Exercise is Not a Punishment!

Over the last few years, images like these ones have become increasingly prevalent in main stream media and on social media.  Images depicting how much exercise you would need to do in order to “work off” your favourite snack.  Well, I want to call a halt to this.  There are a million good reasons for people to exercise, but doing it as a punishment for eating is not one of them.

Sweet treats can be incorporated into a healthy diet in moderation.  If your baseline diet and training program doesn’t allow for this, then it is fundamentally lacking.  Feeling the need to punish yourself with a grueling workout after every indulgence can only serve to foster disordered thinking around food.

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and there are so many good reasons to do it.

  • It makes you feel good – Exercise releases endorphins which can make you feel like you are on top of the world.  I can’t tell you how often I have felt exhausted walking into the gym and full of energy walking out having done a strenuous workout.
  • It relieves stress – Often simply the act of getting out of your head and into your body for 30 minutes can work wonders for reducing your stress.  Getting to a stage when training where you can only focus on the next step or the next rep allows little time for brooding over the days events.
  • Increases confidence – There is nothing quite so empowering as the feeling of being able to do something today that you couldn’t do yesterday.  Whether that be nailing the perfect snatch, doing your first pull up, loading extra weight on the bar, or even just being able to make it through the class without having to stop.  These milestones are momentous and they show you how far you have come.  I promise you they are far more motivational than any chocolate bar.
  • See what you are made of – Exercising gives you the opportunity to see exactly what your body can do.  Often times you will find it is capable of far more than you ever thought it could be.
  • It helps you sleep – Training helps you burn off the excess nervous energy that keep so many of us staring at the ceiling at night.  Clearing your head and tiring out your body will definitely help you drift off more easily
  • It’s a social outlet – Whether you take a Crossfit class, a morning yoga practice or hit up a spin studio, your exercise session gives you a chance to be around like minded people and have a shared experience.  Your energy can fuel their workouts, so it’s important to keep your vibe positive.

Exercise should never be used as a form of self flagellation.  This will only make you dread your workout and you will form negative associations with it, which will make it nearly impossible for you to stay motivated to train.

Just as harmful as this is the practice of using exercise to “earn” food.  Your body needs regular fueling regardless of whether or not you are training.    You have earned your food simply by being alive.  Feeling the need to justify your calorie intake by completing workouts is again disordered and unhealthy.  As a good friend of mine would say “don’t reward yourself with food, you’re not a dog.”

As regular readers will know, I always stress the need for balance.  In order to be able to stick to your chosen lifestyle and retain your sanity, there needs to be some flexibility.  If you decide you want to have a chocolate bar, then by all means have it.  No diet requires 100% rigid adherence in order to achieve results.  Do the healthy stuff 80-90% of the time and with the rest of it, do what you like.  But please, please if you do decide to indulge yourself, DO NOT frantically start trying to work out how much punishment you now need to endure in order to redress the balance.

Enjoy your training.  Make it the best hour of the day.  Make it the place to leave behind all your stress, it should not be a source of stress in and of itself.  If your current training program feels like a chore, it might be time to make a change.  Doing something that you enjoy is half the battle.

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