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Four Exercise Truths
The Cold Hard Realities of Working Out

Four Exercise Truths

After a particularly challenging workout, a client I had been training for about three months said, "Wow, that session was hard! When does it get easy?" I told her, as long as I'm doing my job, it'll never get easy.

One of the false things people believe about exercise is that eventually, it'll quit being hard. But that's not true. The whole point of working out is to push your muscles until they get to an uncomfortable place. Muscles grow by being torn down and then growing back bigger and stronger. If your workouts are easy, you're probably not pushing yourself hard enough.

That leads me to a second exercise truth. You've got to change what you're regularly doing, or your muscles will adapt. Simple changes include adding more weight, adding more reps, moving slower, moving faster, changing how long you rest between sets or even how many days a week you workout. But your body will quickly adapt if the movement patterns are the same. Every few weeks, you need to change your routine.

Generally, the longer you've been working out, the more frequently you need to change. If you're new to exercising, you may see tremendous progress following the same workout for six or more months. But if you've been working out for a few years, you may need to change as often as every couple of weeks.

The third exercise truth is that not all movement counts as exercise. Doing chores around the house, gardening, parking far away from the store entrance and taking the stairs instead of the elevator are all good things. But unless you're walking up 20 flights or hiking a mile to the store, that can't be classified as a workout.

You need to do something that raises your heart rate and lasts at least 10 minutes. Exercise is uncomfortable, so it's easy to overestimate how long or intensely you're working out. When you do cardio exercises, wear a heart rate monitor to track your progress and make sure you're pushing yourself. When doing weight training, keep a log of the weight. Write down how many reps and how many sets you're doing so you can see if you're improving.

Studies show that breaking workouts into 10-minute sessions several times a day can be just as effective as a continuous workout. Every day, you need to get in a bare minimum of 30 minutes of exercise. Because time is one of the main excuses people use to avoid exercise, micro-workouts make sense. 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there and the next thing you know, you've got all your training in for the day.

A fourth exercise truth is, you're going to have to keep exercising for the rest of your life. It's not something you can do for a while until you get into shape. You won't stay in shape if you stop. An enormous frustration I have is when someone spends months or years getting their body to a point where they're healthy, then they quit. Things change, and now they have something more important to do.

You have only one body, and it has to last your entire life. Your body doesn't care about your excuses; it only knows it's not getting the attention it needs. Are you too tired after work? Then get up early enough to exercise first. Too many social commitments to fit a workout in? Then learn to say no once in a while. Can't seem to find the time? Then put it in your schedule first and book other things around it. That might mean doing something over lunchtime or immediately after work before you go home.

Regular exercise will extend the number of years you live. It'll also let you live those years with more energy and fewer restrictions. But it won't happen unless you put in the work.

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Updated 5/13/2021