A Women’s Locker Room Talk I’ll Never Forget
I was in the women’s locker room at my local budget gym a few years ago and witnessed a conversation between two women I will never forget. One was in her mid to late 40s. Polished nails, trendy hair style, good complexion, taut firm skin, toned body, balanced posture, taking off her spandex and stepping into a matching bra and panty set.The other, a gray-haired woman in her 60’s, overweight, hunched posture, with belly rolls peeking out from her halfway pulled down one piece swimsuit. Looking spent from her aqua aerobics class, the older heavier woman was longingly examining the younger lady. Feeling her gaze, the younger toned woman turned to smile back at her.
“If I looked like you, I wouldn’t need to exercise”, said the woman in her 60s, wistfully.
“Oh, you have it wrong,” said the woman in her late 40’s.. “It’s because I exercise that I look like this.”
Many people don’t like to exercise. (I get a personal thrill out of making exercise converts out of them, but I digress.) A lot of these people nevertheless will stick with exercise long enough to see results. However, the only way to maintain those results is by continuing to exercise.
Muscle strength decreases with just two weeks off of pumping iron and cardiovascular strength diminishes in just two days! That’s also why it’s really hard to see results after the occasional workout. It needs to be regular and consistent, as a lifestyle. Forever. Not only that, but it must be challenging to your system to make the kind of change you can see.
So as much as I think movement in general is beneficial; picking up the kids’ legos, parking farther from the entrance, and taking the stairs alone simply aren’t going to provide you with all the benefits (both aesthetically and in terms of health) that you probably want to see in the long run; even if they are good for your circulation and sense of self-efficacy in the short-term.
Activities like chasing toddlers across the living room, folding laundry and walking the groceries into the house are what I call exhausting. I also call them activities of daily living. Regular exercise is supposed to make these less taxing for you as your energy level increases because you are becoming more fit. They aren’t the workout themselves.
What makes movement go from daily activity to exercise, in my book, is when your heart rate is elevated into your aerobic zone (The talk but not sing test is a nice benchmark for what your aerobic zone feels like). Even better if you could keep it in that zone for at least 10 minutes. Exercise is when your muscles have to work really hard to lift and you just might want to stop or you might have to struggle just slightly to complete the lift. Or that position you are holding still is challenging for you.
Does knowing all this make it hard to stick to an exercise routine if you don’t really like exercise? It can. That’s why it’s super important to keep trying different types of exercise until you find something you enjoy doing and then find a way to do that type often. If you can just tolerate exercise without actually liking it, you can try to find other things about the exercise experience that you do enjoy- such as the music, or the scenery, or the company, or the lack of company, or merely the feeling of accomplishment of charting it knowing its good for you (though this one tends not to work as well as the enjoyable endorphin rush at the end of the workout or any of the other tips mentioned).
Finally, now that you found something you like and you are doing it often, our body as brilliantly designed for homeostasis that it is, will adapt to that and stop giving you results at a certain point. You will plateau. To make more changes you will need to change it up- in duration, intensity or with another type of exercise. The good news is, by the time you reach that point, there’s a good chance you are already a regular exerciser.