I repeatedly find it embarrassingly easy to lose all motivation to keep up with exercise and working out. And I know I’m not alone in this; most of the time when I or someone else says something about working out it’s met with replies of, “UGH, I need to work out too,” followed by a pat on the stomach or a slap on the ass. But I think it’s pretty understandable that, after work and meetings and errands and chores, when we can either reach for a beer with our friends or our running shoes, we go for the Guinness.
I was reading the August issue of SELF magazine and the big thing in this issue is how to look and feel younger. I know, I know, who hasn’t heard that exercise makes you younger, it gives you energy, gives you an orgasm glow, yadda yadda and I’m 24, so it’s not like I’m even remotely close to being a geezer, but the pictures were pretty so I thought I’d glance through. Sometimes it helps to hear something you already know in a different way to make it stick out in your mind again or make it mean something new.
It’s easy to forget that exercise and wellness isn’t black and white. Working out doesn’t necessarily mean you go to the gym and eating right doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on a diet. When you think about all the gray areas it’s a lot easier to get motivated because it’s so much less pressure because you can’t eff it up, basically. And you can give yourself a break for goodness sake. SELF’s article was about the effects of exercise on a cellular level, and to paraphrase A LOT, cells refresh regularly and they’ll come back weaker or stronger, depending on the chemical signals they receive. So if muscle cells get signals that they will be used for exercising, they’ll come back strong and young, while bump-on-a-log cells will come back all withered and old (I don’t know if they’ll physically come back withered, that’s just the mental image I get.) I look at it like your cells are new employees in the Business of your Bod, and they are being trained to work. If the cell’s predecessor is a slacker, the new cell will be too because they don’t know any better. If all your cells are well-trained, they’ll work together to create this kick ass business that can handle anything. These super strong cells will keep you, as a whole, strong and young looking and feeling.
To keep these cell workers in check, according to SELF, all you need are three steps: Move, Tone, and Renew, or cardio, strength training, and stretching/meditating. Henry S. Lodge, M.D., an associate clinical professor of medicine at Columbia University and SELF contributing expert suggests cardio for 5% of your waking hours (if you’re awake 15 to 16 hours a day, that’s about six hours of cardio a week) and two weight training sessions a week. So, for example, if you run or power walk to the gym twice a week for your weight training sessions, that’s about two hours of cardio, and if you walk the dog with your boyfriend every night after dinner, ride your bike to the bookstore and the grocery store, go dancing Friday night, and hiking on Saturday, that’s all your cardio without even really thinking about it. Hit up some Sun Salutations during the commercial breaks while you’re watching Parks and Recreation and do five minutes of deep breathing with your eyes closed before you go to bed and it’s like you’ve turned back time.