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Ability to exercise intensely: In the body or in the mind?

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Old 03-14-2012, 09:11 AM   #1
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Default Ability to exercise intensely: In the body or in the mind?

Your input will help me write an article for the local paper.

The topic is loathing exercise.

I plan on writing that most everybody loathes exercise at some point, or even all the time but that with practice, people can crave it, or at least crave the endorphines that follow exercise.

Then I started thinking. Based on my experience running a Biggest Loser type program at my gym, I have seen all participants loathe working out and here in our 10th week, most of the group have made the switch to craving the endorphines. Those that don't have excuses not medically documented.
Meaning, smells like b.s. to me.

What percentage would you guess that out of shape people actually have a physical limitation? What percentage would you guess instead have a mental limitation or otherwise personal undesire to exercise that is exposed in the form of exaggeration of physical ailments?

Thanks for helping.
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Old 03-14-2012, 09:44 AM   #2
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Mmmmm I think a lot of it is mental. You can do any type of exercise to cater to your physical limitations. If you have a bad back, sit in a chair and move your arms, go for a walk, low impact, etc...you can find SOMETHING that wouldn't put strain on physical ailments, as long as you get moving.

I'm realizing more and more as I've been getting more fit how mental it is. If I THINK I'm tired, my body feels that way. If I really push (even through the grunting and swearing) I usually can keep going, although at times I do break but I do more than I thought I could. That feels AMAZING!

I totally believe in the mind/body connection. Or even in that old children's tale, the little engine that could If you think you can you can, if you think you can't you can't.....
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Old 03-14-2012, 09:59 AM   #3
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Majority can but think they can't...
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Old 03-14-2012, 10:00 AM   #4
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That's why I wear my heart rate monitor.

I accept not EVERY workout is going to be stellar. Just like not every day at work is destined to be stellar. But we still go to work. I still want to work out.

But what I perceive as "hard" isn't always body hard.

It can be just regular workout and the HRM is telling me so -- "There's the beats, lady. It's might FEEL harder than ever before, but it's the same intensity as yesterday! "

Sometimes it may be LOWER than yesterday because I'm in the pits emotionally and feeling draggy.

Sometimes I'm really sick (ex: flu) but if I'm otherwise well and it's moods... well, the HRM lets me know objectively.

Now what it TAKES to get my beats to where they need to be? As a rebeginner -- just a basic DVD or wii fit plus step aerobics and similar games is enough. I'm enjoying this stage while it lasts, and I know it is because I'm at this high a weight again. I'm doing relatively light work but carrying lots of poundage!

I also know from old workout logs that what it took to get to the beats was more work -- jogging for instance.
But I'm not ready to jog 6mph any time soon. This is a physical obstacle of my obesity at this point. I'm not merely out of shape. I'm out of shape AND obese!

I need to get closer to 200 lb before arriving at that stage. I can wear chest armor like an Enell bra to minimize breast bounce, but I can't wrap up a pendulous tummy in anything that isn't awkward. Having it slinging around is NOT comfortable and I'm not looking to add to my collection of stretch marks.

So I think THAT kind of physical limitation asks for other types of exercise -- walk instead of run. Swim in the pool/water aerobics fo joints are cushioned, different yoga poses that take big belly into consideration, etc. At least for a while as it shrinks.

HTH!
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Old 03-14-2012, 01:52 PM   #5
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I believe there's absolutely no basis for "guessing." That being said, I saw a recent talk show in which family members who accused their fat relatives of "just being too lazy" to exercise as well as "whining and complaining too much about their difficulties..." were weighted down with the amount of extra weight that their loved one carried. Then they were sent out to do various things with their fat loved one (from shopping at a mall to attempting exercise).

In every case, the thin weighted down person couldn't keep up with their loved one. They couldnt' take as many stairs, walk as long without resting, and they complained a lot more...


Being overweight can make it very difficult and unpleasant to exercise, as can other physical issues. But not all fat people hate exercise (and a lot of very thin people DO!).

I also think the biggest obstacles to exercise for fat people isn't the physical components it's the socio-emotional issues - the stigma against it. People stare, laugh, and make rude comments. Learning to ignore what other people say, can be very difficult.

We're also taught that we're not worthy of "fun" exercise, or that it's not right for us to choose fun exercise (or that fun exercise somehow isn't effective.)

