Fact of science: going to the gym yields more important benefits than weight management or burning calories. Countless studies have shown links between working out and better mental health, better sleep, a better immune system, and even just plain quality of life.
Fact of life: it’s hard to focus on these sustainable benefits in a diet-culture obsessed world.
Think about it. People only seem to talk about the gym in terms of burning calories. Sometimes you’ll hear: “the gym is my me-time” and “I can’t sleep if I don’t go for a run.” But these reasons are outnumbered by those aspiring to achieve “beach bodies,” “working off last night’s dinner,” or “shedding pounds.”
After two months of indulging in socializing and delicious food (that we deserve), January steps in to inundate us with marketing that focuses on "burning off all the treats we just enjoyed" and getting ourselves into an ideal shape. But, we ask you to pause and reframe how you think about fitness and it's relationship with your body... and mind.
We have it ingrained into us from childhood that the gym is where you go to lose weight. So, naturally when you’re working out, it’s an instinct to glue yourself to calories burnt and gauge the value of the workout, and yourself, on that number.
Here are 6 tips on how to focus less on calories when working out:
Turn It Off
The ability to turn OFF calorie display is a common feature on cardio machines, like the elliptical and treadmill. How about tracking your heart rate? Or setting a steps goal on the Stair Master? If calories are still an important part of working out for you, you can always check the stat at the end of the workout. Same data, but less obsession over the number to keep you going through the workout. It’s a good mental experiment you should definitely try.
Set Non-Weight Related Goals
These are also known as “non-scale victories,” and they can be motivational magic. Try to set gym goals that don’t relate to a scale weight (and, in turn, not related to calories). Alternative trackers: lifting a certain weight, repetition or sets, miles, or completing housework more efficiently. These goals are impactful, trackable, and establish a healthier relationship to being physically active.
Don’t Be Afraid to Pump Some Iron
If you’re more confused on weight loss at the gym and are mindful of making little shifts for bigger impact, consider picking up weights or doing calisthenics. There’s no calorie counting, and the need for good form is another distraction. Many professionals do suggest it’s a better method for fat loss than cardio, if that’s hard set a goal of yours. Whenever considering weight training, consult with someone who understands it — an experienced friend or ideally a professional. You could easily injure yourself if you go too hard, too soon.
Take It Easy
Listening to your body is important. Although this sounds like common sense, it's important to lean into the days when you're just not feeling the energy to hit the mat, go for a walk, or go hard at the gym. Some of us feel these days more often than others, but give yourself a break. On the days when it feels impossible to get moving, find other ways to honor and nurture your body. This can be in the form of at-home self care: Gua Sha (we love Wildling), reading a book, putting on a comfy Crew Neck and/or embracing the R&R your body is begging for... it's all good.
There’s something real powerful when women gather and support one another. Socialization, motivation, camaraderie, inspiration… so many benefits. The energy in a group class is contagious. Most classes approach the workout as “do whatever level you feel comfortable.” Not to mention, you’ll be motivated to go to the gym just to see your friends, or make new ones. There’s a mental clarity that most women feel when they leave a group fitness class, not just because of the workout, but because of the entire experience… especially the pride you feel when you’ve made it to the end. It feels celebratory. It’s a reminder that you’re not in this journey alone.
Invest in Your Outfits
Take note of when you’re feeling amazing — what are you wearing?
“When I’m wearing something I feel good in, I feel unstoppable.” Research suggests your choice of clothing resonates with how you feel and can affect your mood — and confidence! Heading to workout: take an extra minute to choose an outfit that sparks joy and simply makes you feel good in your skin: like those leggings that hug your bum just right (you know you have a favorite pair).
Then to celebrate your beautiful body, set yourself free in comfy sweatpants or your best-fitting, confidence-boosting bra. Regardless of what the rest of your agenda looks like, cater your outfit accordingly — and choose wisely.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with counting calories, but it’s important to understand there are healthier, more impactful ways you can approach wellness that your mind and body will thank you for — now and later.
Written by Victoria Fluet