You’ve heard of Goldilocks right? If you are wondering how bringing a fairytale to mind has anything to do with setting exercise goals, let me explain. Think of the phrase that goes something like “not too much, not too little, but just right”. Keep that phrase top of mind while reading this blog, and soon I think you’ll understand how this very phrase can help you to set achievable goals. 

If I could wave a magic wand and make every person thoroughly enjoy exercise, I definitely would. This is coming from a person who took a semester of band and another semester of bowling in high school to avoid taking PE only to later struggle with overtraining and taking rest days. 

Today, exercise is something I mostly enjoy for its mental and physical benefits. Sure, there are some days that I have to be my own cheerleader and give myself a pep talk to get going, but I never walk away from an exercise session feeling regret. If you are struggling to find your happy place with exercise, and thus you are falling behind on your goals, I think you’ll find the Goldilocks perspective beneficial. 

Dr. Jade feels that the Goldilocks principle represents the human metabolism quite well. It can be used for both nutrition and exercise, but today we are going to focus just on the exercise piece. 

When thinking of the female metabolism in particular, research confirms that women are more sensitive to stress. Men tend to have higher testosterone to help buffer such stress. Without the testosterone buffer, the female metabolism becomes more stress reactive as it works harder to keep estrogen and progesterone in balance instead. The better the balance, the more you’ll see what Dr. Jade refers to as the “hallmark of the female physique” otherwise referred to as the hourglass shape.

As a female, adding in workouts that are too long, too intense and too frequent, you begin to overwhelm the stress sensing mechanisms in the brain. As a result, you take the risk of creating issues with multiple other hormones that help to regulate your metabolism including thyroid and adrenal hormones. 

You may be wondering what exercise has to do with stress. Although exercise can be a good or healthy form of stress, it still does place stress on the body. That, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise. In fact, if you are looking to change your bodyfat percentage or increase muscle mass, exercise is somewhat critical.

When it comes to stress, there is a minimum effective dose for many, but it may not be the same for all. What tends to hold true is placing smaller emphasis on longer duration cardio, and instead concentrating on combining cardio and weights in just the right dose. With this general formula, you are more likely to decrease some of the stress on the metabolism.

In a nutshell, the Goldilocks principle, specifically related to exercise, can help you to remember that too much or too little exercise is not going to be helpful to the body, particularly if you are looking to change your shape or lose some weight. 

“Doing zero exercise and sitting on the couch freebasing cookies is a stress to the body. But so is eating like a bird and running for hours and hours every single day.”

~Dr. Jade Teta

Unfortunately many fitness programs or weight loss plans indirectly take you from one extreme state (the couch potato) to another extreme state (the food-deprived exerciser). The key is figuring out what the middle looks like for you and creating goals around that middle ground. For example, if you are not moving much at all, can you start to add in 15 minute walks 3 times per week? If you are intentionally walking a few times per week, can you add in 2-3 strength training sessions for 15-20 minutes on top of that?

Or, if you are an exercise junkie, can you work on dialing that back a bit, maybe reducing from 7 days a week to 4 or 5? At the same time, on the days you are choosing to rest, can you add in more relaxing and restorative activities to help with reducing stress and bringing the body into better balance?

Like many things in life, extremes in either direction can mess with your metabolism, even in the case of exercise. Imagine what your Goldilocks point may look like, start setting goals from this place, and chances are you’ll be in better shape to maintain such goals while seeing your health and wellness goals come to life.

Finally, if you’ve been struggling with your own confidence when it comes to meeting your exercise goals, ask yourself if you’ve been setting the bar too high. If you find yourself working so hard to meet your goal that your energy is being depleted while your stress level is rising, that will ultimately undermine your efforts as well as your self-confidence. Notice if your success rate in meeting your exercise goals actually increases by finding the goal that is “just right” to make you stretch and grow without completely depleting your battery.

Photo by Piret Ilver on Unsplash