I’m an Idaho girl. I grew up in a tiny town in North Idaho without much to occupy the time other than 4-H, putting subwoofers in our cars, and driving an hour to the nearest decent movie theater. (Shout out to all my Priest River/Oldtown/Newport friends!) This is when my love for athletics, and fitness in particular, began.
I remember asking for a physioball and exercise tubing for Christmas one year. My mom had some tiny dumbbells that I borrowed (I can picture them now…maroon and squishy, with a strap over the knuckles that always left me wondering “which part do I hold?”). Armed with these few pieces of equipment and my Shape magazines, I would bust out some “toning” exercises in my room late at night.
I suppose I was already recognizing at the time that extravagant gyms and lots of equipment was unnecessary for working out. But, I look back on some of the stuff I was doing and just have to laugh at myself. So naïve!
I would do push-ups (a million, I swear), crunches, sit-ups, V-ups, ball crunches, reverse crunches, weird donkey kicks with my band, standing side bends, and sometimes lunges and bridges. I picked exercises based on the muscles that I wanted to tone. It wasn’t horrible, but it could have been so much better.
Becoming educated along the way has revealed so much about those early days. Hindsight is incredibly clear.
What exercises or workouts were you doing 10 or 15 years ago?
Can you remember? If you’re still doing the same thing today, we’ve got a problem. Actually, several problems.
1. Science has changed. Exercise science is a relatively new field compared to other studies. Scientific research on exercise has only been happening for the last 30 years, with the most relevant data occurring in the last 15 years.
Several years ago, we only knew that you needed to do cardiovascular exercise for your heart and lungs, and strength training for your muscles. As a result of these simple studies, experts recommended that we do cardio 3-5 days per week and strength training exercises to target very specific muscles 3-5 days per week. We also heard recommendations that in order to burn one pound of body fat, you must exert 3,500 calories.
The way this shook out with the everyday person was a lot of running and some weight machines, maybe even dumbbells, from time to time. And a LOT of calorie counting to try and reach that magical 3,500 number.
We now know that your body doesn’t operate in black and white. If your heart rate is elevated, regardless of what’s causing that, you’re doing cardiovascular work. We also know that hard strength training is the most effective way to lose bodyfat, not just straight up calorie burn. We’re understanding the effects of stress hormones, nutrition, nervous system integration, fatigue, muscle coordination and so much more.
In all honesty, what I’m currently doing might be irrelevant or considered “not-the-best” two years from now. There were things that I prescribed to clients two years ago that I don’t include in my programs anymore. This discourages me sometimes and I get embarrassed by what my routines used to look like, but it’s also motivation to stay on top of it.
Make sure that you’re constantly learning from the best, seeing what’s new, changing things up and not afraid to drop something from your program.
2. Your body has changed. Compared to ten years ago, you are probably stronger or weaker, have more or less bodyfat, have had injuries, taken classes, tried this or that type of workout, experienced hormonal changes, and have gone through stressful times.
You should be training the body you have RIGHT NOW, not the one you had 10 years ago.
When I started exercising in my bedroom back in high school, I was 15. I am now 32, have had two kids, and have a long and varied training history (17 years!) under my belt. Why the heck would I be doing the same thing?! If I was doing the same group of exercises and using the same loads, I would never be as strong and fit as I am now.
(Make sure you read last week's blog post about the Comparison Trap. Understanding that you have a different body now than you did a while ago is so pivotal.)
3. Your goals have probably changed. Or at least they should have changed multiple times over the years. If your goal has always been “to lose weight”, then something’s not working.
When I reflect back on the last 10-15 years, my goals have changed so much: lose bodyfat, gain muscle mass, get ripped, heal a knee injury, gain appropriate baby weight, lose that baby weight, get stronger, run faster, run farther, stop running, heal a foot injury, gain flexibility, correct low back posture, improve core strength, and just feel energetic. The same routine would never tackle all of these goals.
Our lives change and our intentions for the moment change. Your physical needs and goals must change, too. If you are honest, what are your realistic goals right now in this moment? Are you training in a way that will reach these goals?
Shut up, elephant! Now, the elephant in the room is this: What if you weren’t doing anything 10 years ago, and you’re STILL not doing anything? Then we really have a problem.
If this is the case, you are not taking care of your body. For whatever reason, your priorities are not lined up in a way to steward the body that you have been given.
God did not give you a body so you could treat it however you want.
You must do something to stay physically active, and unfortunately our culture does not naturally foster this. Americans sit, a lot. And if we’re not sitting, we’re merely walking (or gardening, or carrying groceries, or taking care of kiddos). These things are not enough to hold your body together, prevent injuries and help you stay healthy. You must do a little bit more. Try a short, at home strength building routine that also touches your cardio. Sign up for a yoga class. Dust off your bike and go find some hills. You don't have to shoot for the moon, but at least consider what it might mean to take better care of your body.
Look back, now. What did your activities look like 10 or 15 years ago? Are you still doing the same things? If so, you better switch gears because science has changed, your body has changed and your goals have changed. That workout better change, too.
Are you still not working out after all these years? Is your body still low on the priority list? That better change, too, otherwise it will dramatically catch up to you…and not in a good way.
Change is good. Drop what isn't working for you anymore and start doing what does work.
Megan P. Dahlman
Hi friend! I'm a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Precision Nutrition Certified Coach, Wife to Scott, and Mom to two crazy boys, Calvin & Peter. I train hard, eat well, rest just enough to keep going, and do my best to maintain a heavenly perspective. I'd love to coach you to do the same. Cheers!
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