How do you know when you have the perfect exercise program? When you both love it and hate it.

Written by integrativetherapeutics on . Posted in The Body Mechanic, by Todd A. Forman, PT

I do a lot of exercise program design for people who know they need to exercise, but don’t really want to. (Lots of us fall into this category). Though the years, I have watched too many people start programs with the best of intentions, only to drop them 3 months later out of boredom, injury, or just plain having better things to do. So, I’ve come up with a strategy that works well for turning non-exercisers into exercisers. First, we have to determine whether you are a “home” person or a “gym” person. Me, I’m a home person. My schedule is tight, and I don’t really look forward to exercise, so if I have to go somewhere to do it, it becomes too easy for me to say “no time today, I’ll do it next time.” “Next time” means 3 weeks from now. If I only have to go downstairs in my home, I can’t find an excuse not to, and the exercise gets done. Now, after 25 years, I almost look forward to it.

Many people, though, need to have exercise scheduled like an appointment. They find the distractions are too much at home (kids, TV, interesting stuff in the fridge) , and need a place away to work out. These are “gym” people. They find the gym a place to escape and have a bit of time for themselves. They like the variety of equipment and the ability to try a lot of different things. All great reasons for going to the gym.

Once we pick the environment, we can start designing the major elements of the program. Running or cycling? Ellipital or stairmaster? Which is “best”. If your goals are life long general fitness, the “best” one is the one you like the most (or despise the least). If we can find an exercise you like, you will likely stick with it in the long run.

Then, to make sure your exercise program is really perfect, we need to add in a bunch of of stuff you hate. And add periods where you don’t do the things you like. Why?

I was at a seminar several years ago, listening to world renowned strength coach Mike Boyle. Mike said that he always told his athletes “when you are pressed for time, don’t do the exercises you love, do the ones you hate”. He explained that we tend to gravitate towards the exercises we are good at, because they are easy and fun. But, as any good exercise program should be designed to make you better, some elements of it should be challenging, requiring a great deal of effort and maximum concentration. These are the exercises we hate. They also happen to be the ones we most need to do. Furthermore, by only doing what we like and what we are good at, we inevitably develop muscle imbalances that lead to injury.

So, want to stay fit for life? It’s simple, but not easy. Figure out whether you are a “home” or “gym” person. Then, get yourself a detailed assessment by an experienced professional, and have him or her design a great program for you. Stop worrying about what exercise is “best” or whether one exercise is “better” than the other. Find something you really like and make sure your program is built around it. Then, make sure there are lots of exercises you hate. Then, do it; especially the parts you hate.

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