Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hitting the Wall In Your Workout Program

I watched a movie the other night called Run Fat Boy Run. It starred a bunch of people I like and it looked like it could be funny. It was about this totally out of shape guy who decides to run a marathon to win back his ex-wife. One thing I got from this movie was an understanding of something called "hitting the wall". I had heard this term before but, I never really knew what it was. Hitting the wall is a term typically used in endurance sports. It means, in the simplest terms, that the body has run out of energy. The science behind it has to do with the process of how the body burns it's fuel and what resources are required to do that. When it happens to someone it is a pretty intense experience. Legs feeling like lead, thinking may become confused, and the person will be overcome by the impulse to just stop. Not so good in the middle of a marathon!

It occurred to me that physically hitting the wall is not so different from psychologically hitting the wall. Since I'm not an endurance athlete, the psychological version is usually what stops me in my tracks in my fitness program. Sometimes it's boredom. Sometimes it's dreading the pain of an intense workout. You have no energy or enthusiasm and even a good guilt trip doesn't seem to work. You come up with a dozen "good" excuses why you should skip the workout but, the reality is that you just don't have the will to do it. That's how it feels to hit the wall psychologically.

You know you don't want to just give up your fitness program all together but, what if you can't get past this hitting the wall feeling? You may just need a day off. Take the pressure off yourself just for today. Take a break and don't worry about it. Do your best to eat healthy and let it go. You may even need a few days off. That's OK too. In fact, if you've been pretty consistent with your workouts, every few months it's good to take a few days off from exercise in order to let your body fully heal.

If you're still feeling stuck then there are a couple of things that might help. Try focusing on why you want to stick with an exercise program. Why did you start? What benefits does it give you? Maybe it's time to set a new goal. If you've been in maintenance mode for a while then you may just need a new challenge to get you going again. Finally, try something new. If you've been doing a particular type of training then pick something else to do. With the warm weather setting in, getting outdoors adds plenty of options. A little variety can make a world of difference.

The most important thing is to give yourself the space to hit the wall. Realize that it's just a part of the ups and downs of your fitness journey. Then, get back to it as soon as you can.

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