrases is:

1) you have to push as hard as you can every time you exercise, and

2) you’re supposed to enjoy it.

But what if you can’t - or don’t want to - push as hard as you can? Perhaps you’ve been out of fitness for a while, you’ve got a long-standing injury or issue or you find that out-of-breath feeling deeply unpleasant and it makes you want to quit every time you start?

And what if you don’t enjoy it - what if every movement feels alien and every second feels like an hour? What if that endorphin rush that’s supposed to happen afterwards doesn’t happen for you? That’s a real thing, by the way - not everyone gets that happy release after.

If that’s you, then you may be feeling like there’s no place for you within fitness. If so, please accept my heart-felt apologies for these spoutings of my industry. They are well-meant, but they betray an oversimplification of how a lot of people relate (or not) to fitness.

For some, fitness is fun. Some folks can and do push hard. But perhaps, just perhaps, they are in the minority.

The majority of us are left thinking that fitness is a very funny thing.

*  For something that’s so good for us, the pursuit of it often hurts.

*  For something that we all need to do, it can feel inaccessible and daunting.

*  It can look intimidating from the outside and you think you must be missing something - where can you find the same joy and ease that people on instagram seem to derive from their workouts?

I know a lot of people look at me and think I must love exercise. After all, I’m a PT.  I do it all day! I probably breeze through workouts like a gazelle flying across a flat, smooth savannah, right?

No.

No!

I gasp for breath, go red in the face, feel the burn and want to stop, just like you do.

I did a workout last week that I found so hard that halfway through I honestly thought I'd have to bail. The thought went through my head to tell my coach I needed to stop. To put the bar down.

I’ve seen other people do this workout and make it look easy. I was lifting a fraction of the weight they were.

I decided not to stop, but to try and carry on till I finished the session.

Once I’d got my breath back and the composure had returned to my noodle arms and jelly legs, I felt pleased that I’d done it. But, boy, was it HORRIBLE!

Fitness CAN be fun (and a good trainer can really help with making this so), but sometimes it’s not. There’s no “should” here. It feels how it feels to you. This will likely change over time but feel free to let it be what it is now, and notice any shifts in your thoughts and feelings as they occur.

I'm not interested in finding and pushing my limits. I'm perfectly happy to reach a level of fitness and strength that’s far beneath my ultimate limit and I don't care about reaching my physical potential.

Neither you nor I have to go hard or go home. We're not athletes, just regular people. Sometimes we push. Sometimes we go easy. Both are fine.

There’s another set of phrases that work for fitness.

*  Move regularly, at an intensity that you’re comfortable with, to help your heart stay strong. In time, if you want to, increase that intensity and/or frequency. If not, don’t. It’s up to you.

*  Find your Minimum Effective Dose - i.e. the minimum you need to do to reach a level of health that you're happy with.

*  Practice the movements that enable you to keep your mobility as you age so you can still walk up stairs, put things on high shelves and sit on the toilet without holding on to the sink.

*  Work harder (a relative term) in some workouts and do others that are easier to help your body recover.

*  Don't worry about impressing anyone with how much weight you can lift or how long you can keep doing burpees. Listen instead for the quiet pride that comes from knowing you've done something positive for you that day.

*  Look for the contentment and empowerment that comes with making effort. And when the world goes crazy around you, perhaps you’ll find solace - as I do - in zooming in on that effort, focusing just on the one thing you can control - moving your body.

The pursuit of fitness can change you in ways other than weight lost and muscles defined. It can raise your confidence levels, increase your ability to move, improve your health markers, help your mental and emotional functioning. You probably won’t post these things on instagram as they are hard to take pictures of, but they are nevertheless AWESOME.

Strength comes in all forms.

There’s the strength of "I can squat 100kg”. But there’s also strength like "I choose to push myself today. I choose to keep going even when I'm finding it tough."

Every workout - be it 5 minutes or 60, be it bodyweight or barbell, be it fast or slow - is an accomplishment.

Your workout is your workout. The weight you lift is your weight. The speed you go is your speed.

No need to look around at everyone else. Give up the need to judge yourself by anyone's standards but yours.

By all means, let others inspire you. Send encouragement to everyone else on their fitness journey.

Then go do YOUR work.

I salute you for every effort you make in fitness.

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