Exercise, movement and….. language?

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt

Or will they?

We are subconsciously influenced by many things.   So it follows that our exercise habits are all influenced by a myriad of factors:

Goals, stamina and fitness, exercise likes & dislikes, our knowledge – good, bad or indifferent, of correct technique;   How much time we have, what others around us are doing.

Of course,  there is also likely to be some unconscious sabotage type stuff going on as well.

Then, of course, just to complicate matters, our movement itself is  influenced by many factors:  body alignment, relative strengths & weaknesses, movement habits, our particular flexibility, strength & mobility, past & present injury, pain.

But what if there is another factor in play?   The influence of language: the words and phrases we use to talk about our exercise behaviour, strategies and goals.

Often our exercise language is warlike.  Both explicitly and implicitly it tell us that we have to wage war upon our body, that we’re fighting a battle.  The tendency of women to be fearful of weight training won’t be helped by the aggressive, jingoistic words that are banded about, although happily, more and more women are turning to resistance work.

  • We go to “body Attack ” classes; We “fight the flab”
  • Words are rather brutal  “no pain, no gain”,
  • Class names are tough, brutal, no nonsense: “Insanity ” (which really exists) “Xtreme Fitness”, “Total Warrior Workout” (which I have made up but probably do exist somewhere!!)
  • We go in for “fat shredding” and want to look “ripped” .
  • Even  Bootcamp…..  I mean, we don’t think of Cinderella’s lost slipper when we hear that phrase do we?

To achieve results with exercise you have to change something, even if it is just a matter of starting.

After all:

Exercise language: Quote: not matter how slow you go you are still lapping everybody on the couch

Beyond that rather marvellous maxim, we do have to work, and maybe work more often, for longer,  faster,  harder.



More efficiently.

So, achieving more with less.   We embrace this in most walks of life, most notably with money.   We should do it with exercise.

For efficient, (and dull though it may be, safe and effective) exercise and movement you need your body on your side: with you not against you!   And you definitely don’t want to be fighting a battle with your body.

If you think you’re in a battle then it will increase the likelihood of you thinking

“it must be working because it hurts”

Ditch that in favour of

“as little as possible and as much as is necessary.”

This exercise language will not win any sound byte contests but nevertheless it is hugely important.  (In fact, I want it on my gravestone please,  along with, “Stop clenching your buttocks!”).

That will get you, both in the short and long term,  further, longer, faster  because you’re trying to get the most work out of the least effort and then subsequently building upon that firm, effective foundation

Instead of ” no pain no gain”  think  “no effort for more gain”, which is so un-sound-byte-like that I haven’t even put it into special WordPress quotation marks.

Given that this is a principle that I try to apply and would like to see others do so, I get really worked up and anxious in the gym when I see people exercising.

Every time I’m in the gym I see lots of people with dodgy technique, working very hard and achieving less than their potential because their form is so poor.  At the same time  risk of injury is increased.  This provides justification for the Exercise-is-bad-for-you-brigade.  It isn’t.  Poor technique or the wrong choice of exercise is.

When I’m out and about I see runners with poor technique and the same applies.

We are conditioned to ignore how we feel and certainly when it comes to the gym,  I can only assume that people don’t even realise that there is a right way and wrong way to use the Rowing Machine, the Stepper, the Cross Trainer etc.

We need different exercise language –  a whole new vocabulary to use when doing exercise.  We need to work with our body not fight a battle with it.

Sorry Nike but don’t “Just do it”

The new vocabulary is rather more dull:  “What is the correct way of doing this exercise?”  Again, no special quotation marks!

There’s is nothing very sex, drugs and rock’n’roll about that.  Mind you,  if you apply it in principle you’re more likely to have the energy and and inclination to have sex, take drugs  and watch rock’n’roll.

You wouldn’t attempt to bake a cake with no recipe or build a wardrobe with no instructions. Ironically an army general wouldn’t fight a battle with a properly thought out strategy.  So we shouldn’t just walk in the gym and declare all out war on our bodies with no plan.

Free weights stacked up in a gym

Sort out technique and then have it clarified.  Ask the gym instructors, look at (only reputable)  videos online.  Hire a Personal Trainer.  Having a PT is a brilliant idea, but not one that everyone can afford or necessarily even wants one.  Do remember –  Gym Instructors are in the gym to help you.  Use them, question them, ask them.  It is their job and one that is made much more rewarding if they can help you achieve more.

Next, ask:  “What do I look like?”

So often I see people lifting weights or doing cardiovascular exercise with the  head thrust forward , with the shoulder blades elevated, with the head bobbing side to side, with the whole body flexed forwards, with the hands gripped tight, with the whole body being shifted side to side in an attempt to cycle or move the cross trainer.  And as for the Rowing Machine, well , don’t get me started……

None of this should be happening

The same serious lack of form takes place in weight training, Pilates classes, body conditioning work.  I see loads of efforting and poor form all detracting from the intended goal.

Ask yourself “How do I feel?”

Depending upon the answer, relax, soften, unclench, lengthen, breathe.

I can imagine that you might be saying, “I don’t know how I feel when I exercise.”  Well, start noticing, start looking, start making enquiries to check up on correct technique.

End the battle and  call a truce.  The Peace Treaty reads something like this:

Mind – respect your body.  It will deliver the goods but you must enable it to function properly.  Determine good technique, use it, then feel, observe, notice what the body does.

Body – you are capable of a lot and can give Mind what it wants, given time.   You are made for movement – lifting, running, twisting, bending.  In the new effective , yet challenging environment see how an increase in stamina and strength can occur.

Mind/Body ~ Body/Mind you can do it!

cyclist with sunset background

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