“Gymtimidation” is a new term I heard earlier this month. And the original NY Times article I read got me thinking that identifying factors in an external environment which might make us uncomfortable working out around other people, is likely easier than recognizing what unrealistic expectations or pressure we place on ourselves in regard to fitness performance. So I decided to chat with nutritionist and certified personal trainer Herman Lynn, who hosts the Wise and Well podcast, about how to avoid this mindset trap. Here are the key takeaways from our discussion:
- Stress can impact exercise in regard to motivation plus the effectiveness of a workout overall.
Lynn and I agree that it is important to remember that any moderate to high-intensity movement does place a certain amount of baseline stress on the body. “In the right dose, it’s good stress that sends a signal to our body to build strength, muscle and endurance,” he states. But we need to keep in mind that physical stress can exacerbate any mental or emotional strain you may be feeling.
“Too much chronic stress (from our jobs, relationships, parenting, etc.) can add up and leave you less motivated to do your workouts. Someone who is super disciplined may power through, but they may notice their recovery and energy levels drop over time, Lynn explains. “Stress is a bell curve. The right amount will make us stronger and more resilient. Too little won’t create enough stimulation to grow. Too much will cause burnout.”
- Modifications to routines are often necessary during certain life events.
“It’s important to understand the difference between workouts that are stressful for the body and less intense workouts that promote recovery. If you are feeling overwhelmed or have a lot of stress outside of the gym, reduce any strength training you may be doing to one to two hours a week—in addition to focusing on other ways to stay active like walking, hiking or doing mobility work,” he suggests.
We also both recommend taking time to assess your physical, mental and emotional state, post-workout. Overall you should feel better—not worse. “If you are habitually sore, feeling tired all the time and/or are having trouble sleeping, you may be doing too much,” Lynn says. “This will change as your life changes. Certain exercises you could have easily tolerated in the past may now be too much because of a new baby or working longer hours. And that’s okay! Less is often more when it comes to exercise at times.”
- Consistency is more important than intensity.
A sign you need to step off the gas for a bit in terms of the type—or the amount—of physical recreation you are doing is frequently delaying getting started or only being able to think about when a particular class, bike ride or swim is going to be finished the entire time you’re moving. “Being able to understand when you need to lower intensity is the key to consistency,” Lynn affirms. “If you are using a barbell, and within the first couple of sets you just aren’t feeling it, then reduce (or put down) the weight and simply focus on practicing the specific motions (like squatting or flexing/extending your arms). Same with running—maybe you just slow down and walk (or jog slowly) for a day, followed by some stretching after. Move away from the ‘all or nothing’ mentality and be at peace with ‘good enough’ sometimes.”
Does your desire to participate in active movement ebb and flow based on other life factors? Let’s discuss this topic more in the comments thread below.
Keep walking with wisdom – and encouragement – by your side this Wednesday.
By Robin O March 22, 2023
Yes, my energy level does vary. I’m consistent about exercising every day, but my intensity may be lower on some days.
By Rachel Werner March 22, 2023
Same here, Robin. I also find that the weather often impacts my workout choices…especially during the colder weather months.