Let’s Get Physical

We know, in our heads, that exercise is important and beneficial. I can rattle off to you the health benefits of exercise: increases lean muscle mass which raises metabolism, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving cholesterol, slows the progression of type two diabetes by utilizing excess glucose, promotes emotional stability by increasing dopamine, but WOW that list is boring and does not make me want to get off of my couch at all. So this week I spoke with Tommy Donovan, the owner of Donovan’s Strength and Conditioning, which is the gym that my office is inside of and where I’ve been working out for about two years, to get his thoughts on the role of physical activity and how he motivates his clients to keep moving. 

New Leaf Nutrition sign behind a pile of sandbags
Jen Lyman, dietitian at New Leaf Nutrition, and her dad at Go St. Louis marathon

Tommy has been a trainer for fifteen years, and told me “[Fitness] is more about the journey, it can’t be the destination.” Which is definitely true in my life. When I would train for half marathons with my dad, I was a whiney baby. I hated every run because it felt like I was only running so that I could be one run closer to my race, and then once the race was over I wouldn’t have to think about running again for another six months until training started again. Thinking about it now, the race wasn’t my goal; being done with training was the real prize. 

I have a different mentality now though. I exercise 4-6 days a week, normally 2-3 days of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and 2-3 days of strength training and I really love it! I think a big part of this shift is thanks to having a great community of trainers and people who are in the classes with me. Tommy agreed that having people to come alongside and hold you accountable is important “People need support, it has to come from more than yourself and more than your trainer, community helps. Most of us are infinite givers. It’s hard to show up for yourself, but we don’t like to let other people down. So having a gym buddy, or a supportive spouse, or an encouraging trainer, is really helpful to create consistency.” 

And it’s consistency that creates every health benefit that movement has to offer. Once the movement stops, the health benefits stop too. Tommy commented, “Fitness has everything to do with consistency, nothing to do with intensity. When you’ve committed to taking care of yourself consistently it builds the ability to care for yourself in other areas of your life consistently. If we identify ourselves as ‘fit’ it’s the reflection that we’re involved in self-care. It means someone is taking care of their food, sleep, and exercise, but fitness doesn’t and can’t stand alone. You’re giving yourself a source of good to offset the terrible things that life dumps on you. It creates a healthy balance.“

The main thing I took away from my conversation with Tommy was that community is foundational to fitness because it leads to consistency, which I’ve definitely seen to be true in my life. 

One other thing I’d like to add is this: if you have a yucky relationship with exercise, meaning you use it as a way to atone for what you ate, or you feel your worth is connected to whether you exercised X number of minutes a day, I’d recommend giving exercise a break for a little while so that you can sort through those thoughts and feelings. Movement can and should be fun! So if you’re not into lifting weights, try rock climbing! Or swimming, or yoga, or running, or kickboxing, or barre (you get the picture). Find a form of movement you like and then find your people who will do it with you. And when you’re ready to tackle the food piece of “being fit,” send me a message, I’ll be here. 

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