Learning to overcome physical limitations (when they exist) and the social obstacles to becoming active, isn't easy. It can be done, but it feels like "breaking the rules," because in a very real way we are.

Water exercise is one of the best ways that a fat or disabled person can begin getting active, and yet there is such a social stigma about being seen in a swimsuit when one doesn't have a perfect body.

I've been fat most of my life, and I've always LOVED swimming, because it was one of the few places my weight didn't physically slow me down. I could compete with my friends and win races, only in the water. But even as a fat eight year old, I knew that I wasn't supposed to like swimming. I wasn't supposed to be willing to be seen in a swimming suit.
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Old 03-14-2012, 02:39 PM   #6
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I can only speak for myself, but in my own situation I was in my 30's, close to 300lbs and hadn't done any formal exercise since PE which I hated. I'm about the least competitive person out there so team sports or pushing to beat someone else seemed pointless to me, add in vision problems {I can't hit a ball I can't see}, and being a total klutz all gave me the impression that I wasn't good at exercise, so why bother. My vision and klutz combined to make me trip a lot so when I fall I land on my left knee, nothing bad enough to go to the dr about but now I'm overweight, tired all the time and my knees hurt a lot. I don't feel I have the energy to workout and don't want to risk injuring my knees further.

On the advice of my dr. I slowly started to exercise with short beginner VHS workouts, so I found I really enjoy exercise; at home, alone, by myself, with no one watching/judging. I've strengthened my muscles so that my knee issues are pretty much gone. I'm active and fit, exercise about an hour a day, if still overweight.

In my case, experience had taught me that being active wasn't something I was good at or enjoyed, so I wasn't going to torture myself by trying again, but once I got past the fear of badly damaging my knees, I was able to realize that there was more to exercise than PE or competitive sports.
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Old 03-14-2012, 03:21 PM   #7
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imo, i'd say about 70% of men and 95% of women at the gym are not working to their potential.

f.ex, my neighbour in the apartment building: i've SEEN her coming up the hall toting half-a-dozen bags of groceries and her slingbag purse that could probably double as a parachute in an emergency, keys in her mouth, and a screaming 4yr old on her hip. she took the stairs to the 3rd floor because the elevator was too slow.

then i see her at the gym struggling with a 25lb bar doing squats!? i mean - c'MON - the kid alone weighs more than 25lbs!

women on the leg press - sweating and straining and groaning "i can't! i can't!" and it's only 70-80lbs. "lady - you just told me you weigh 130 - i'm preeeeetty sure your legs can manage more than 70lbs."

they can have spot perfect technique but it's a double-pronged attack of societal attitudes that a "lady" just "can't" do "heavy" weights and also a fear of looking masculine from overdeveloped muscles that short-circuits their efforts.
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Old 03-14-2012, 04:50 PM   #8
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So this article will be saying that the reason you can't work out as hard as I tell you to is because you're either lazy or mentally ill?

I think The Biggest Loser is interesting as TV, but there's no way on this earth that I'd ever, ever, ever pay someone to treat me like the TBL trainers treat their castmembers. And I suspect that there are a lot of potentially paying customers who'd agree with me.
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Old 03-15-2012, 11:27 AM   #9
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I am SO happy with all of the responses. What an excellent array of opinions! I agree with every single one. That's what's so hard about this newspaper article. I don't want to disrespect or catagorize any thing. However, in my 20 years of experience, I have gotten a feel for b.s. but I never ever throw that feeling in anyone's face.

A good example of this is a veteran of boot camp and well documented chronic complainer of "it's too hard!" for the past 6 years. He started complaining of pains in his core about 2 months ago. I taught him modifications of what the group was doing and told him to listen to his body and stop at the "injury" pain. From his experience, I was confident he differentiated between injury and fatigue.

It turns out, he has 2 major hernias and needs surgery! He wasn't the whipy complainer, he was ligit!

So Ya never know.

That aside, I have had much, much more experience with chronic complainers that use fantom pains or exaggerate whatever to limit their exertion. To them I say the same. Don't hurt yourself. Monitor your pain and stop at injury pain. I don't care if you do the work or not. It's not for me. It's for you. What do you want to do and what do you want to own? An excuse? Or results.

