The Big Trade Off?  by Marlene Harris, NSCA-CSCS, NASM-CES
    The other day, I was watching a show on the Discovery Health Channel that featured Dr. Oz, the noted heart health M.D. He was hosting a feature that followed the lives of several people who were working to improve their nutrition, form good exercise habits, dump fat, and increase their level of fitness. It was like a less formal, more personalized version of “the biggest loser” only without all the competition, drama, and hoopla. Each person was on a separate “mission” and was coached individually by various pros.
     As I watched the show, a couple of statements expressed by the participants jumped out at me. They are important enough to warrant discussion, because they echo comments I hear from many of you, fellow seekers of fitness and self-improvement. Additionally, I could relate to them--I’ve had similar feelings over the course of my own fitness/self-improvement journey. As a result of my extended experience, I’ve developed ways to work beyond them.
     Two of the individuals on the show, one a guy, and one a gal, each in a fit of frustration, blurted out the following:
  1). I’m not as excited about my exercise program as I was when I first started”.
  2). I’m bored with my diet”.
      Ever feel like this? Read on!

1). I’m not as excited about my exercise program as I was when I first started”.

     In response this, I laughed! I thought, “Well, duh! Of course you aren’t!” We humans love novelty. Take note of our spending habits, and you’ll find that we’re willing to pay big bucks to have varying forms of it in our lives. But here’s the rub: EVERYTHING is exciting when it’s shiny and new, different, and filled with hopeful and unknown possibilities. Before I get branded as an unsympathetic freak, hear this: I get bored with my workouts too! And OFTEN! That’s why I employ the following strategies to combat this particular hurdle to fitness.
        First, I always remind myself that a workout doesn’t have to be “whoop-dee-do” exciting in order to be effective in improving my strength and my health, whittling my dimensions down, and doing my body good. It only has to be one thing in order to accomplish all that: IT HAS TO BE DONE!
       Second, I’m always employing my power of choice, and constantly tweaking my workouts in various ways. Tweak options include:
   1). Just numbers: sets, reps., and pounds are all numbers that can be very easily changed and rearranged.
   2). Tempo: chance the pace--slow sets, fast sets, isometric sets, pulsing sets, combo sets, and/or longer or rest shorter intervals can all be utilized.
   3). Movement variation: select an alternative movement or movement angle that works the same body part(s) in different way.
   4). Tools n’ toys: there’s kettlebells, martial arts moves, bag work, stick work, free weights, machine weights, body weight drills, step drills, plyometric drills, combo. modes, to name but a few. As long as you keep things appropriate to your particular level of conditioning, there’s plenty of ways to make your workouts less routine.
          Exercise, unless you’re a deviant like me who actually does enjoy exercise to a significant (but not 100%) degree, working out can be placed among the myriad other things we do to insure/improve our quality of life-brushing our teeth, cleaning ourselves, dressing ourselves appropriately, paying our bills, reading the mail, combing our hair, balancing our checkbooks, stopping at stop lights, taking care of our families, showing up to work pretty much every day, on time, doing paperwork, taking out the trash, tolerating that annoying relative, and so on. None of these represents “WOO-HOO! It’s party time!” But, if you look at the results and the reasons why we do them, these activities are accepted as a regular part of our lives to serve us “for the greater good”. We don’t work out because it’s exciting--we go to Magic Mountain, the Grand Canyon, the Bahamas, Hawaii, Rome, Sea World, Aspen, and swim, hike, ski, fish, boat, roam, ect., for that! We work out because it’s good for us, keeps us strong and able, and improves our chances for living a longer, high quality existence that we can be proud of and happy with. THAT’S why we workout-it’s a trade off so we can do the rest of life without undue limitation or illness!

2). I’m bored with my diet”.

     When I heard this, again, I chuckled. And, again, I thought to myself, “If food were my primary source of entertainment, I would be bored too!”  
     Eating should not be something akin to a hobby (hobbies being fun, engaging activities that alleviate boredom).  Food is meant to be fuel-fuel to pursue other forms of activity and entertainment in life, NOT as a form of amusement in itself. I think that much of our country’s current obesity epidemic stems from the fact that we have become a culture that views food as a pastime as opposed to sustenance. It is an easy option to pursue. But, if you have weight loss goals and you find that you:
    a). Look forward to going to a ball game just to get a lip-lock on those overpriced hot dogs.
    b). Get the shivers at the thought of attending a birthday party just you can have the cake.
    c). Start drooling at the idea of Thanksgiving or Christmas because of the all the goodies…
…you might want to rethink your relationship with food. Returning to the sagely words of the old country doctor to my father-in-law (quoted in a previous dialogue); “Don’t live to eat, eat to live!” 
     While living to eat is an unhealthy, thus undesirable objective, this doesn’t mean that you are doomed to the culinary equivalent of wallpaper paste on your plate as your only option. As with exercise, you can make your fuel more interesting by deliberately seeking out and implementing variety in your diet. There’s an astounding array of options to be found at your local grocery store. It’s just that we get so married to our groove (groove being a kinder, gentler word for “rut”), that we never poke our heads up and look around to see what else is out there.
    Variations include:
     1). Spice it up! Experiment with different herbs and spices in your cooking, many of which are low calorie, quite healthy, and even medicinal!  If you don’t know where to get started, there’s more information on the web on this topic than you can shake a salt or pepper dispenser at!
     2). Mix it up! Select different meats, different veggies, and different starches to construct your meals. Instead of beef, try mahi-mahi. Instead of corn, try broccoli with low fat cheese. Instead of hashed browns, try sweet potatoes. Instead of flour tortillas, try the sun-dried tomato flavor option. We still live in a land of plenty, so get out there and check out the full array of your options. This can be an adventure in itself.
     3). Dress it up! Try different styles of low fat sauces, toppings, and other condiments, such as fruit salsas, reduced fat cheeses, or low fat sour cream. Try low fat catalina dressing on a burger instead of salty ketchup. Homemade honey mustard dressing is great on a 93% lean ground beef burger, by the way. Put some of your favorite foods together to create new combinations. Think outside of the box, can, or plastic tub!    
     In summary, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are NOT the point of living-this is not what you should be living for. These are merely things that you do in service of living a long, strong, and healthy life. Said another way, these important life habits should be serving what you ARE living for. And, if you don’t know what you’re living for, it’s clearly time to ask yourself that question!
     If eating a healthy diet and working out were the primary reason for my existence, I would feel like I was living an awfully narrow, limited, and boring life. I eat to feel strong, sharp, energetic, capable of carrying out any activity of my choosing, to stay healthy, and to feel satisfied (i.e., not hungry). I work out to feel…strong, sharp, energetic, capable of carrying out any activity of my choosing, to stay healthy, and to feel satisfied that I can get things done without undue restriction, pain, or need for assistance. THAT is why I seek to eat healthy and work out regularly. It’s just a compromise I make to get the other results I want out of life. Those of you who are still wrestling with this may view this as an overwhelming trade-off. I see it as a fairly small one compared to the alternative!

Serving up fun with your fitness since 2008! Your Trainers Mindscape Artices Home