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The Fitness Trap
We have been hypnotized my friends. Hyper-sexualized advertising, unrealistic TV shows, and a society that pins gold medals on our chests for how busy we can make ourselves have hypnotized us. We have been hypnotized into believing that we are not already worthy, that we are not enough, our bodies are not beautiful, and that we'd better make up all of that deficiency in some way or god only knows what will happen.
Modern working out can have the mentality, in fact the predominant mentality, that we need to be working hard all the time. We hear very little discussion about conscious rest, relaxation, and mindfulness. We instead see crazy advertisements, news reports, and Internet marketing that encourage us to work our bodies far past their capacity on a regular basis. Actually that's an understatement, we are encouraged to hyper-discipline ourselves into working so hard that we ignore our bodies natural reflexes and defenses. Our reflexes and defenses are there for a reason and they should not be overridden so frequently. They are there to protect us.
And now I have to say it: This is insane. I mean the town-square-of-crazyville insane. We need to wake up and stop the madness. This excessive approach flies in the face of how our bodies are constructed and our basic physiology. It is the lunacy that has become much of modern fitness. If we're not on the way to the hospital after we work out then we haven't worked hard enough. This is illogical, unhealthy, and bad physiology.
We are designed for periods of challenge and periods of rest. We should turn on and turn off. When we are always running on "on", as toned as our arms might be, we are placing enormous stress on our internal systems. Our stress response, the "on" switch", stays on far too long. When we are in stress response stress hormones run through our system. Our heartbeat gets faster, our blood pressure rises, our digestion stops, and our immune systems are suppressed. Everything that is not necessary for our immediate survival goes on the back burner. We actually need a certain amount of this stress to keep ourselves healthy, but only a small amount. The stress response must be able to turn off to allow the body to rest, repair, and fight off pathogens.
Over exercising, or pushing ourselves too hard when we need to rest, and most of all not being able to consciously relax keep our stress response always at least slightly turned on. When this happens:
1. Our hearts have to work too hard.
2. Our blood pressure is held above normal.
3. Our immune systems can't function as well.
4. Our repairing cells cannot heal tissue strains and injury.
For good health, we must be able to consciously relax. When we relax, our immune systems work better and our repairing systems can sew up tissue injuries. And you know what that means my friends? It means you're not wasting your time when you work out. It means that your body has the opportunity to repair itself from all the work you've done. It means your body can fight off disease more efficiently. It means you can digest your food properly so your cells can get the nutrients they need to make your body stronger. It means you'll probably see better results from your work.
The excessive approach stems from our belief that if we don't have a body that looks like the airbrushed, perfectly lit photo on a magazine cover, we're worth nothing. Advertisers are hell bent on making sure that we never feel good about our bodies and ourselves. That way we keep buying in a desperate attempt to gain back that which we never lost. And I know we all have our vanity. I'm a single gay man in my early 30s (yes 34 is still early 30s) I know all about being vain and wanting my body to look cute. I'm in no way saying I'm above that. There's nothing wrong with wanting our bodies to look cute. Maybe vanity is a different story, but we're all works in progress! But it's how we go about getting the cute. Do we punish ourselves on our mats everyday or do we find a balance between challenge and rest? Do we consciously decide that we will work hard when it feels good or do we force our bodies to work on maximum all the time?
Add in 2 days of conscious relaxation to your workout routine and for the love of god take a day off! I mean off, no yoga, no run, a day to just let your body be. To rest and relax you can get recorded meditation MP3s, or go to a restorative yoga class, or just lie on your back and breathe deeply for a few moments. Try to get at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep as well. I bet you will notice many wonderful results including better muscle tone and strength.
We are all so beautiful, magnificent, and gorgeous as we are. We have been given our bodies, these magnificent vessels that carry us through our entire lives. All our bodies ask from us is a little food, water, and movement and in return they provide us the ability to experience this beautiful world. I plead with you my friends, walk out into the world today knowing your worth. Look at the magazine covers and laugh. Know you are perfectly beautiful as you are right now in this very moment. You are a piece of the infinite focused into a human body. You need not prove yourself to anyone. Live in balance, work hard, relax consciously, and listen to your body. Your body, no matter what you may think, loves you.