Thank you so much. I cannot wait to write!
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Old 03-15-2012, 12:01 PM   #10
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For me, it's mostly mental. It's mostly me trying to break the bad habit of being a couch potato. I think when a "couch potato" starts to exercise for the first time in years (for many) it is physically hard to do. Your body is so used to laying around. Personally I am scared to go to a gym. I am so embarrassed to work out in front of people, it's like a mental block.
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Old 03-15-2012, 12:15 PM   #11
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I have had much, much more experience with chronic complainers that use fantom pains or exaggerate whatever to limit their exertion. To them I say the same. Don't hurt yourself. Monitor your pain and stop at injury pain. I don't care if you do the work or not. It's not for me. It's for you. What do you want to do and what do you want to own? An excuse? Or results.
I would caution you against assuming that "chronic complainers" are exagerating or imagining their pains and limitations.

For most of my life, I've been accused of being such a person by family, doctors, teachers, and other people in my life - to the point that I believed them all.

After all, what else could explain the fact that on some days I could be extremely active, and other days, for no apparent reason (no heavy exertion in the prior days, etc) I felt like I had been hit by a truck.

About ten years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and I realized that I've had it, at least since high school.

The "phantom" pains weren't phantom at all, they're the result of a neurotransmitter disorder.

I now know how to take care of my fibro, and even prevent most of the triggers (such as sleep deprivation, and overexertion). The best advice for folks with chronic pain issues is NOT to push beyond pain. I know my fibro pain isn't "injury pain," but if I exercise to the point of pain, I'm physically wiped out for days.

All my life, I believed the hype that exercising intensely to maximum capability was the only "right" way to exercise. So I'd exercise really hard, and then often be unable to move for several days. I began to dread exercise, because I never did it any way that didn't end up with me in pain.

Except for swimming. I loved swimming. I could swim all day and not get tired of it (and yes I mean swim, not just spsash around, treading water), and it's very hard (not impossible, but very hard) to injure yourself while swimming.

I think that most people (thin and fat) would be more physically active if they didn't believe that moderate exercise wasn't good enough (or even worth attempting). So instead of say walking several miles every day, they run one mile once a week.

They believe exercise must be intense enough to cause discomfort (if not pain), and then when they're so sore for the next three days, that it makes every day movement hurt, and it puts them off exercise AT LEAST for those three days, and often much more it creates the association between movement and pain.

I'm getting more and more active, and able to do much more on the gym equipment than I've been able to do since college, but to "get here" I had to ignore the advice to "push myself" to my limits. I now know I have to stop when I get tired, not when I'm about to pass out.
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Old 03-15-2012, 02:22 PM   #12
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I would caution you against assuming that "chronic complainers" are exagerating or imagining their pains and limitations.

For most of my life, I've been accused of being such a person by family, doctors, teachers, and other people in my life - to the point that I believed them all.

After all, what else could explain the fact that on some days I could be extremely active, and other days, for no apparent reason (no heavy exertion in the prior days, etc) I felt like I had been hit by a truck.

About ten years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and I realized that I've had it, at least since high school.

The "phantom" pains weren't phantom at all, they're the result of a neurotransmitter disorder.

I now know how to take care of my fibro, and even prevent most of the triggers (such as sleep deprivation, and overexertion). The best advice for folks with chronic pain issues is NOT to push beyond pain. I know my fibro pain isn't "injury pain," but if I exercise to the point of pain, I'm physically wiped out for days.

All my life, I believed the hype that exercising intensely to maximum capability was the only "right" way to exercise. So I'd exercise really hard, and then often be unable to move for several days. I began to dread exercise, because I never did it any way that didn't end up with me in pain.

Except for swimming. I loved swimming. I could swim all day and not get tired of it (and yes I mean swim, not just spsash around, treading water), and it's very hard (not impossible, but very hard) to injure yourself while swimming.

I think that most people (thin and fat) would be more physically active if they didn't believe that moderate exercise wasn't good enough (or even worth attempting). So instead of say walking several miles every day, they run one mile once a week.

They believe exercise must be intense enough to cause discomfort (if not pain), and then when they're so sore for the next three days, that it makes every day movement hurt, and it puts them off exercise AT LEAST for those three days, and often much more it creates the association between movement and pain.

I'm getting more and more active, and able to do much more on the gym equipment than I've been able to do since college, but to "get here" I had to ignore the advice to "push myself" to my limits. I now know I have to stop when I get tired, not when I'm about to pass out.
First of all, thanks for correcting my misspelling of Phantom. lol

Secondly, your point was exactly MY point. That you never know when chronic pain complaints are legit. I am not a doctor. Even doctors get it wrong and have the same dilemma with chronic compainers.
'
For you, you were thankfully able to get an accurate diagnosis.

