The fitness and weight loss industry has seen many trends over the years. Most of us have experienced more than a few of them first hand. There was the Thighmaster, Tae Bo, the South Beach Diet, WOW chips. There was the era of Snackwells and step aerobics and now there are juice cleanses, hot yoga and barre classes. It is an ever-evolving machine of an industry and it isn’t going away anytime soon with obesity on the rise in America. We are desperately looking for that quick fix. That one thing that will get us fit and healthy for good, with minimal effort and minimal sacrifice.
Addressing this type of wishful thinking could take up an entire book and we all know that it isn’t realistic. What I have noticed though is another trend and it’s one that I think is exciting and encouraging and it bodes well for the health of our society.
There seems to be an increasing number of people who view fitness as a hobby and not a chore. People who actually enjoy it and even crave it. People who exercise not just because they are trying to go down a pant size, but because they like the way it makes them feel.
My own take on fitness has changed dramatically over the last 5-10 years and I have been watching carefully and noticing countless others making the same shift. Exercise used to be a means to an end. How many calories do I have to burn each day to lose 5 pounds? That was it. Slowly my mindset evolved and I started to truly love the act of exercise itself and all that it does for me both physically and mentally. I see evidence of this new mentality all around me in the types of workouts people are doing and in the way they talk about those workouts. I see it in the clients I work with and on social media. I see signs of it when I’m out and about all day long. This is good news – it’s spreading like wildfire!
Exercise can be a really powerful metaphor for life and a great way to learn about yourself, gain confidence and to grow as a person. It’s not just a way to get skinny. People who are spending 20 minutes on the elliptical each day probably don’t experience that side of it. It takes trying something different, challenging, and a little out of your comfort zone to start reaping the benefits. When you try something that is going to challenge you in new ways and you set goals around it you start to see some of the magic happen.
I’m not suggesting that you sign up to climb Mount Everest, but there are countless fun and exciting ways to exercise now. Take a class at your local gym that sounds interesting, go for a hike, set your sights on a 5k race a few months out and train for it, agree to try a barre class with a friend or go to that new kickboxing place that just opened. Like to dance? Give Zumba a shot. If you are more private and would rather exercise at home there are tons of amazing and challenging options these days. That is actually my specialty – I like to push myself to the max in the comfort of my own home.
Here is what happens when you try something new that pushes you out of your comfort zone and challenges you physically…. are you ready?
First, you realize that you CAN do something that you weren’t sure you could do. You realize that it wasn’t that scary. You decide that you’re a little stronger than you thought you were. You wonder how much you could do if you pushed a little harder next time, so you plan for a next time. You stand a little taller and push your shoulders back as you think about what you did and what you’re going to do next. You slowly start to feel stronger. Maybe your pants get looser and you lose a few pounds. Is that muscle definition that you’re seeing?? You stand even taller, you push even harder, you feel that adrenaline flood your system as your workout ends. You start to realize that you can accomplish anything that you put your mind to. You realize that you are not a quitter.
You also decide that strong is better than skinny, and that being healthy and active feels amazing. You start acknowledging all of your non-scale victories. You naturally start making better nutrition choices because you feel so good. People start asking what you are doing to look so radiant and they start wondering where this new confidence came from. You feel unstoppable. Maybe you’ll train for a 10K next, now that you know how great it feels to set goals and crush them. You wonder why you never felt this way back when you were just jogging 2 miles on the treadmill at the gym a few days a week. You make time for exercise now because it is a priority in your life and not just a box to check.
If that sounds dramatic I promise you that it’s not! If it sounds like something that is only appropriate for 20-year-olds, I promise that’s not the case either. I see women in their 40’s and 50’s leading this charge and realizing that they are only improving with age and that they want to raise their own bar. I have seen women in their 60’s and 70’s decide that they love the challenge of more strenuous workouts and that it makes them feel healthy and vibrant. I have seen women with over 100 pounds to lose commit to a fitness program that they never thought they could successfully tackle and be amazed at how good it makes them feel.
I’m not suggesting that you have to go out and try something extreme, high impact or outside of your current ability level. I am suggesting that you push yourself to do a little more. Raise your own bar and try something new. Try to find something that will allow you to develop a legitimate love for exercise. Usually I steer people away from fitness fads, but this is a bandwagon that I think everyone should jump on. We all deserve to be happy and healthy and I think there is a soulmate workout out there for all of us!
Hadley Sorensen is a health and fitness coach who lives in Virginia with her husband and 3 boys. She is an avid reader, runner and fitness instructor who has a passion for helping others learn to enjoy exercise. Hadley uses one-on-one coaching as well as virtual accountability groups to provide support and motivation to her clients. Her guiding philosophy is that it’s never too late to take charge of your health and improve your level of fitness. Find her on Facebook @HadleySorensenFitness