Evidently, this week was my alma mater’s homecoming and although Rutgers football has been mired in scandal all season, Rutgers does have other redeeming qualities (beyond the “Grease Trucks”).
One of those redeeming qualities is a research psychologist, Dr. Helen Fisher, whose research has focused on love for the past 35+ years – what it looks like in the brain, why we love and how we choose those we love. You can watch one of her videos here, but one of her main tenets is that there are 3 main types of love, all happening in different parts of the brain.
The first and most basic is lust or your sex drive – Do you want to have sex with this person? Yes or No. This is found in very deep parts of the brain or the “oldest” reptilian parts of the brain.
The second and a bit more in-depth is passionate love – this is the love that stays on your brain. She describes it as an itch that you can’t scratch. This person starts to take over real estate in your brain and moves beyond the physical into an emotional connection. This phase can be reignited over time (keeping things fresh helps), but for most people this is the most exciting phase of love and is strongest for 6 months to a year, but can last much longer.
Finally, and the deepest of them all is attachment love. This phase is strongest for 3 to 7 years but can definitely last a lifetime. This is where parts of your brain become rewired so that you literally start to feel what the other person feels. MRI scans have shown that when you’re in this type of love and you imagine your partner going through something painful, the same parts of your brain light up as though you were going through the painful experience yourself. This doesn’t happen when you imagine someone else going through the same painful experience.
You might be thinking, that’s good to know, but what does that have to do with fitness?
How Fitness is Like Love
Just as any good long-term romantic relationship has all three aspects, so does a good workout program.
1 – “Feel Good Workout” Love – Do you want to do this particular workout? Yes or no.
I find that everyone likes some sort of workout. Over the years, I’ve found that when it comes to enjoying types of workouts, Charles Poliquin’s 5 Elements helps best explain a lot of people’s “workout personalities.” These workout personalities tend to be determined by a person’s neurotransmitter dominance.
One’s neurotransmitter dominance helps to explain a person’s proclivities towards one type of workout over another. For example if you love CrossFit and hate Yoga, you might be more dopamine dominant. If you hate high intensity stuff but love Yoga, you might be more of a GABA dominated individual. Just as any personality test is just a starting point and not meant to be taken as gospel, the “5 elements” only helps to show what type of recovery and workout program might work best for an individual and doesn’t mean you are locked in that type of realm forever.
Again, although “feel good” workouts are important (you should definitely do these), it obviously shouldn’t be the only reason why you do something.
Quick note on “Feel Good” workouts: Sometimes the types of workouts you enjoy short-term aren’t workouts you would normally enjoy doing. For example, my favorite “feel good” workouts are sprint workouts. I love them! But I only want to actually do them once every 6 weeks. It is obviously something that I have not developed “passionate fitness love” for.
2 – “Passionate Fitness Love” – I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve heard someone start a new workout program and talk about it as though this type of exercise can save the world! Whether that exercise be Yoga, Barre, CrossFit, kickboxing or just a different type of workout program. I know when I start hearing superlatives thrown out when it comes to exercise, they are in this passionate fitness love feeling.
This is a fun place to be and I encourage you to find your passionate love. For me, I love lifting weights. I don’t need a lot of it, but I do need it often. It is something I need to do in order to feel happy, not only with my workouts or body, but mental state more than anything else.
3 – Long-term Attachment Fitness Love – Despite, being in the fitness field, there are things that I absolutely hate doing but know I need to do for the long-term attachment called the “health of my body.”
This is the stuff you may not necessarily enjoy doing, but know that it’s good for your health and good for the health of your long-term passionate love. For me, this is flexibility training and cardio training. It’s not that I don’t find them tolerable sometimes, but that I would rather be doing another type of workout or skipping the workout altogether.
And just as any long-term relationship has things you may not enjoy, these are the things I need to do to keep the “relationship” healthy.
What are your fitness loves?
If your initial response is, “I don’t have any,” you’re looking at this too narrowly. If you enjoy being able to actually move, then I would say, you enjoy some type of activity.
Beyond that, try to find types of workouts for the three types of fitness loves:
1 – What is the type of workout that you enjoy, for no other reason then the way it makes you feel during and after?
This can be anything from taking a walk, jogging, running, sprinting, hiking, going shopping, lifting weights, yoga, barre, pilates, Zumba, CrossFit, playing basketball, playing football, playing tennis, swimming, “making love,” etc.
If it requires you to move and you enjoy it because of how it makes you feel during and after, then it counts. Try to incorporate this into your life more often.
2 – What do you love doing because it makes you a better version of yourself after you’re done with it? What stays on your mind and makes you want it when you haven’t had it for a while? If you can find this, you can find something that lays the foundation for a “passionate fitness love.”
3 – What are the essential things you should be doing in order to have health and fitness, for a “long-term commitment?” What are the things you might not find as enjoyable, but are worth it in the end? These are the things you might have to suck up for a little bit, each week – an hour or two, but yield much more benefits than the time it takes to do them.
When you can define types of activities and workouts that fall into all three aspects, then you have the potential to stay healthy and happy with your workouts for a very long time.