When I was growing up, my mom said, "Kathleen, just because a boy wants to date you does not mean you want to date him. Do what is best for you — not him."
The same can be said for pieces of exercise equipment and workout styles. It's a company's job to "court you." They want to sell a product and promote their brand, but not all pieces of equipment or modes of training are appropriate for all people.
Yes, obvious advice, but you might be surprised by how often we all get swayed by fitness PR mythology; if I had a dime for every time someone has told me, "I have to run, it's the 'best' workout for burning mega calories." Sure, running burns calories, but those calories are moot if you'll do anything to avoid your workout, or if running leaves you injured and incapable of being active.
How to figure out what workout is for you!
- Analyze your past. Pinpoint activities that have been motivating and safe for you and those that have felt overwhelming or that resulted in injury. Don't repeat the same workout patterns and expect different results. If baseball always leaves you with a rotator cuff tear, or running hurts your knees, consider swimming or lifting weights. If you love the activity too much to let it go, find ways to complete the workout injury free. For example, have an expert analyze your running form for your weak links, and work to strengthen them (rotator cuff work anyone?)
- Think big picture. Your program should include cardiovascular, strength and mobility training. Do regular cardio? Consider strength and/or mobility workouts. Extremely mobile yet 80 per cent of your fitness regimen is yoga? Consider Pilates.
- Prioritize what your body needs. Have osteoporosis? Strength training. Back pain? Core and mobility training. Family history of cardiovascular disease? Cardio.
- Pick the type of cardio — high vs low impact — that suits your body. High-impact activities —running and sports that include jumping — are hard on the body. Have osteoarthritis? Swimming or the elliptical might be appropriate.
- Match your workout activity and venue to your personality. If you enjoy being with others, find designated workout areas motivating or require variety to stay "into" your workout, you are probably primarily a gym bunny. Thus, join a gym. If you identify as competitive, join a competitive gym such as CrossFit, register for a team sport or train for a race. If you consistently feel too busy to work out and/or can't contemplate getting yourself to the gym, make life your gym. Walk on your lunch, pace on conference calls or exercise at your desk. If you hate the vibe of most gyms, dislike working out in front of people or hate wasting time getting to and from the gym but still want an intense workout, set up a home gym. Train there.
- When it comes to reaching any fitness goal, consistency is key. To foster consistency, find a workout that fits four criteria: something that is convenient, that you're comfortable doing, that is appropriate for your fitness needs and level and that you enjoy, or at least don't hate.
"Lean into" the process of adopting a healthier lifestyle. Momentary bad outcomes are part of life. Perfection is not possible. Judge yourself on "effort" and your ability to persevere, not your ability to be perfect. When you fall off your health "horse" — you will fall, you are human — use the fall as opportunity for growth. Fall. Analyze. Learn. Course correct as quickly as possible.
Don't get sidetracked by the phantom future or past regrets. Focus on what you can control now. Use every moment as an opportunity to ask yourself, "What can I do or think in this moment that will create a positive ripple effect in my thoughts and actions going forward?"