The fitness instructor at the front of your studio—or on your screen—might look invincible. They perform dozens of burpees (in a row) or pedal their spin bikes at breakneck speeds, all while somehow keeping smiles on their faces and doling out motivational mantras. But as Charlee Atkins, founder of Le Sweat, says on The Well+Good Podcast, "On the other side of it...you're just like breaking down, hitting a wall."
After eight years as a SoulCycle instructor, some days spending over four hours on the bike, Atkins says her body couldn't take it anymore. Her hips were "crunchy," she says. Because the fact of the matter is, this type of all-out exercise regimen just doesn't work—it isn't good for your body and it isn't good for your spirit.
In the second episode of Well+Good's brand spankin' new podcast, host and Well+Good Director of Creative Development Ella Dove chats with Atkins and other fitness experts—including Peloton instructor Jess Sims and Evelynn Escobar, founder of Hike Clerb, a Los Angeles-based intersectional hiking club and non-profit—about how so many of us developed this "all or nothing" mentality surrounding fitness... and how to shake it. "When did exercise become so formulaic, scheduled into our day like work meetings?" Dove asks. "Is there any value left in movement for movement's sake?"
For Escobar, the answer is a resounding yes. "When I seek movement, when I want to work my body, I'm looking at things that feel natural to me," she says. "I'm not going into a cardio class...I'm going on a hike, going on a walk, riding my bike around my neighborhood. These little things that you don't think [of as] movements, but actually are—and are also providing you that physical outlet—are the things that I seek."
Atkins says that these days, she's replaced her marathon spin sessions with a more well-rounded fitness routine, and getting outdoors for a walk is also one of her favorite ways to move. "What I'm doing is walking more. I'm working out less and I'm eating better and I'm just taking more time to myself...And I honestly feel the best I've ever felt," she says. Sims is on the same page, saying she makes sure to take one to two recovery days a week, choosing to spend that time walking with her dogs.
So if exercise is starting to feel like a chore, may we recommend a change of pace—and scenery? "Every movement that you do throughout the day 'counts'—the most important thing is movement," Harry Pino, PhD, EPC, a senior exercise physiologist at NYU Langone and the manager of exercise physiology at the Princeton Longevity Center, tells Dove. "I'm always telling people, just go out and walk. Even if it's 10 minutes, at least get something done. You will feel much, much better."
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