pen·ance /penəns/ noun: voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong.
I cringe when a group exercise instructor suggest that the class get those squats lower to make up for those extra Christmas cookies. I want to take my downward dog right out of the room when the yoga teacher suggests we get deeper into a pose to make room for the New Year's Eve buffet.
If you're exercising with the prime focus of burning calories to make room for unhealthful eating, you're missing out on the fun. And sidenote, those who perceive exercise in this way are more likely to sabotage attempts to "earn" extra calories by overestimating calories you burn and underestimating the calories you consume. Last year, there was an excellent study that addressed this matter:
Two groups were asked to take a walk, but one group was told it was "an exercise walk," and the other group was told it was "a scenic walk." It was the same walk, but those who were told they were exercising were significantly more likely to seek a food reward after. Those taking the scenic walk it perceived it as fun and were less likely to compensate with snacking afterward.
Exercise is not about penance. It's about play! It's about feeling good in our bodies. For some--distance runners, boot campers and Crossfitters, I'm looking at you--It's even rewarding to push past your comfort level and even to experience pain if it means coming out on the other side stronger and achieving something remarkable.
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