Category: Feel Better Articles

3 Reasons to Exercise Besides Weight Loss

One thing we all love is this: Instant gratification. And there are so many ways to get instant gratification these days – Wine, Cheetos, going on Facebook to see that your high school bully gained weight…all of those things make us feel good.

A lot of the things we do for instant gratification aren’t that great for us (say, like wine and Cheetos), but we still do them and, really, it’s okay to do these things sometimes.

But there are other healthy ways to get an instant boost. Yes..I’m going to talk about exercise.


Exercise is something we don’t think of as giving us instant gratification, I know. If you do exercise, you probably do it because you know you’re supposed to or because you’re trying to lose weight. You’re not reallly thinking of it as something that can make you feel as good as, say, wine and Cheetos.

And, to be fair, it doesn’t give you that exact same feeling.

But…exercise can deliver instant gratification in a few ways. Just hear me out and you can prove it to yourself.

1. Mood

One of the single best benefits of exercise is an instant lift in your mood. In one study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies (yes, we have one of those), scientists found that just 10 minutes of exercise a week was enough to significantly improve your mood.

10 minutes a week, y’all.

Now, scientists don’t know exactly how all of it works, but we do know a few things that happen when you workout:

  1. Distraction – Whatever’s going on in your life, taking a break to workout instantly takes you out of your head and into your body. This is especially useful when you’re working on a particularly gnarly problem, worrying over something or you just need a break from real life for awhile. Being physical means your brain can rest for a bit and you’ll often even find you’ll find a solution to whatever’s bothering you.
  2. Self-efficacy – We all have those days when we feel like failures. Exercise is one thing that can take you out of that place, give you some confidence and help you feel better about yourself. If you can finish a workout, you can finish other things too.
  3. Social Interaction – Not all workouts will be social, but just the idea of getting out reminds you that there is a world out there with people and puppies and flowers and that makes us all feel a little less alone in the world. We get energy from other people and when you’re all doing the same thing, like walking outside or working out in the gym, it gives you that little boost of being a part of something larger than yourself.
  4. Hormones – Then there’s the biological side of exercise. When you workout your body releases feel-good hormones. Sometimes it takes a while before those kick in but, when they do, you know it. Your mind clears and suddenly life looks better than it did before.

2. Energy

Do you ever feel like you’re tired all the time? I think we’ve all been there…maybe we are there right now. Some of that has to do with getting older. It’s a sad fact that we just don’t have the same energy as we did when we were younger.

On top of that, we’re busier than ever and we have a lot of responsibilities.

Trying to cram the same amount of effort into an older body and a busy schedule makes you tired.

We can probably do something about how we schedule our lives, but one quick fix is exercise.

One study done by researchers at the University of Georgia found that sedentary adults who did just 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise (like taking a walk, say) 3 days a week reported feeling more energized after just a few weeks.

I know that when you’re tired, the last thing you feel like doing is exercise. You may have to trick yourself into it:

  1. Just put on your workout clothes. Sometimes that alone is enough to get you moving.
  2. Promise yourself you’ll only do the warm-up. If you don’t feel more energized, you can stop.
  3. Plan a reward for finishing your workout.

Sometimes you just have to negotiate with yourself a little to get over that initial I-don’t-feel-like-exercising hump.

3. Self-Esteem

Do you ever have days when you wake up and are already making a list of the ways you suck? Or maybe you’re already thinking of all the things you have to do and are worrying that you’ll fail.

One way to get your mind in a more positive place is to achieve something and a workout is one of your best options.

This works in a couple of ways. First, there’s the instant gratification of completing something you view as challenging.

Just changing into workout clothes can be a challenge, right? And once you do that, once you start the warm-up and once you finish the workout, you feel good about yourself. You did it! If you can do that, you can do more.

The second way it works is over the long term. There have been some studies about exercise and self-esteem and most of them conclude that people who start exercising and keep doing it consistently for at least 6 weeks have a higher self-esteem whether they lose weight or not.

Looking at all of this, let’s sum up: If you workout for 10-20 minutes just once a week, you’ll be in a better mood. If you do it at least 3 times a week, you’ll be in a better mood, have more energy and raise your self-esteem.

Can’t beat that with a stick.

Need a workout to try? I’ve got a great Low-Impact Cardio Workout just for you.


D. Scully, J. Kremer, M. M. Meade, et al. Physical exercise and psychological well being: a critical review. Br J Sports Med. 1998 Jun; 32(2): 111–120.

Exercise Lesson of the Week – Do What You Like

I once had this client who really loved all of the exercises I gave her.

When we went through various exercises she would say things like, “Wow, I really feel that! That’s a good one!” Or, “Yeah, I can see how this exercise would really help me!”

Which is great, right? I mean, who loves squats and triceps extensions?

Turns out? Not her.

One day we were going over her week and, as always, she said she did the workouts. But, as we went through each exercise, me asking if she did this one and that one, she surprised me.

