The Trouble With SHOULD – Throwback Thursday

Who’s ready for a holiday weekend? I am looking forward to spending time with some family and friends, enjoying some good food, good times and yes, probably running too!

The Trouble With Should: Too often, we tell ourselves what we *should* be doing when it comes to health and fitness. It sets you up for failure - forget about what you think you should be doing when it comes to exercise or eating and instead do what you can.

For this week’s Throwback Thursday with Brittany, I started thinking about all the pressure we put on ourselves based on what we think we should be doing. Right now, as I struggle with having this postpartum body and trying to regain my fitness and strength, I have to make a concerted effort to ignore everything I read or hear about what my timeline for getting back in shape should be, or what other mamas at the same postpartum stage are doing when it comes to workouts or eating plans. There’s no one right way to approach your own challenges and thinking there is can lead to ultimate frustration and failure.

So I’m focusing on what my body needs to do, not how it needs to look. I’m focusing on building my strength, my endurance, my physical abilities – all the things I need to be the best mama possible. I’m not focusing on what size I am, how my clothes fit, or what I see in the mirror. I’d be lying if I told you those things don’t bother me, but I’m making an effort to not have aesthetics be my focus.

The perfect way to express this is to share a post I wrote last year about the trouble with SHOULD.


Do you feel like there are things you SHOULD be doing when it comes to a healthy lifestyle? Things like, “I should be working out more,” or ” I should be planning my meals,” or “I should be eating more vegetables”. Does that sound a little familiar? All those ‘shoulds’ start to weigh on you after a while – every time you say or think it, it’s like you’re wagging a finger in your face.

It’s time to get rid of SHOULD.

The Trouble With Should: Too often, we tell ourselves what we *should* be doing when it comes to health and fitness. It sets you up for failure - forget about what you think you should be doing when it comes to exercise or eating and instead do what you can.

Something I loved about the A Healthy U conference I attended was the mix of healthy living bloggers, and people with no fitness background who were interested in learning more about fitness and wellness. The people who got up to ask questions of the presenters were usually the people who don’t have backgrounds in personal training, nutrition, or health; who instead are bombarded with the conflicting information they’re receiving from various sources and just want to know what to do to be healthier.

Their questions made me realize that if there’s one way to describe how people feel about the idea of exercise and eating healthy, it’s OVERWHELMED. They are faced with all the “Shoulds” of a healthy lifestyle and feel like it’s all or nothing. A lot of questions began with, “I know I should be…” One of the presenters, Nadia Murdock, mentioned at one point that a lot of people feel like they need to be doing everything right, all at once, in order to get any kind of results from lifestyle changes, which only leads to them stressing out and getting derailed.

The Trouble With Should: Too often, we tell ourselves what we *should* be doing when it comes to health and fitness. It sets you up for failure - forget about what you think you should be doing when it comes to exercise or eating and instead do what you can.

Image via Sookie/Flickr

Think about all the advice you’ve heard about living a healthy lifestyle and then imagine if someone tried to take on everything at once. Keep a log of your food intake. Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Meditate. Strength train. Change the intensity of your cardio. Eat organic. Eat local. Drink more water. Try yoga. Don’t deprive yourself of treats, but everything in moderation! Eat more vegetables. Get more sleep. I mean, it’s all great advice, but anyone would crash and burn if they added all of that at once.

So this is my advice to anyone who feels overwhelmed, or feels like they “should” be doing more:

Any ONE thing you do to make yourself healthier is worth it.

Often, I hear people say that they only have time for one workout a week, so it seems pointless to do it. I get it – as a trainer I agree that one workout a week isn’t going to result in a training effect that you can visibly see. But remember, every healthy choice you make has an acute effect. Even if you workout once a week, the immediate results of that workout on your body include lowered blood pressure, increased vasodilation (when your capillaries widen, speeding oxygen delivery to your muscles), reduction in stress, and reduction in risk of diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Those effects are nothing to sniff at – even though you’re not going to go down a clothing size, or see real strength gains, that one weekly workout is positively affecting your health.

Take the one thing you know you can handle right now and do it to the best of your ability. Make it a habit, make it part of your routine. Once it becomes second nature and you don’t have to even think about scheduling it, or planning for it, that’s when you can pick another goal to add to your lifestyle. Don’t even set a time limit for yourself. If it takes you two months to make one workout a week part of your routine, that’s fine. The alternative – doing as much as you can at once for two weeks and then quitting it all in frustration because it’s so overwhelming – is never going to work. If it takes you a year to incorporate four healthy habits, that’s still four positive actions for your own health and wellbeing you weren’t doing a year ago.

Have you ever tried to do it all at once? How long did you stick with it?

What’s the one habit you’d choose to work on?

Do you get overwhelmed with the “shoulds” of healthy living?

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