There once was a lady who desired a suntan. After many months of cold, snowy winter, and wet, soggy spring, summer had finally arrived.
Filled with enthusiasm and armed with an iced tea, the lady set out on the nicest day of the summer. She took her lounger, found a sunny spot and set up camp.
Hour after hour she lay there.
And lay there.
And lay there.
Ten hours later, her attempt to move was thwarted by the unbearable pain of her firetruck-red skin.
Her goal of a golden bronze complexion would have to wait as she healed from her grievous error.
Many people make the same type of mistake as the lady in the parable. After months (or years) of inactivity, they find themselves hit with a burst of motivation. This new found excitement leads people to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at their body.
Three workouts a week? No, seven is better.
45-minute workouts? No, three hours will do the trick.
More, more more.
And, like many of their fellow "workout enthusiasts", they will end up burning out and finding themselves back where they started.
You see, working out is a lot like getting a suntan. You can push the envelop, get a sunburn and then wait for it to turn into a tan, but you are far better off doing a little bit each time, working your way up to hours in the sun. Not only will it be better for your body, it won't interfere with the rest of your life.
With your workouts, instead of throwing everything at your body at one time, have reasonable workouts. Reasonable, as defined by dictionary.com, can mean, "as much as is appropriate or fair; moderate." If you are untrained, you are far better served by doing as much as is appropriate vs as much as possible.
For many people, intense workouts are a way to punish their "bad" behavior. They think that days, weeks, months or years of poor health deserves to be punished. They believe that they deserve to hurt. They don't deserve to enjoy their workouts, because they must first pay a penance. Only once they are deemed worthy (aka: in shape) are they able to enjoy their workouts.
Reasonable workouts mean you are doing as much as appropriate. It means having moderate workouts. There is a commonly held belief that the harder a workout is the better it is. If you haven't puked, you haven't really accomplished anything. Instead, focus on identifying your tasks and working out in a way that helps you be strong for them.
Reasonable workouts fit into your day, they don't consume your day. They find their way to the appropriate place on your priority list, not the top of it.
Reasonable workouts should make you feel alive when you're done, not wishing you were dead.
Reasonable workouts might not feel like a lot during the actual workout, but over time, they are small investments that add up. Instead of burning out after one week because it hurts to sit down, you allow yourself to slowly adapt to getting stronger over years.
Your reasonable workout may mean hitting the gym, going for a walk, doing Pilates or even raising some soup cans a couple of times a week.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is no finish line to stewardship, so there is no race to get there.
Embrace and enjoy reasonable workouts.