All should advocate for themselves in a situation where they know they're not just exaggerating or making excuses and get real help. Duh.

The original question was adressing those who in their own mind know they have nothing really wrong with them and present excuses. The question was to guesstimate how much of the population does this.

I'm sorry for your ailment. I'm glad you got that off your chest. But you missed the point. Or maybe, You made my point. Not that you're a chronic complainer at ALL, no. I'm just saying, how the heck do we all differentiate between some one like you (legit) and someone who thinks they have an excuse or an excuse that everyone will give them a pass for.

I hate excuses, to be honest. I make them myself. It's like we have to prove to someone else for our own disappointment in ourself. Truth is, the excuse doesn't fix the problem that we're disappointed in ourself. Own the true reason why we're disappointed and find the solution. That's self help. No one else needs to know.
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Old 03-15-2012, 03:07 PM   #13
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that's another thing: to many ppl avoid "pain" at all costs when they can't tell the difference between PAIN and legitimate discomfort.

it *should* go: workout and feel fine, maybe a little pooped, more likely energized. wake up the next day stiff and sore. wake up the day after feeling like you've been king kong's pinata. wake up the next day just feeling stiff and sore and then it's a quick recovery from there.

that's normal, that's fine - it's called DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness).

but ppl associate that with BAD pain.

bad pain is very different - you pick up the barbell and your immediate reaction is "oh crap". you *know* something's gone wrong. it's immediate, it's there.

once you get into a regular exercise routine, have committed to it, and have your goals lined up, you actually start to almost glory in DOMS - many times i've sat at the shake bar with one or more other lifters and we moan and groan about our pecs, our thighs, our butts, "omg, my abs... i couldn't even pick up my shoes this morning".

when you hear that? we're actually bragging.
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Old 03-15-2012, 04:00 PM   #14
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First of all, thanks for correcting my misspelling of Phantom. lol

Secondly, your point was exactly MY point. That you never know when chronic pain complaints are legit. I am not a doctor. Even doctors get it wrong and have the same dilemma with chronic compainers.
'
For you, you were thankfully able to get an accurate diagnosis.

All should advocate for themselves in a situation where they know they're not just exaggerating or making excuses and get real help. Duh.

The original question was adressing those who in their own mind know they have nothing really wrong with them and present excuses. The question was to guesstimate how much of the population does this.

I'm sorry for your ailment. I'm glad you got that off your chest. But you missed the point. Or maybe, You made my point. Not that you're a chronic complainer at ALL, no. I'm just saying, how the heck do we all differentiate between some one like you (legit) and someone who thinks they have an excuse or an excuse that everyone will give them a pass for.

I hate excuses, to be honest. I make them myself. It's like we have to prove to someone else for our own disappointment in ourself. Truth is, the excuse doesn't fix the problem that we're disappointed in ourself. Own the true reason why we're disappointed and find the solution. That's self help. No one else needs to know.

You've missed MY point that is that it can be very difficult to BE an advocate for yourself, when you don't know that you need to be, because you have been convinced "in your own mind that you have nothing really wrong with you and are just presenting excuses."

How can we "guesstimate" how many people are "making excuses" when we don't know whether they're making excuses at all (or when we've convinced them that they are).

If you have a compound fracture (a bone is sticking out of your skin), you know to be an advocate for yourself, but many times it's not nearly that simple.

People don't know enough about their own bodies, minds, or exercise physiology to differentiate between "normal" discomfort/pain and abnormal, injurious pain.

Having a bachelor's and master's degree in psychology, I'm well aware of the possibility of hypochoncriasis and the power of the mind, which should have provided me with an advantage, instead it only blurred the issue. I was well aware that I "could be" making excuses, and therefore falsely assumed that I was. In fact, I wanted to believe the doctors when they said nothing was wrong, and it was easier to believe that I was lazy than to believe there was something wrong with me that the doctors and I didn't understand.

It is generally assumed that issues such as fibromyalgia and other issues that involve chronic pain and fatige are rare, but we're discovering that they are not. Many people without a medical background dismiss fibromyalgia and related disorders are psychological in origin. Even a few doctors still believe so, despite the fact that physiological differences have been found.

