Monday, April 7, 2014

Love your Workout WHILE you're Working Out

I know this is radical thinking in a day and age where the majority of gyms and programs advocate kick-butt workouts.  I suggest that in order to continue in these types of workouts we HAVE TO think certain prideful and envious thoughts that are not conducive to long-term health.  Neither are they conducive to Sustainable Joy in our relationships. 

A few years ago when I was teaching fitness classes, I would end up with a headache by the end of the day.  Even though I was keeping the level of my heart rate within my appropriate age-range AND I felt just fine DURING the workout, my Results indicated that I was working out way too hard.

Exercise-induced Headaches

 I went to doctors, tried out medications, energy and electrolyte drinks, and all kinds of different resolution processes but could not change my Results.  I realized I was working beyond my Northwest Threshold.


Northwest Threshold:  The Strengthening Process

Northwest is an adjective I use to name the concept of running faster than we have strength, pushing ourselves too hard, going way overboard in our sacrifice process whether it is exercising, serving, or doing anything.

We have to process.  That is our verb.  It's what we do.  Overdoing it is processing in the Northwest.  Underdoing it is processing in the Northeast.

But when our Desire is to increase our physical strength, we know we need to push our body beyond what is comfortable.  Pushing it too far results in injury.  Not pushing it hard enough results in atrophy.  Each of us individually has our own Threshold. When we find it and engage in it continuously increased strength is our Result.

To obtain long-term physical fitness, we can identify our Threshold using standardize heart rate formulas and then monitor our heart rate during exercise by pulse checks or by wearing a heart rate monitor.  These numeric evaluations assist us in identifying our General Threshold. But we may have some specific health issues that require us to exercise at a lower or higher intensity than the average person our age, weight, and resting heart rate.  This is when we can rely on Perceived Exertion.

I first learned about Perceived Exertion as a fitness instructor.  But I always struggled with having enough faith in its accuracy.  I could push myself pretty hard and feel fine during the workout.  Yet the headache at the end of the day kept telling me my Perceived Exertion rating was not accurate.

I have come to rely on a different type of Perceived Exertion.  Instead of focusing on a Pain Threshold, I have learned to focus on a Joy Threshold.  How much am I enjoying this?

Here’s how I find it:  I have thoughts come into my mind when I’m working out.  When I’m in my Northwest Threshold, I’m thinking “Life is good!  I love exercising.”  I feel strong, motivated, energized.  Exercising with good friends increases the Joy factor. Since my favorite friend is Jesus Christ, I basically engage in prayer and listen to his responses during my workouts.  This communication process is maximized when I’m within my Northwest Threshold.

Beyond Our Threshold

When I go too hard, my thoughts change.  “When is this going to be over?  How much time do I have left?  Oh, I don’t really like doing this.  I don’t feel too good.”  I feel stressed and weak.  I start thinking about what pleasures I can have after I’m done. Eating, taking a bath, resting.  My mind is preoccupied with the short-term future.  I’m living too much for the future and not enough in the present.

When my will is not in it, exercising ceases to be a LONG-TERM strengthening process.  I’m just getting through it.  It’s true I’ll burn the calories this time and that’s beneficial.  But I’m not establishing a good habit.   

Good habits are sealed by the experience of Joy.  When I’m exercising within my Northwest Threshold, I feel that Joy.  And I remember it.  And so I look forward to the next time I get to exercise.  Long-term habit and thus long-term health is promoted.

Relocating to:  Beyond NW Threshold  

Listen:  "Popular" from the Broadway play Wicked
Here are the thoughts I HAVE TO think if I work out beyond my Northwest Threshold continuously:  “I work harder than other people.  I’m going to get so fit that everyone will love me.  I’ve got to catch up to Jane Jones over there.  She’s way ahead of me.  My rear end is so large compared to Susie’s.  Or my waistline is more narrow than that woman’s.  I look good because I exercise this hard.  I am well loved because of how good I look.  The people at [work, church, neighbors, etc.] will think I’m hot.  And that means they love.  If I’m not hot now, I will be.  I’ll show them.  They will all love me when I’m skinny and fit!  I am not well loved because of how overweight and unfit I am.”  We pave the real joy we would otherwise feel with a parking lot of pride and envy.

I remember when I was going to Yoga classes that these kinds of thoughts were automatic and involuntary.  I mean I didn’t consciously decide to think them.  They were just there.  I saw some people who couldn’t touch their toes and thought, “Look how well I can touch mine.  I must be better than them.”  And then I felt good about myself.  I saw some people who could do unsupported handstands for a LONG TIME and I couldn’t.  I thought, “Someday I will be able to do that.  Then I will be as good as them.  People will admire me like I’m admiring them.  When I can do that, I’ll be of greater value.”

There is truth to these thoughts.  If I can touch my toes I have a talent.  If toe-touching flexibility is required in a certain situation, I would be your go-to girl.  I can help!  And that makes me feel good.  It is a strength in which I use to serve others.  But if I don’t think that the purpose of my strengths is to help others and instead think that they have stand-alone-do-nothing-to-help-others value, they are really pretty useless and therefore not valuable.  They are vain.

Read and Listen:  "Me Without You" by TobyMac
Think about the reasons you love the people you do.  What are they?  Does the fact that someone else can do an unsupported handstand longer than you ever strengthened the bonds of love in your relationship with that person?

This Alternate Perception can get in the way of Perceived Exertion (Paving Paradise).  And when it does we end up past our Northwest Threshold with injury or some other chronic condition.  I know because I’ve been there.  It actually distracts us from being able to sense the Effects that define our Northwest Threshold.  And overtime, as we continually ignore the warning Effects, we become numb to them.  So we can no longer accurately perceive our exertion!  We inaccurately identify running faster than we have strength as our Northwest Threshold.  We depend on those pride thoughts for our happiness and the envious ones for our motivation.

So what if we have this Alternate Perception as a habit.  We’re already numb to Perceived Exertion.  How do we get out of it?  How can we regain sensitivity to the true physical and spiritual Effects that define most accurately our Northwest Threshold?

What happens to your thoughts when you exercise at TOO LITTLE intensity?

How do you feel?

What do you do to compensate?

What thoughts come into your mind to prevent you from increasing your intensity?  What thoughts do you HAVE TO think in order to continue exercising beyond your Northeast Threshold (exercising below your capacity)?

When do you notice these thoughts coming automatically or involuntarily to your mind?

I tried to answer these questions about my own Northeast Threshold and Imbalance but found this is still a relative mystery to me.  I need to take more time to study it.  If you respond to these questions, it will accelerate my understanding.