Not Sure Which Workout Format is Best For You? Try Asking Your Body.
The human body is an incredible thing.
Listing all the specific details that make our bodies magical will likely be redundant to some and quickly illustrate my undue excitement over biological systems. Rather than talk about the science of our bodies, I want to take some time today to speak to the more feeling-centric relationship we may or may not possess.
Although we may not always be aware of it, we spend a lot of time talking to our bodies. When it’s the middle of the afternoon and there’s three more hours of work ahead, we tell ourselves to wake up (or grab that coffee). When we fall into the comparison trap, we sometimes aren’t quite as forgiving of ourselves and the way we dress, look, or weigh. We compliment ourselves on how we appear in the mirror or fixate on what we don’t like.
Our bodies have a lot to say in return, but we often spend time drowning out its messages in favor of our own. Aches and pains, sore throats, and headaches are all signs that something is wrong. Maybe we are getting sick, maybe we are dehydrated, or maybe we worked out a little too hard the day before. There’s those gut reactions that we have to people or situations, but that’s a whole post for another day.
When it comes to exercise, our bodies have a lot to say. It has taken me years of fine tuning my relationship with my own body to realize that whenever I don’t know what type of workout format is best for me, all I have to do is ask. The next time you find yourself wondering which one is best for you, take some time to practice these steps.
Try everything once (or twice)
I love exercise. It’s so important for both my physical and mental health. It helps keep me grounded and focused. (It also lets me eat mac n’ cheese pizza on the reg). Because I love discovering new ways to break a sweat, I will try anything once. That means I’ve taken a LOT of different classes and different formats. Spinning, running, HIIT, yoga, swimming, pilates, barre, you name it, I’ve probably done it. Does that mean I like all of these formats? Not at all.
By trying everything out, I was able to experience what my body liked and what I could skip. I love workouts that leave me dead on floor in a puddle of sweat, so although some people love them, I had to cross barre, Pilates, and yoga off my list. I will go with a friend occasionally, but it’s not a workout that I put all my effort into. If you belong to a gym, try taking a variety of classes. If you’re in a city, try options like ClassPass or check with local studios to see if they offer any specials for first-time attendees.
Related: ClassPass Review
Take a look at your energy level
How is your energy level both before and after your workouts? Do you get excited to go to that one class every week? Are you a Soul Cycle fan who can’t wait for that class signup to open the day before? Are you willing to get up before the sun to get to that 6 am class?
If you find yourself dreading a certain workout or just going through the motions, it may not be a format that your body enjoys. I’m not only talking about physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Does doing yoga first thing in the morning decrease your stress and set you up for a productive day? Find those workouts that your body responds positively to and it will be easy to fit them into your schedule.
Reflect on how your body feels
This is focused more on the physical reactions of our bodies. Do you feel strong after a workout? Are you improving your flexibility and posture through formats such as yoga and barre? Everyone has different goals when it comes to exercise, and your body will be the first one to let you know if you are on your way to achieving them.
Any aches or pains that are beyond the normal amount of muscle soreness associated with some workouts are a sign that your body is not happy. You may be working too hard, your form might need to be corrected, or you may be developing an injury. Any negative messages your body is telling you may be an indication to talk to a doctor or other professional. If your knees are hurting every time you run a couple miles, the elliptical machine may be a better option for you. Always check with a medical professional if you experience these negative symptoms.
Related: Why I Don’t Push Through The Pain
Know that your body is going to change its mind sometimes
As I’ve talked about before, the past couple years have been filled with running and races for me. I loved the mental escape of running and felt especially powerful after a long run since it was one sport that I lacked finesse in during high school. Once I moved to Chicago, I kept up with running for a couple months and ran three half marathons in 2015, but I realized that my heart wasn’t always in it. I continued to force myself to run until one day I actually listened to what my body was telling me.
Strength training and HIIT workouts have become my go-to this year. My shins and legs no longer hurt after plodding through miles of running that I wasn’t particularly enjoying. I love walking away from a workout feeling strong and capable. My body also seems to respond best to these types of workouts. It looks better and is much happier with me. Realize that sometimes your body will go through different phases and what works best for it now may not be the best workout format a year from now. As long as you keep the communication open, you’ll always have your answer.
- Why do you love the workouts you do?
- Do you spend time working on your relationship with your body?
- Have you ever grown out of a particular format?