It's time to stop seeing exercise as a dreaded chore and start seeing it as an exciting challenge.
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This morning we had a killer workout at kickboxing. The warmup alone had us all panting, and that was before we moved on to the exercise ladder. If you’re unfamiliar with ladders, it’s basically where you repeat a series of different exercises a certain number of times each in a ladder — so first exercise 1 X times, then exercise 1 X times plus exercise 2 X times, then exercise 1 X times plus exercise 2 X times plus exercise 3 X times, and so on. (If your teacher is really evil they will also make you descend the ladder, and then you will die.)
Anyway, I have a love-hate relationship with ladders. They are uncomfortable. They require significantly more exertion than stations or intervals. There’s always a lot of arm-burning and internal swearing involved. But at the end, I always get that post-workout endorphin rush where I walk around all day going, “dang, that was a killer workout.” Kind of like I did at the beginning of this post.
It might be the endorphins that make workouts like that great, but it might also be the fact that challenging, difficult workouts are the only way to get stronger, faster, and fitter. It’s an unavoidable truth when it comes to exercising: there is no such thing as a comfortable workout.
Improving your fitness requires difficulty. You must run faster than before, you must lift more than before, you must do more work in less time than before. This fact follows from a fundamental principle of exercise science known as SAID. Jogging three miles per day at a pace of ten minutes per mile will result in a body capable of precisely that, three miles in 30 minutes. It will result in a body-fat percentage, muscle mass, and aerobic fitness consistent with that pace. Once that adaptation is achieved through repetition, there will be no further gains.
This might seem like a bummer. It did to me when I first learned that increasing fitness requires variation and increasingly higher levels of intensity. But the thing about exercise is that the more you do it and the harder you work at it, the more you enjoy it and the harder you want to work.
I know I sound crazy, like one of those Crossfitting Instagramming kale enthusiasts, but I learned this through experience. There are still certain exercises (lookin’ at you, squats) that I would rather gouge my eyes out than do ad nauseum, but I’m willing to sprinkle them into plenty of workouts because I know they accomplish something that round kicks never will. I can feel it, in fact. They’re harder for me to do because they require muscles I tend to neglect, but the more I do them, the easier they get.
The same is true of every exercise, from running and swimming to lifting weights and kicking things. They all require different things of your body, and varying your workouts to include them all is vital. That’s how you get stronger, faster, and healthier. That’s also how you stop seeing exercise as a dreaded chore and start seeing it as an exciting challenge.
And eventually, that’s how you becoming a Crossfitting Instagramming kale enthusiast, or a taekwondo and kickboxing junkie. It might seem lame, but I promise you, it’s not. It’s actually pretty awesome.
Want to lose weight? You may need to eat more