For at least half of them, the ‘good’ exercises she raved about during our workouts, she said, “Oh, no…I didn’t do that one. I didn’t do that one either.”

“But you said those were good exercises, right?”

“Oh, yes!”

“Well, then why didn’t you do them?”

“Well, that one hurt my elbow and this one hurt my knee, and…”

She went on and I kind of felt like banging my head on her treadmill at that point.

But what I realized was that, in her mind, anything that hurt or was uncomfortable was ‘good’ and therefore, she should do it.

The problem? The discomfort ensured that she wouldn’t actually do it,

Think about it…we probably all have this notion that…

Exercise has to hurt in order to be effective.

Well, it doesn’t. And it shouldn’t and if it does? You’re doing it wrong.

I’m not saying there isn’t some amount of discomfort in exercise – The whole idea is to get out of your comfort zone. And yes, if you want to change your body, you have to work at it.

But change isn’t going to happen if you’re not exercising at all and if you’re trying to do ‘good’ workouts that hurt, that’s what’s going to happen.

At this point, this client and I went through all the exercises to find the ones she actually did. Many of these were stretches or other simple moves, to which she said, “But those aren’t good enough. I mean, I’m not going to lose weight just doing those.”

“But you’re not doing the other ones anyway,” I reminded her.

What she needed to learn was that it was okay to start with a workout full of exercises that felt good to her.

Once she gave herself permission to do the moves she liked, she started doing them much more frequently and, more important, she was actually enjoying it. Okay – ‘enjoy’ is a strong term, but she didn’t hate them.

Is she going to lose weight as quickly by just doing stretches? Probably not. Would I like to see her do more, work harder? Of course.

But what’s more important than any of that is the fact that she is now exercising every day and she’s she likes how her body feels afterward. And? She eventually started asking for new and more challenging exercises.

That’s how it starts…with something that makes you feel good, regardless of whether that something fits into the rules of exercise.

Tips for Finding Something You May Actually Like

  • Give yourself permission to experiment – If there are things you’ve done in the past that you hated, give yourself the freedom to try something new. It could be yoga, stretching, belly-dancing…just think of what you typically like and then try something. There are videos that have just about any workout you could even think of trying.
  • Give it time – The first time you do anything is going to feel somewhat uncomfortable, especially if it’s been awhile. Don’t give up just yet…the more you do something, the easier it gets and the more you might like it.
  • Forget the rules – There are plenty of rules about exercise – the Exercise Guidelines say so, but if you’re not following those guidelines, what’s the point of trying to adhere to them? Do your own thing. That’s how you figure out your own body.
  • Forget weight loss – There’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight, but that only happens once you’ve established a regular routine and, of course, are careful with your diet. When you’re just starting out, or getting back to exercise, put weight loss aside and just focus on showing up for your workouts.

Taking the pressure off to do a certain exercise or workout can free you up for things you might actually enjoy. And? Once you get started, get comfortable, you’ll almost always progress to new and different types of workouts.



Getting Older and Fatter? Me Too – Here’s How We Can Deal

Getting Older, Gaining Weight

Yep. It Happens

If you’ve ever had to go through your clothes and throw out all the things that don’t fit you anymore, you know the true meaning of pain.

As I’ve gotten deeper into my 40s, I’ve struggled with weight gain just like most of us do and, from what everyone keeps telling, it only gets worse.

Yeah. Thanks for that nugget of wisdom.

It’s really, really hard to feel good about yourself when you’re gaining weight and nothing fits and you feel like you’re trying and nothing’s working and what’s wrong with you?

I’ll tell you what’s wrong: Nothing.

You’re a human being living in a time when losing weight is probably the hardest it’s ever been. You’re a good person with good intentions and none of us really understands this whole weight loss thing because, if we did, I wouldn’t be writing this and you would be lying on your bed bouncing quarters off your 12-pack abs.

Dealing With Getting Fatter

So, how do we deal with this weight gain issue?

You could do what I did and clean out your clothes and dump them in a pile in the middle of the floor, shouting, “THIS IS HOW FAT I AM!” Then you can pour a glass (or 3) of wine and have a good cry or, if you’re a man, you can turn on a video game and pretend it isn’t happening (hey, I’m just repeating what my husband said he does when he realizes he’s gaining weight).

After that, however, you have to do something. Something positive because we all have to remember one important thing: It’s okay.

Not it’s no fun gaining weight and going up a size or three. It doesn’t feel good in any way, but it’s still okay. We don’t need to become anorexic or eat lemon wedges and tree bark for the next 6 months.

We don’t need to try some ridiculous workout program that is only going to leave us hobbling around the house, feeling even older than we are.

We don’t have to hate ourselves.

How to Deal

So, is it possible to get over feeling bad about our aging bodies?

You know I’m not going to lie to you.  I don’t think it’s 100% possible. I think we will all have days when we look in the mirror and think – “Who IS that and what did they do with my real body?”