If I hadn't encountered a neurologist who understood the disorder, and explained it to me (that I was actually doing damage and reducing my capacity by pushing myself to my limits), I would have continued to believe that I just had to keep pushing myself.

I don't know, and I don't know that anyone can know how many people are just making excuses, and how many just don't understand what's going on in their own bodies.

What I do know is that we're not taught to trust our own bodies. We're taught that pain and discomfort should be part of exercise. And it's one of the reasons some people avoid exercise and even normal activity, because they're afraid of pain (which is normal), but they've been convinced that they need to feel pain in order for exercise to do any good.

And so much of the pain isn't necessary at all. It's amazing how much exercise a person can do without any pain whatsoever. Yes, mild soreness is normal, but if you're having difficulty walking without wincing that isn't normal muscle soreness. We're not taught the difference.

And to make things more complicated, you can hurt yourself pretty badly without feeling any discomfort until it's too late. Stress fractures and small bone fractures of the foot are extremely common in very overweight people, and some don't even show up on x-rays immediately. So you have severe pain when walking, but the x-ray shows no break, so the doctor tells you there's nothing wrong, and it will get better with exercise, but it never does, but since the x-ray didn't show a break, you might not find out until a year later (my experience) that several small bones in your foot have been broken, and there's now nothing that can be done, except for surgery that you can't afford - and which may or may not help.

Learning to really understand and trust your experience is very difficult when it comes to pain and discomfort, because we've been told to ignore pain, or have been taught not to distinguish it. And even when we try, we're going to make mistakes.

I was doing really well this summer, and in the fall, joined my YMCA's October challenge, in which we had to do 30 minutes of exercise on different equipment throughout the gym. When I tried the elyptical, I was very tired after 5 minutes, but I was determined to do the 30 minutes to "count" the session. Even though it was very uncomfortable, I didn't consider it real "pain," so I kept going until I finished.

In hindsight, I realize that I didn't "listen" to my pain, because it wasn't like pain I was used to. Usually my knees and calves start hurting before anything else, so I can usually determine my level of exertion by how much my knees and calves hurt. With the knee and calf pain absent, I didn't listen to other signs that I'd had enough. I didn't experience real pain, just a strong weakness in my legs, and intense sweating and a headache that I didn't notice because of my determination to do the 30 minutes (which is why I hate seeing what they put contestants through on TBL - they don't respect or listen to people's experience of exhaustion or pain).

I only knew I was in trouble, when my legs buckled as I attempted to get off the machine. Luckily, my husband was right behind me, and saw my panic and he left his weight machines to assist me off the machine and to the lobby so I could sit and rest.

As it turned out, I had done far more damage than I expected. It did heal within a week, but walking hurt terribly, and getting up and down from a seated position was excrutiating (I literally cried at the mere thought of going to the restroom, and the actual experience was much worse).

Is my experience unusual? I have absolutely no idea, but regardless it's still a struggle to learn to recognize, acknowledge, and act appropriately to the experience of pain and fatigue.

Yes people need to understand that pain isn't the end of the world, but they also have to learn to really listen and learn about their own experience of pain and what each type of pain or discomfort means. And that's difficult when we're taught to assume (even of ourselves) that we're "just making excuses."
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Old 03-15-2012, 04:34 PM   #15
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when you have a clinical condition, that's an entirely different ball park.

my bff also has fibromyalgia, as does my mother. my mother avoids *anything* that causes the slightest discomfort - i mean *anything* - with the result that her weight has climbed seriously, she needs a CPAP machine because she's having 40+ apnea episodes *per hour* and her doctor cannot get her blood pressure and heart problems under control.

my bff not only has fibro, she's got lupus and probably also has MS (hard to tell because the conditions are all tangling together). she keeps herself underweight by a touch (she's five-eight, looks best at 135 but tries to keep it in the high 120s). she works out religiously - if it's a bad day, she limits it to walking but every day, she spends 30 minutes doing something for no other reason than to stay active. she's noticed that when she does exercise, while it's not comfortable for her, she experiences fewer episodes where she loses her legs (literally: she walks into the mall and comes out in a wheelchair until her legs come back online) and she relies on her mobility assists less.

and, to be fair, the number of ppl in the gym and taking fitness classes that have clinical conditions is a lot lower than the number of ppl who are perfectly fine, physically speaking, and are in the gym or taking fitness classes because they "have" to and would really rather be doing something else.

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