It’s sort of assumed that being a fitness professional means you have some super human ability to face every workout with infallible enthusiasm, complete with Julie Andrews singing and a meadowscape (rather than falling prey to a Netflix and the couch).
While this might be the case for some trainers, it certainly isn’t true for me. Despite being a life long lover of movement and teaching fitness for over a decade, I’ve struggled to find the motivation to stick to a traditional weight training program.
I bought a trial membership at a Crossfit gym, took one class and never went back. Too much grunting and yelling. I asked a personal trainer to teach me kettlebells, but quickly decided swinging heavy objects wasn’t for me. I even roped my now husband into weight training with me, but then started ditching him on the weight room floor to go run the track instead.
No matter how hard I tried, something about three sets of 10 reps of haul-that-heavy-weight just never appealed to me and I’d always find myself (guiltily slinking) back towards the cardio room, even though I knew the numerous health benefits of weight training.
One day, I confessed my dilemma to a friend, another Pilates teacher. She laughed and pointed out the incredibly obvious, which somehow had never occurred to me, even though I explained this to clients all the time.
I didn’t have to lift weights to reap the benefits of resistance training. I had a dozen other options including bodyweight, Pilates and suspension training (think TRX, Redcord or the Balanced Body Bodhi), which ironically, I was already doing and teaching.
It was a total #duh moment, but I’d convinced myself that these activities didn’t count, because while challenging, they’d always felt more recreational than arduous and it was harder to track measureable progress without having concrete numbers like the amount of weight lifted.
With that epiphany, I stopped worrying about weight training and instead devoted more time to doing the resistance training activities I already enjoyed. Unsurprisingly, I found myself skipping fewer workouts and getting stronger, faster.
And perhaps this all seems like common sense, but I’m not so sure that it is. For whatever reason, when it comes to things like nutrition and fitness, it’s easy to fall into the all or nothing trap and suck the joy out of the experience in the process.
Kale is announced to be the latest superfood and even though you hate the flavor, you find yourself blending it into all of your smoothies, forgetting that spinach is a great alternative.
Your friend tells you that running is a great way to get in your cardio and lose weight, so you grudgingly take it up, even though it makes your knees hurt and you’d be much happier in a spin class or hiking instead.
Or in my case, you convince yourself that what you’re doing doesn’t count, because it’s more fun than suffering and it’s a different path than what other people are taking.
Which isn’t to say that eating kale, running and weight training are bad, because clearly, they’re not. However, while you want to be balanced in your workout, ultimately the best program is the one that you enjoy that you’re able to stick with.
We’re hardwired to continue to do the things that we like and avoid the things we hate, so if you pick something that you find appealing, you’re a lot more likely to stick with it and see results.
So if what you’re doing is making you miserable, consider trying a different path.
It’s a lot like dating. If you met someone who didn’t do it for you on the first, second or third date, then you wouldn’t marry them, right?
Well, you don’t have to settle on the first workout you try either.
It’s allowed to be fun. Really.
Nikki Naab-Levy, B.S. Exercise Science, is a massage therapist, Pilates teacher and fitness educator whose helped thousands of people get fit with less pain by teaching them how to integrate better movement into their lives.
When she’s not teaching how to make Pilates sneaky hard, you can find her hiking in the Pacific Northwest with her husband K.C., nerding out on podcasts, and chain-drinking cups of coffee.
You can find her at http://www.naablevy.com.