Cade: “Mommy, pick up your weights!”
Me: “No, Mommy can’t use the weights for this one.”
Cade: “But they all have weights, Mommy.”
Me: “Mommy’s not quite strong enough yet, buddy.”
Little man loves to “help” me workout by pointing out whenever I’m not doing something exactly like “them”, but I don’t mind, it’s a fun way to engage while I get my workout completed. The above conversation, though, spurred a mini revelation about exercise in general.
So many times in life we are told we will be graded or evaluated on merit. Pretty much as soon as you enter the school system the idea of work for credit is ingrained into your brain. And I am all about fair evaluations and challenges to help us all grow and learn! But. I do remember a particular moment in middle school that changed my perspective on grades-and all subsequent evaluations-forever. In true ADHD fashion, I had painstakingly rendered by hand a picture of the Michigan flag for my state project. But since I was running out of time to complete the project when I finished the flag-and because pine trees are boring-I used pastels to hastily sketch the state tree. I accomplished everything else in the project to the letter, to the best of my little 6th grader brain ability.
I got a C on the project and a parent teacher conference. My teacher flat out said I cheated, since no-one who drew that flag would also draw that tree. I clearly had had blatant outside help. I was so confused. And devastated. I felt sick to my stomach. I had worked so hard to get that flag perfect. I internalized it as my own fault-not that I was a cheater, I was very hurt and upset by that accusation-but because clearly I had tried too hard. I should’ve halfway done both the tree and the flag, and then none of this would’ve happened.
“Work Smarter, Not Harder” is a slogan I’ve seen everywhere, and the hallmark of EMS. The job is hard enough, no need to make it any tougher. In our true culture of “easier, faster, better” skating through by doing things well but not appearing to put much effort into them is lauded as ideal.
Exercise is the opposite. If you skimp through your workout, you get no A for completion, you burn no extra calories, you win nothing. If you work your tail off and hit muscle failure halfway through-you reap far more. Exercise truly evaluates your EFFORT. I can skate through a lot of workout programs, I’m familiar with the moves, know ways to ease off certain muscle groups, can complete the bare minimum and still say I did it-but the only person that effects, is me. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love to exercise. You get what you put in. You halfway do the workout you get half the results. You are sloppy and inattentive, you drastically increase your chance of injury. You remain focused and pour in your effort-you reap the rewards!
And there are always ways to improve. Recently I’ve really been paying attention to how I hold my abs in all of the exercises, how I draw them into my spine, remembering to engage them and not let them hang loose-this form protects my back AND works my muscles. When you do squats, you should give your backside a little extra squeeze at the top-not because you have to, but because that works the glutes just a little bit more. There are all kinds of ways to increase your effort in exercise, and I am never penalized for trying my hardest for the first half of the workout and then being barely able to complete the last ten minutes due to muscle fatigue. My effort is always duly rewarded and I take pleasure and satisfaction in that tiny little aspect.
SO go you, wherever you may be on your exercise adventure. Whether you are modifying everything or upping your weights every workout, your effort is paying off. There is no comparison here. One person does a pushup on her toes, another on her knees, both hit muscle failure by the end-BOTH earn an A for effort.