The Internet is never lacking in pressure to do more exercise or to do the “right” kind of exercise. One of the messages that pops up on my feed over and over is how I should be doing more weight lifting. Whether it’s a self-described “swole” guy telling me that lifting weights will help me get skinny (as if that were my only goal in life) or a physical therapy peer saying anyone who doesn’t lift real dumbells is a hypocrite, I hear a lot of “You should be weight lifting.”
Now of course, there’s nothing wrong with weight lifting, and it’s actually quite beneficial, but the pressure messaging can get a little old.
My experience is hardly unique. There are a lot of people right now who feel ashamed for falling behind or falling off the path completely in their exercise goals. The mantras of “I should” and “I must” run deep, especially in a world with multiple social pressures to have the perfect body and the perfect exercise routine.
But let’s have a moment to ask why exercise isn’t our top priority every single day. In my experience, a lot of us have been lifting the weight of:
- Motivating children to keep up with school.
- Navigating changing public health concerns.
- Repairing relationships that have been strained.
- Grieving relationships that could not be repaired.
- Maintaining a good reputation at work.
- Finding a new job.
- Taking on extra responsibilities.
- Balancing the budget.
- Calling friends even though we hate the phone.
- Making safe play dates for our kids.
- Cooking. ALL the time.
- Caring for a sick loved one.
- Healing from trauma.
- Working for social justice.
- Questioning faith.
- Accepting a new diagnosis.
- Reassessing our self and identity.
The list could go on. And the truth is that exercise should serve your ability to lift those weights, rather than being an end in and of itself. Yes, as a coach, I absolutely want to help you make exercise work even in the busy seasons, but the heavy lifting of maintaining mental, social, spiritual, and environmental health cannot be sacrificed on the altar of total fitness. These are usually the things that give life meaning, and that is the heart of what it means to be well in the first place.
So, yes, get back on track with your exercise routine as best you can. But don’t forget the other important weights you carry. Ask yourself if your exercise routine is helping you with those or creating an added burden. And if it’s the latter, a good coach will help you make positive changes, not shame you for skipping out.