The #1 Reason Your Workout Isn’t Producing the Results You Want
If you feel like you’re spinning your wheels on the road to better fitness, you may be focused on the wrong thing.
I am still haunted by junior high PE—namely, the gymnastics segment. And not because my round-off handspring left out both the “spring” and the round-off part. I was tall and fast, the antithesis of little or limber. With an adolescent body built for volleyball, basketball, and tennis, my performance during the gymnastics curriculum—besides a decent cartwheel and somersault—was far from impressive, especially when it came to the vault. The requirement was to do a run approach and hurdle yourself over it in some version of a straddle. Only for me it was a mind-over-matter-over-hurdle thing. I could not do it. Not because my body was unable—long-armed and long-legged as I was—but because my brain wouldn’t let it. I’d run up, then freeze. Every time.
An obstacle, by definition, is that which stands in the way of something or someplace you want to reach. That vault was majorly in my way, and I’ve yet to forgive it for not politely scooting aside. When it comes to staying in shape or getting in top form for an upcoming long bike race or running event, I can find plenty of other “obstacles” that keep me from achieving my goals. I mean, I’ve got three kids, a dog, a job, endless laundry and a big stack of books on my bedside table just calling my name. So yes, time is my main, and often insurmountable, hurdle.
Too tired. Too busy. Too bored with all those miles. Too sore. Too broke to pay for a gym membership. Too embarrassed to be so clumsy in yoga class. Too fed up with everyone wearing athletic tights as real clothes. Too behind on The Americans. Too sleep deprived. And far too busy surrendering to obstacles and making excuses. Sound familiar?
So I asked for some wisdom from someone who’s been involved in, and thinking about, all aspects of fitness and exercise for more than 40 years. Pete Egoscue was already helping people achieve postural alignment and optimal fitness back when I was stalling out in front of that daggum vault.
“So what’s your advice about overcoming obstacles in order to reach fitness goals?” I ask. Innocent enough.
And Pete’s reply: “Stephanie, I think there are no obstacles.” Well…this could make for a short article.
Instead, what Pete went on to share were wise observations about how the modern fitness industry sets us up for failure. We have reams of scientific data, he explained, that measure and quantify what we count as “achievement”—we wear our heart rate monitors and our FitBits; we count our reps, our steps, our miles, our Watts, our VO2 max levels.
“But what’s left out is the individual person’s own perspective and perception of these categories,” says Egoscue. We are constantly measuring ourselves up—against often unfair benchmarks and then we berate ourselves for not overcoming the obstacles that we identify as holding us back. “The fitness world says, ‘You have to work hard and be dedicated. In other words, you have to suffer, and we apologize but these results will be worth it. So buckle down, grunt it out, get dedicated,’ it demands,” says Egoscue.
But mostly this backfires, he suggests. “If you view fitness as pain and suffering and an obstacle to overcome, then you’re producing stress and getting less and less in return.” That’s why people stop going to the gym. When your instincts tell you something is stressful, painful or unpleasant, then that eventually overrides the will to go do bench presses. “If you don’t have postural, physical and psychological balance in your life, even that euphoric feeling after a hard workout doesn’t last,” he says. And before long, Netflix wins out.
According to Egoscue, the only obstacle to overcome is buying into the “perception that somebody else knows more about our body’s health than we do. Life is not a measurement; it’s an energetic experience,” he says.
Instead of worrying about how you’re measuring up against that guy doing 8-minute miles without breaking a sweat, ask yourself a few other questions. “Are you living a life of compelling presence? When you take away everyone else’s judgment, are you doing those things that provide you joy? Are you having fun? How’s your energy level throughout the day? Are you experiencing a life well lived? That’s up to you to define, not up to you to let the experts tell you what that looks like and how to achieve it.”
Fitness is a feeling, not an objective measurement, and it differs from person to person and from day to day even. Stop all the banter about excuses, and just listen to your body, suggests Egoscue. “I don’t believe there are obstacles to overcome. I believe there’s a life to be well lived,” he says. And the key to doing that is finding the things, people and purpose that you love. When something is fun and you love it, it’s easy and pleasurable to do.
“That’s why there are no rules, no measurements, with Elev8d,” he says. “It’s a choice, not a rule. And it’s all about having fun. The only caveat is, if it’s not fun, don’t do it.” Now that’s a hurdle I can get over.