I’ve lived most of my life with low self-esteem. I’m not quite sure where this lack of body confidence originated, but it seemed to haunt me throughout my childhood, through high school and into college. I can vouch for many adolescent men and women out there who probably feel the same way as I did. I was always proud of my accomplishments, but I set my fitness goals for all the wrong reasons. I worked out to look thinner, and I aspired to look like the models on magazine covers. I would calculate my BMI and not understand why I was categorized in the middle of the “overweight” and “obese” categories, even though I wore size 6 jeans. It took me almost 19 years to realize, everybody – every body – is different, and we have to stop focusing on scales and measurements and BMI to tell us if we’ve met our fitness goals or not. So, if you’ve ever felt cheated by your scale, this post is for you.
Work out to strengthen your body and mind
It’s no secret that working out, especially lifting weights, helps to build muscle mass. But getting daily exercise can actually help strengthen your mind, as well. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that aerobic exercise (like running, cycling, cardio intervals, etc.) boosts the hippocampus, the part of your brain that helps with verbal memory and learning.
Work out for more energy
Even though your muscles may ache the morning after leg day (or for me, any morning after I do triceps), working out actually increases energy levels. Cardiovascular (a.k.a. cardio) exercises help to promote circulation, enhancing blood flow and giving you more energy. And, when you have more energy, you feel more lively.
Work out for less stress
Liveliness and reduced stress go hand in hand. When you are stressed, your muscles literally tense up. Exercises that rely on the relaxation of your muscles, such as running and yoga, help to manage that stress. Exercise releases endorphins, which then trigger positive feelings in the brain and nervous system. When you hear runners talk about a “runner’s high”, this is the feeling they’re referring to. Vinyasa Flow, a type of yoga that syncronizes poses to the flow of your breathing, helps to calm the mind, as well.
Work out for a sense of self-accomplishment
There’s no better feeling than completing a tough workout. At my gym at school, the fitness instructors always say that the hardest part of the class is coming to class. I believe this to be 100% true. You feel the accomplishment when you can perform more reps than the week before, or when you can do a touch exercise without having to stop and take a break, or when it’s time to use heavier weights because the ones you have now aren’t difficult enough. This is the true reward, and it’s not always visible on a scale. If you build lean muscle mass, you may gain weight, despite losing body fat and being an overall healthier individual. Your hips and glutes may get larger, but that’s just because they’re stronger. If you look up in the mirror and see a happier, stronger you, that is much more fulfulling than looking down at a number on a scale.