The Current

It's OK to take it easy with your fitness goals this year, say health and wellness experts

Fitness goals can dominate New Year's resolution lists, but two experts tell us why people should take it easy and not put too much strain on their bodies this year.

Listen to your body's cues and slow down, both physically and mentally: experts

Fitness goals usually dominate New Year's resolution lists. But while it's easy to go full throttle, some fitness experts say the better option is to take things easy. (Guido De Bortoli/Getty Images)

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When Lou Schuler tore both of his quadricep tendons — located just above the kneecaps — last spring, he didn't attribute his injury to a lack of exercise. Rather, he blamed it on the amount of physical activity he was regularly doing — and the stress it was putting on his body.

Lou Schuler, former fitness director at Men's Health magazine, says it's OK to go easy on your fitness goals this year. (Louis Guarino)

"I played basketball for years, even though it would leave my knees hurting for days afterwards," the author and former fitness director at Men's Health magazine told The Current's Matt Galloway. "I did exercises that all the cool kids said you should do." 

Schuler said his injury was a painful awakening that made him realize that not everybody needs to work out in a specific way to keep fit.

It's why he's advising people to scale back their workout goals, even if fitness regimes and new year's resolutions might have them feeling otherwise. 

No one-size-fits-all method

As a fitness writer, Schuler said he would gravitate toward trainers, influencers and fitness gurus who were the most entertaining, the most quotable, and who he believed had the best messages. They were often "absolutist about [fitness]," he said.

"So if somebody said, 'Well, you're not strong unless you can do X,' … lots of us would try to do that, even though the exercise itself was telling us this isn't for you."

After his injury and subsequent research, Schuler learned this wasn't a healthy mindset for people to have, as it could cause serious damage to one's body. 

Though lifters and fitness influencers may advocate for a certain training method, Schuler wants people to understand their own body, abilities and limitations. 

Schuler says there's no one-size-fits-all approach to exercise. Moves that work well for some people might cause serious harm to others, such as using barbells. (Mike Groll/Associated Press/file photo)

He advises people to go easy on their body when exercising — and to listen to their body's warning signs before it's too late.

"Normally, when things are about to explode, [your body will] never tell you when that is about to go out, but it'll give you, most of the time, a lot of warnings along the way," he said.

Give yourself less to do, not more

It's not only our physical body we should train at a gradual pace. Our mental and emotional state also deserves a break, according to meditation teacher and former The Current producer Jeff Warren.

As humans, we are constantly in a "go, go, go" state of mind, and our continuously-spinning engines can get exhausted and stress out our bodies, he said.

Meditation teacher and former The Current producer Jeff Warren. (Submitted by Jeff Warren)

"There's so much messaging that we give ourselves around not being good enough, around needing to change this, around needing to fix this."

"So we need to balance that with a kind of very simple message, of [taking] it easy on yourself."

Like Schuler, Warren learned this lesson firsthand. During his time as a producer for The Current, Warren said he went through a mental health crisis, and developed symptoms of attention deficit disorder and was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

"It was like I had a red hot turbine in my brain," he said. "I didn't know how to turn it off." 

It's like I had to kind of stop everything in order to begin to reset it and return back to the world in a way that was more effective and sane.-Jeff Warren

In an effort to understand what he was going through, Warren started researching more about mental health practices, including meditation.

He said meditation reveals "all the levels of insanity that are happening inside you," and by practising meditation, Warran got a firmer grip on his personal and professional lives. 

"It's like I had to kind of stop everything in order to begin to reset it and return back to the world in a way that was more effective and sane," he said.

Warren's experience led to a career change; he now teaches meditation, and hosts the Do Nothing Project, a meditation session via livestream.

He said it's important for these sessions to take place to let others know that it's OK to give yourself a break.

"That's the sort of practice, is to sit down and not try to make anything happen, to not try to implement anything special, but just to actually let yourself be the actual human being that you are." 

Written by Mouhamad Rachini. Produced by Julie Crysler and Ines Colabrese.

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