Evlo Fitness/Education/Body Composition/How to determine what season of fitness you are in
Dr. Payton Busker, PT, DPT
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How to determine what season of fitness you are in

When it comes to diet and exercise, have you found yourself on the perpetual cycle of constant yo-yoing in and out of different programs? Do you find yourself turning to outside sources or social media for the “answers” of how to achieve optimal health? Have you taken the time to ask yourself why you want to achieve certain fitness or aesthetic goals? Let me introduce you to the seasons of fitness. 

When it comes to fitness, you can place yourself into one of two seasons: A season of healing or a season of growing. These two seasons encompass many different characteristics, ideals, mindsets, etc. Identifying which season you are currently in can be vital for your true, overall health.

Why it’s important to identify which season your in

Identifying the season you’re currently in helps to narrow your focus. We can get very “lost in the weeds” when it comes to diet and exercise. And many of us begin firmly in a season of healing. However, our goals or points of focus line up more with those of the season of growing. The quicker we can identify our starting point, the quicker we can work towards well-rounded fitness goals.

How to identify your season

Today’s post highlights signals of each season. I want you to really take each list in to see which more closely aligns with where you are right now. Through this honest assessment, we can make actionable steps forward.

Season of healing

Signals that you might be in a season of healing

  • Are you over-exercising?
  • Do you exercise just to burn calories?
  • Do you have lots of joint pain?
  • Are you constantly sore?
  • Do you believe it’s normal for exercise to hurt?
  • Are you yo-yoing between over-exercising and no exercise at all? 
  • Will you exercise to try to burn off your food?
  • Do you try to earn your food with exercise? 
  • Are you in a rush to get to a certain body size?
  • Do you have strict deadlines for yourself: “I have to be ___ size by ___ date”?
  • Do you feel guilty for tapering back when you’re stressed, sick, or tired?
  • Have you consistently felt guilty for skipping a day or taking a recovery day?

If you identified with at least a few of the above bullet points, you may be in a season of healing. As mentioned early, this season is a common starting point for many. Do not feel discouraged. In order to progress beyond this season, let’s discuss areas of focus.

What to focus on if you’re in a season of healing

Focus on healing your body and mindset instead of “progressing”

Neurons that fire together, wire together. It’s very possible that you’ve been in this particular season for a long, long time. The thoughts you have around food and exercise are now closely linked with potential negative self-talk. 

In order to slowly reverse this connection, check out this episode of Fit Body, Happy Joints. Dr. Shannon discusses this topic in much greater detail. She presents the idea of “passing through neutral” as a way to gently begin to heal your relationship with negative self-talk and exercise. 

Let this be your primary focus during exercise during this season.

Take at least 2 recovery days if not more

If you identified with having joint pain, believing exercise should hurt, and/or being constantly sore from the list above, this one’s for you. 

Recovery is half of the equation when it comes to eventual fitness progress. If we are constantly beating ourselves up with exercise and then not giving ourselves the space to fully recover, we are hindering that progress. 
We recommend everyone, regardless of the season, take at least two active recovery days. We have an entire recovery day category for those who enjoy following structured classes on days off of lifting.

Focus on muscle building rather than burning calories

Try to turn your focus away from what you’re burning and towards what you are building.

The calories in vs. calories out windset will only keep you in this season for longer. Building muscle sets you up for long-term success. 
If you’re struggling with this idea, tune into this episode of Fit Body, Happy Joints. Shannon scientifically explains why to shift your focus on muscle growth. She also debunks common myths around “toning” your body.

Focus on exercises that feel good for your body

Research shows that we actually make better physical changes when we choose exercises that feel good for our bodies. 

Choosing exercises that challenge our muscles, but feel good on our joints also reinforces a respectful relationship with our bodies. We want to choose exercises that build you up (both mentally and physically), not tear you down.

It’s much easier to step onto your mat for a workout each day when you make choices that don’t compromise your joint or mental health. Gentle consistency truly is the secret sauce to long-lasting results. 

You can still progress and get stronger even if you’re in a season of healing. But improving your mindset around exercise FIRST helps you progress much more effectively.

Season of growing

Signals that you might be in a season of growing

  • Exercising to build muscle and be stronger 
  • Exercising for longevity 
  • You don’t tolerate joint pain 
  • You modify very quickly if you are experiencing joint pain 
  • You are able to identify when your body needs a reset week or recovery 
  • You are not overly rigid with your schedule; you recognize if your body needs less and you listen to that 
  • You’re able to relax your body into a meditation and stillness does not bother you 
  • You are not constantly sore or depleted

If you identify with most of the above, you’re most likely in a season of growing. It is from this place that we can either rinse and repeat or expand even further. If you’re enjoying your current routine, continue with that plan. If you’re interested in focusing on body recomposition goals from a place of love and respect for our bodies, read on.

Next steps you could take if you are in a season of growing

Focus on specific macronutrient goals

Nutrition plays a significant role in body recomposition goals, especially as many women struggle to gain muscle mass. Registered Dietitian Katherine Andrew designed our “Create your own macro plan” program with this exact goal in mind. 

Within this program, she gives options for those who enjoy tracking and those who do not. Just as it is important to identify which season you’re in, figuring out which method works best for you will be important. 

Enjoy creating a macronutrient plan that will work with your body and your schedule, not against it.

Find your one rep max for exercises and continue progressing lifts

If you’re in this season of growing, you may be ready to get more specific with progressive overload. Adding more external load or repetition to the muscle groups over time drives muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth). The first step can be identifying your one rep max for each of your lifts. We explain this process in great detail in this blog post. 

Once you identify the minimum threshold that you should be lifting to induce muscle hypertrophy for each lift, you can begin to track the external load you are using quarterly. 
Want an in-depth tracker and more information on building muscle over the next year? Join Dr. Shannon’s free, live-only workshop on January 2 from 12-1pm CST. Click here for more information and to sign up for “Build muscle in 2023 without overworking”.