Most people engage in exercise from a depletion standpoint, where the main goal revolves around wearing yourself out and burning as many calories as possible. You slave away at the gym sweating through hours of cardio or logging miles on a calorie counting device where your only thoughts are deplete, deplete, deplete in an effort to burn off body fat.
With this exercise mode, the indicator of a good workout depends on how destroyed you feel afterwards – the more wrecked you are, the better. It’s almost as if your goal is to punish yourself as much as possible; where the attitude is the more you deplete and wreck yourself in the gym, the better you can feel about yourself. Thoughts constantly run through your head to the tune of:
- I have to kill myself to get results.
- If I burn enough calories, then I can stop feeling guilty about that dessert I had last night.
- I’m such a worthless dancer…I must not be pushing my body hard enough.
- I have to punish myself for falling out of that pirouette.
- If I make myself hurt enough, maybe I can feel better about all that I lack.
Sound familiar? Your exercise session turns into more of an atonement for your “sins” rather than a workout that is meant to benefit your health.
This type of destructive exercise is often accompanied by zoning out and escapism. Because you are essentially brutalizing your body, the last thing you want to do is stick around and be present with the pain. So, you do whatever you can to distract yourself from the torture – catch up on the latest episodes of your favorite show, listen to music, read a magazine, daydream…anything that takes you out of your body and away from the horrible sensation of wringing out your soul of every last drop of energy and willpower. This creates a disconnect between the body and the mind…something that is already becoming a problem these days as we spend more time in our heads living through the virtual world on our phones and computers.
Contrast this with constructive exercise that builds you up both physically and mentally. This type of exercise fosters a mind-body connection. Rather than escaping from the pain, you get in your body and gain an awareness and appreciation for how your unique system works and moves. With Zenlike focus, your workout becomes a living, breathing, moving meditation. This serves to build you up energetically while bringing you closer to your physical goals.
This is not to say that you won’t work hard. In fact, you want to work really, really hard…but in a focused, concentrated, educated, calculated manner that has no tolerance for excessive, unnecessary abuse. There’s a big difference between working your a$$ off to build yourself up versus busting your a$$ to break yourself down. On the surface, they may not look that different from each other, but this distinction will make a huge difference in terms of the results you will get along with whether or not you will hate your life every time you go to the gym.
Photo credit (top): Estilo Antunes