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Why be healthy? The questions you should ask about your workout and eating habits

Posted by for Strength

It’s time to stop focusing on what workouts you’re doing and instead ask why you do them.       

We put a lot of emphasis on the things we do to improve our health – what we eat, what workouts we do, what time we wake up in the morning and go to bed at night. But in focusing so hard on the ‘what’, we might be forgetting one huge question.

That’s according to personal trainer Lucy Anne McConnell, who wrote in a recent post on Instagram: “I think we get too hung up on the what… can we talk a bit about the missing piece? The why?” 

To her, asking yourself ‘why’ you are doing something is all about understanding your intentions behind your actions. If, for example, you are only doing something because it’s a trend, rather than because it makes you feel good. Or if you’re doing it out of fear, rather than self-care, then they might not be right for you.

To understand this, she advises asking yourself questions such as: “Why are you eating a certain way? Are you eating a mostly whole foods diet or low carb or whatever the trend is this month because you like eating this way and it makes you feel incredible? Or because you are afraid to consume certain foods because they aren’t “healthy” or you fear weight gain?

“Why are you exercising? Is it to feel strong and energised and empowered? Or do you feel a compulsive drive to move every day because if you don’t, you believe you can’t eat as much or you will need to compensate in some way?” 

These questions will expose some harsh truths behind the reasons for your habits. Because while there are lots of ways to eat, move and live, you have to make sure that the path you’ve chosen is right for you. That doesn’t mean you only take the easy route of doing things you like and avoiding the things that make you uncomfortable. It just means that you do the things that actually help you work towards your goals, rather than being swayed by the noise.

That’s the reason Dottie Fildes, a trainer at SWTC and Sweat It, encourages clients to ask ‘why’. She thinks that finding out the reasoning from a trainer, online coach, or class instructor (or researching advice from an influencer) gives you some independence and helps put you back in charge of your fitness journey. 

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Understand why you're doing something can make the hard things feel easier

“For those working with a trainer to understand their workouts a bit better, and to potentially one day be confident enough to do them on their own, it’s important to have an open conversation about why certain exercises or training techniques are used. It gives you the ability to apply it to your own sessions when you know the reason behind it,” she says.

After all, what’s the point in telling someone your goal and letting them guide you through a session without understanding how it really helps? Doing things you don’t understand can feel pointless – whereas it can often be easier to want to do something if you know how it’s going to help you. In that sense, asking ‘why’ is motivational.

The next time you sit there, wishy-washily asking ‘what’ you’re going to do in the gym today, how about reframing the question? Ask yourself what you need from your movement: is it an energy boost, to strengthen your muscles, help shift that lingering cold? Knowing the answer will help you make the best decision for you and your body.

“There is so much variation in how you can train. I’m not really concerned with that though,” writes McConnell. “Whether you do HIIT or resistance training or running or yoga or pilates is no issue at all. But why? What’s driving the behaviour? Is it aligned with your goals and values?” 

Images: Getty

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).