I like it hard- Our obsession with exercise having to feel so hard

I like it hard- Our obsession with exercise having to feel so hard


When did this become the ultimate characteristic that defines and describes a workout? The way we gauge if the movement completed was indeed that, a workout and the success of a said workout? Why does it have to feel so hard all the time?

Was it the re-birth and popularity of HIIT (high intensity interval training) training? Was it Crossfit? What was it?

It feels like these days that unless I am borderline puking my guts out, or shaky to the point of “no, I cannot do one more rep” and “yes- that is all I’ve got,” I have not done anything beneficial for my body.

How wrong this way of thinking is?

The fascination with pushing and hurting is not a new one at all. In fact, it is understood and known that a level of discomfort is required to make new gains/ speeds/ power thresholds. Any athlete knows this. Being great is more than just talent, there is a substantial amount of hard work and grind that is iced with sweat to get good, really, really, really good. These workouts are strategically programmed for a team and an athlete and definitely not done every day- so why do we, the generic population, think we have to go “at it” all the time?

When did it become lost that the humble walk is more than that, it is indeed a workout too, and not just what it is considered as now, a tool for relaxation and calming the mind?

Evidence suggests that 2 intense sessions of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) style training is all that is needed a week to make maximal fitness gains. However, talking to a lot of my clients and friends, it appears that everyone is doing HIIT or some version of an intense workout at least 5-6 times a week as the norm. Even their restorative workouts such as yoga and the humble walk are intense sounding with pockets of HIIT.

Why? Where did the good old high/ low go?  You know, that class to music where you laugh, get a bit sweaty but to improve your cardiovascular fitness at the same time? Where is that YIN- which in my opinion is of much more benefit now to the population than ever before. Can you tell me?

It is no wonder that as the gym population and those already committed to the fitness industry make things harder and harder in movement and workout feels, the gap between the fit and healthy and those in need of health support gets wider. The barrier is bigger, the fence is higher. Those that have the desire to starting a healthier lifestyle and follow the advertised path of paying to attend a gym/ box/ club face huge anxiety and a realm of self- doubt before even stepping into these spaces let alone trying a class/ workout led and driven by intensity. It is no wonder people choose to walk on the treadmill and ride the bikes, it is scary! It feels odd and scary! These members get a little lost in the membership system and end up becoming loyal donation makers to a profitable place that should be catching and nurturing this market. Maybe this was your story?

What is the answer? I would love to see a resurgence in people focused, imperfectly perfect movement. You do not have to “go hard” in every single workout.  Recommended guidelines are that we move in some way 3-4 times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes. Start with stepping outside the front door. Take a good walk with some friends, partner or a pet and value that time as more than just a commitment to your health. It is an investment into you. Going too hard can be detrimental to your long term health with a stream of hormonal cascades that occur and can take you further from fitter, stronger and healthier.

There are some great community incentives such as walking groups, park workouts and aqua classes that are starting to nurture people new to fitness and health, and even those who are not necessarily new, but do not feel like thrashing their bodies day in and day out.  Try some of these.

If you feel a bit lost and resonate with these words, get in touch nats@natslevi.com or even better, if you are ever in Glen Innes, Auckland, message me- we can do a workout together!

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