A few years ago I spent some time working as a barista for Starbucks. This is a company that devotes a lot of time and energy to the development of its people. I remember once going to an internal career fair hosted by the company. Everyone was incredibly enthusiastic, drinking coffee (of course), chatting and laughing. There were people walking around handing out Sharpies on lanyards printed with the phrase “Love what you do.” Our managers didn’t want us to just do our jobs, they wanted us to love our jobs. They understood that to truly do something well you have to have some love for what you are doing. Otherwise you are simply going through the motions. The other day while clearing out a drawer I found my sharpie and it struck me that this phrase could be applicable to far more than just your occupation.
As a personal trainer I am constantly finding myself in conversations with people about their exercise habits – and not always because I ask about them. It’s possible that by simply being a personal trainer I set off some kind of guilt mechanism, but people always seem to want to tell me how they feel about exercise, and most of the time the feelings are less than enthusiastic. I think they expect a lecture on the benefits of exercise, how if you just stick with it you’ll see results, or at the very least a stern look and wagging finger. But I’m not that kind of trainer. This isn’t the Biggest Loser and I’m not Jillian Michaels. I don’t believe that all the problems in your life will be solved by hitting the gym and dropping 20lbs.
If the idea of walking into a gym and picking up a pair of free weights makes you want to cry and crawl back into bed then that type of exercise, for you, would be stressful and counter-productive. During physical activity there is already a certain amount of physiological stress placed on the body as carbohydrates, amino acids and muscle protein are broken down and converted into fuel and energy. There is also the physical stress placed on the body when we do things like walking, running, bouncing or lifting weights. These types of stress can be seen as productive because, although some do break the body down – like high intensity cardiovascular activity, when we get adequate amounts of rest these activities create stronger muscles, tendons and ligaments as well as better functioning lungs, heart and metabolism. However, the emotional stress that can come from doing something you do not want to do, like running on a treadmill, can end up being more destructive than productive. The kind of dread and resentment that can develop in us when we are continuously forcing ourselves to do things we don’t like can lead to an increase in cortisol levels, which over time can lead to things like elevated cholesterol and blood sugar among other things.
So if right now you’re not loving your workouts, then try something else. Whether it’s walking, running, wind surfing, mountain climbing or 45 minutes a day on the elliptical, if you don’t love it, if you’re not getting something beneficial from it, then why do it?
Try yoga, at several different studios – each should have a lower fee for a first time drop-in; try hiking; try mountain-biking; try road biking; try walking dogs at your local SPCA (exercise and good Karma :)). Try training for a half-marathon or a road race. Keep trying until you fall in love. Once you’ve found an activity that makes you happy, keep trying new things anyways – it’s good for you!
One thing that Starbucks knows, other than coffee that is, is how to treat its people. So let’s take the Starbucks example personally. If your mind is the manager, then your muscles and fascia, your heart, your lungs and all the various systems of your body are your people. Treat your people well and you will flourish, expanding in health and happiness and continuing to grow exponentially in a myriad of different ways.
Our bodies are built for movement; let your body love the way it moves.
Port Moody Integrated Health Personal Training and Resistive Flexibility