That’s inevitable because no one can feel great about themselves all the time. And if you do? I want whatever drug you’re taking because it sounds marvelous.

What we can do is make the choice to work for something different. To think of ourselves in a different light and to start identifying what’s really important.

After dealing with this and thinking about it, I came up with my own list of things we can do to make life not suck just because we’ve gained some weight:

  • Settle Into Your Body – As a trainer, it’s really, really, REALLY, hard to gain weight and not identify with that young, thinner, person I always was. And, even if you’re not a fitness pro, it’s always hard to deal with a body that isn’t the ways it used to be. But, unless we all go on some harebrained diet/exercise program (which I am totally not doing), we pretty much have the bodies we have. Sure, we can always lose weight, but our bodies are different now and they respond differently than they did at, say, 20. Embracing that instead of fighting it makes life just a little easier.
  • Get Rid of Things That Make You Feel Bad – Opening my drawers and seeing the jeans I used to wear or the sports bra that doesn’t fit was an immediate downer. Starting your day with that kind of negative ickiness means you have to work to overcome the ickiness…precious energy you could spend on other things. Schedule a day to go through your closets, drawers, etc. and get rid of all the clothes that don’t fit. Think of it as a rejuvenating purge of ickiness.
  • Get Clothes That Fit and Feel Good – I cannot stress this enough. Throwing out my smaller clothes hurt, but it felt good to get clothes that made me feel good about myself. Doing that does a couple of things. First, you’re comfortable and, if you’re comfortable, you’re not constantly thinking about how fat your stomach/butt/whatever feels. Second, trying on different clothes – or different sized clothes – allows you to get to know this new body. Whatever it looks like, your body does a lot for you and that’s worth more than any flat belly in the world. Most of the time.
  • Get Strong – One thing that saves me from wallowing in self-pity is when I focus on how strong I am. And I got strong by exercising and lifting weights. Mastering something always makes you feel good and when you feel the strength growing in your body, you start to like it more. Remember, I’ve got tons of workouts to choose from. Well, not tons, but enough to get you started.

Getting older involves all kinds of things we don’t expect or, even if we do, don’t know what it will actually feel like. Sometimes, it feels crappy. But the good thing about getting older is that we’re also getting smarter and we know our value a lot more than when we were young.

Also? We don’t have to go to school and take exams and agonize over a bad hair day or a chipped nail or some boy or girl who doesn’t notice us. And that? Is awesome.

fear of failure article image paige worn out

Feel Like an Exercise Failure? Here’s How to Turn it Around

You know you’re supposed to exercise. How do you know? Because you’re constantly reminded. You probably couldn’t throw a rock in any direction without hitting something or someone nagging you about working out. Just think of the magazines alone - every single store you go into has them.

You know what I’m talking about - The magazine with the zero body fat model in a bathing suit with a headline that screams “FLAT ABS IN 3 EASY MOVES.”

Yeah, now pull the other leg.

Read more


My Stress Ate My Workouts!

Have you ever made some decisions in your life that you almost instantly regret?  For example, maybe you just had back surgery a few weeks ago and then you agree to get a new puppy.  A puppy that has to be carried down stairs every time he has to poo (and he has to poo a LOT).  While you’re caring for this puppy, you also have to go back to work and guess what?  Mom’s coming for a visit next week!

All of this leads to one thing:  Stress.  And not just the “Oh, I’m so stressed out, I think I’m going to have to have a glass of wine.”  No, it’s more like, “Hand me the tequila and no one gets hurt.”

I’ve written about stress and exercise and I’ve even put together a list of stress-busting workouts, and that’s all well and good for normal stress.  But for Tequila Stress, it isn’t so simple to say, “Oh, just go for a quick run or something.”  No, Tequila Stress is the kind where you’re happy just to get through the day without murdering someone or scratching out your own eyes.  Tequila Stress is the kind where even the thought of doing a planned, structured workout is utterly laughable.  A workout?  Who has time for that?  And, really, who gives a rusty fart when your life is falling apart around you?

What I’ve figured out about Tequila Stress is that exercise actually becomes a necessity.  The lifeline you need to keep a handle on your sanity as the puppy chews and pees and poos and your mother starts rearranging your kitchen cabinets and your doctor takes away your pain meds because you’re all mended from surgery now, aren’t you?  Exercise is the one thing you must keep doing.  Otherwise, your body will rebel against you.  You will be sleep deprived and exhausted.  You’ll gain weight, even if you’re not eating more food, simply because the body hoards extra abdominal fat when there are too many stress hormones running around in your body for a long period of time.  You’ll feel like utter crap.

So, how do you keep exercising when you’re experiencing Tequila Stress?  My general rule of thumb is this:  Just do anything…any activity for any length of time you can manage.  If that’s 10 pushups and a couple of halfhearted squats, then that’s a workout.  I have some more ideas in my latest article, Too Stressed to Exercise…let me know if you have any other ways to stay moving when you’re stressed.