Exercise carries with it some pretty heavy baggage, especially if you’re the type of person who approaches it with a feast-or-famine attitude, or is perhaps just getting into it for the first time. Sure, building up a regular routine is very difficult, and especially when you’re in the beginning stages – the first few months – it can be tempting to take a very kamikaze approach. Exercise or die! Skinny or bust! That type of thing.
The truth is, though, that working out is like everything else: it has to be done in moderation. If you choose a diet that leaves no room for dessert, then you’ll probably blow it most weekends, feel bad about yourself, and continue down a route that makes you both unhappy and unhealthy. If you choose a militant exercise routine, you’ll find reasons to avoid it because it’s simply too hard or too frequent.
So I’m going to say something a lot of people probably don’t say, which is that it’s really important to moderate the workouts you commit to. If you aren’t in running shape, you shouldn’t kick off with 15 miles a week … that’s a good way to get an injury. And if you’ve never done Bikram’s Yoga before, it’s probably not a good idea to throw yourself into the Hundred Day Challenge … you’ll just burn out. Pick a routine you can stick with, and then stick with it.
Just because you’re a master exerciser, however, doesn’t mean you’re exempt from this advice. Most excuses are just excuses, but some aren’t. If you are injured, sore, sick or just too tired, you probably shouldn’t be hitting the gym that day. It’s important to remember that your body is a finely tuned machine; would you take a car with a busted chassis to the track? No. So if your leg is tight or your foot feels funny, give yourself a break too.
It might not seem like it, but realistic expectations and a steady work ethic are much faster ways to slim down and tone up than an Arnold Schwarzenegger-style weight room beat-down. Next time you find yourself headed to the gym for the twelfth day in a row or ignoring a twinge in the knee, remember that.