Fitlosophy Friday: Why Exercising Is Not That Important and The One Thing That Truly Is

I find it ironic that even though I consider myself a fitness professional, I really don’t care much about fitness.  I don’t care too much about reps, or sets, or kettlebells or other fitness fads.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do pay attention to those things, and understand the value and importance of proper assessment, exercise selection and program design, however when it really boils down to it, exercise is one of the least of my concerns when I work with a client.

In the grander scope of things, those details do not carry much clout yet I feel we place a tremendous amount of responsibilty on the physical act of exercising to get us “healthy” that we tend to neglect the other aspects of health that have the potential to play a much larger role in the overall state of our well-being.  Exercise is just a small piece of a much bigger puzzle.

I discussed a little about this mentality in the prior two Fitlosophy posts, and after receiving a comment from one of my readers, I decided that it was a worthy topic to continue discussion.  On the blog yesterday, Sylvia asked:

“…I would love to read something elaborating on the rationale of treating your body well by eating well, rather than working out hard to make up for bad eating.”

Her comment reminded me of so many clients I’ve worked with and the pervasive mentality littered throughout mass media that exercise is the ultimate solution when it comes to mind when striving for optimal health.  When we go to the doctor and find out we have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, the answer is usually to exercise.  We’re told to walk more, we’re told to lift weights, we’re told to do interval training, so on and so forth. We have an underlying belief that exercising can make up for bad eating and poor lifestyle choices.

My first thought when I read Sylvia’s comment was:  Where did this mentality come from?  Why do we feel that exercise will bless us and forgive our nutritional sins?  I think that each of us may have our own answers for this, but I think largely its been years of conditioning through marketing and mis-education that we have placed such a burden on exercising.  That Oh-I’ll-Just-Do-More-Cardio mentality instead that we typically fall prey to when we eat like crap.  We punish ourselves with exercise to make up for these choices.

However, trying to pinpoint and hypothesize where it all started is beyond the scope of this blog, but it is something I think we should chew on (pun intended?).  Even though that is not what I want to convey today, I do want to help address Sylvia’s comment.  And I suppose that in order to do that, I will say that exercise is not the end all be all when it comes to health.  It is not the solution to poor eating and lifestyle choices.

Sylvia mentioned “treating your body well by eating well”, and although that is a huge component to health, I think there is something even more important that we should first consider.  So, if you’re not going to focus on exercise and not going to focus on nutrition, what should we focus on?  Great question.  My challenge for you today is to stop worrying about your next class, or your next meal.  Rather, let’s dig deeper and focus on what really is important.  And that is…

Your values.

Why are your values more important than exercising?  Because it is your values that drive every decision that you make.  E-v-e-r-y  s-i-n-g-l-e decision.  From the time that you wake up in the morning, to what you eat for breakfast, to who you hang out with you, to your job, to the way your room is designed, everything.

It is your core values that determine every aspect of your life.  And in order to fully live a life in harmony, we must live in harmony with our values.  And before we can even do that, we must first identify what those values are.

What the hell does this have to do with anything?  Well, think about it this way.  By understanding your values (meaning, what’s really important to you), you may then start to understand why you do things.  And when we understand why we do things, it makes it easier for us to recognize patterns and make positive changes.

Here’s a scenario for you to consider: I’m currently working with a client who was known for doing a shit ton of cardio.  I mean a TON.  Like 45-60 minutes a day on top of strength training and classes.  When we started to wean her off the cardio, she was finding that she had all this extra time.  And a few weeks after she started doing more cardio again despite seeing more results from doing less.  I asked her, “If you were seeing more results with less cardio, why add it in again?” Her answer?  She was bored and had more time on her hands, she just didn’t know what to do. (Here is how her values come into play).

After digging deeper, I asked, “Well, is there something else you could do instead?  Like a hobby, or something?”.  And it turned out, that she actually has been wanting to pursue an advanced certification for her career.  Her education and being successful in her career were important to her, they were some of her values.  Yet, since she was not living in alignment with her values, it was indirectly affecting her health.

Now, this is a bit abstract way to look at how your values affect your health, but it gives you a sense as to just how deep your values can play a role in your life.  From my general observation, I find that living out of alignment with your values typically show up by staying in a job you hate or staying in a relationship you don’t really love.  By not living in alignment with our values, we can create unnecessary stress which as I’m sure you know, can affect your physical, mental, and emotional health.

This is why I say exercising is really not that important.  And if you really want to treat your body well, identify what your values are, and then live them.  So over the weekend, I challenge you to spend a solid hour, a full 60 minutes (or even longer if you need it) to sit down and ask yourself:

What are my values?  And what is really important to me?

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