Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Accepting Your Exercise Limits

Welcome to the Overachievers Anonymous Gym.  Our membership is open to workaholics, the hyperresponsible, perfectionists, the competitive, and former teacher's pets. You may also qualify if you routinely push yourself too much, too hard, or for too long.

Or if you look at this picture and immediately get depressed
If you are starting a fitness routine or struggling with a medical situation, repeat after me:

I will be kind to my body. 
I will accept my limitations. 
I will start at the beginning.

An out-of-shape or damaged body is a weak body and it takes very little to stress it out with intensive exercise. Whether you have a chronic disease, a physical limitation, or you're just overweight, your body will rebel if you ignore every warning sign that you're trying to do too much.

Trust me - put your overachieving ego aside and gracefully accept that you need to start at square one.  Yes, that can be a big pill to swallow, but your muscles, heart, and lungs will thank you.

Before I started being kind to myself, I was fighting with my body every time I tried to exercise.  Brisk walks, Tae Bo, heavy weights - all of it was frustrating me to tears and I would abandon movement all together. 

I didn't want to accept that my body was no longer the basketball-playing, tennis racket-welding, elliptical machine-happy, marching band junkie it used to be. 

Believe me, it's enormously difficult to accept that you have limitations.  But if you don't acknowledge the reality about your health or fitness level, you're only putting another stumbling block on your path.       

Whatever it is that you must accept about your body, identify it and come to peace with it.  It's OK if a certain type of exercise causes you pain or frustration.  Listen to your body or mind if it's telling you "I'm not ready for this."  

This doesn't mean you're giving up and it's not an excuse to just sit on the couch.  What you're doing is eliminating activities that aren't beneficial for you right now, this moment, under these circumstances.

For example, I love Tae Bo.  But 20 minutes in, I'm panting up a storm, getting frustrated that I can't keep up, and usually dissolve into tears.  One, that's super embarrassing.  Two, that's no way to work out.  So I've resigned myself that right now, at my current fitness level, this particular exercise isn't doing me any favors.  If I really want to pursue it, I need to buy a beginners DVD and start from there.     

Once you come to terms with the things you cannot do (remember - right now, at this moment), turn your mind toward things that you can do and that have a positive association.  Write a list out if you have to, but do it.       

I enjoy walking. 
I can do low weight, high repetition strength training. 
I like dancing to pop videos.
I'm able to go swimming.

Now that you've identified your starting point, build from there.  The only way you can become the exercise machine vision in your head is to compassionately inch your body in that direction.

I know, I sound a little hippie-dippie and Mike is laughing in the background because I've been ignoring this advice from him for years.  But it's completely worth my time to find out what works for me since all previous attempts have been unsuccessful.    

So I'm slowly creating an exercise routine based on walking, light weights, dancing, and Pilates.  This isn't going to be some quick miracle transformation.  In the past two months, I've neither lost weight nor been exercising as much as I should.

But I have been exercising, every few days in fact, and that's something I wasn't doing at all before. 

I can't say enough good things about starting slow and gentle.  As I'm heading into March, my only goal is to take these Jennie-friendly exercises and keep things simple by only increasing the frequency and duration.  

Which exercises help to keep you in a groove?    


  1. The first five criteria for joining the gym apply to me. Ouch. Does that mean I get a free membership?

  2. You have NO IDEA how badly I needed to read this post! Thank you. I think this attitude applies to many parts of my life and not just fitness.

  3. @ JP - free only if you commit to walking with me over lunch once a week! ;)

    @ d'Artagnan - glad it was timely and I agree, there are so many benefits to just living in the moment. It's a little intimidating, but I'm finding it really works for my sanity.