Saturday, August 7, 2010

Do we enjoy *all* our workouts? Why not?

Have you noticed that once we get into working out - way to go developing that habit - we can get pretty intrigued about what amounts to minutia relative to the rest of our daily minutes? That that intrigue can actually stop us from action, or take the joy out of our movement because it didn't match the plan? Maybe it's just me, but it seems the detail can get in the way of the Big Joyful Picture of I can move and ain't that grand.

You know the questions i mean, don't you? Should we eat BCAA's or Whey protein for post recovery? do i have a shake before or after a workout or both? Do i take the creatine before or after the workout? Do i rest for 30secs or 2mins between sets? Should i work out in the morning or the evening? Is it ok to run if i'm lifting weights and trying to mass up? I am totally THERE. oh yes.

While these things are all very interesting, for sure, and can be fun to think about, and play with, and all be part of the learning experience of getting keener about our practice, they can also be pretty intrigued, eh? I mean, how many of us workout to the degree that we really notice a difference if we do a recovery shake before or after each workout, each and every workout?

Does this give us joy? Is this what keeps us working out, or does it block us? I wonder if we mayn't be concerned that if we're not "serious" - if we're not gritting our teeth in every session, or falling over dead - that we haven't worked. The number of folks i hear just getting back into fitness doing something like p90x, celebrating on twitter that they "made it" through another workout -i've been there, the: unless we beat ourselves up, we're not working/getting better. I drove my family crazy with "must do my session whatever" - at all costs.

Is it maybe more important to stay well nourished all of the time, well rested all of the time - know how to check if our workouts are taxing us overly or just right - while we're doing them - and stay moving well and out of pain, all the time? Rather than intrigue over rep counts, powders, and nth degree data to get the perfect routine? How and where do we learn this?

That's sort of a related thought.  This doesn't mean goals for our health and fitness can't be valuable, and i've enjoyed re-certifying for previous skills/strengths or getting cleared by qualified coaches to teach new ones, in the "do i know what i'm doing and can i help others achieve these things?" space. And going up for competitions to reality check oneself can be cool too. Dandy. Work hard; train for that goal. Super. Does my identity in some small (or not so large) depend on making that goal?

Another related thought: Do we put the same care and attention into the rest of our lives that we put into these workouts? Now wouldn't that be amazing. Or do we need to get back to the big picture in both? After all, we know so little about the minutia of tuning ourselves. The only constant seems to be, we need to keep doing it - something, anything - consistently, with good food and good recovery. Most after that are strategies to Know Ourselves within those general principles, but are still approximations.

Fun, pleasure, joy. Things we do need to add to this, right, not take away from it? I know a trainer, Kira Clarke, who says every workout is a joy, and i believe him (and he gets to punch people and be punched. And he's smiling). He even has a humour section on his site. Then there's Shannon Mauck, long distance runner, triathlete. Joy exudes from his pours. It's a little freaky.

Then for cutting to the chase, there's Rannoch Donald, Monk of the North of Simple Strength with his 100 Rep Challenge and Sunday Service: Let us Play.

I'll even suggest getting some frisbees and a field even make geeks happy. Finding ways to move more, not just restricted to what we usually consider "working out."

There are so many things we can do to move, feel well, do better that help us feel better all the time that seem to intrigue less and joy more. Who knows, we might even get well-er, fitter, stronger, faster at the same time.

This rich variety is a surprise to me. It's something i learned about on a course recently about Strength and Suppleness. We were shown how doing these itty bitty gestures with a stretch band adding just a wee bit of resistance brought most of us to our knees in effortful work.  And then there was the post-work daily play. I watched Z-Health Master Trainer Freddys X Garcia - who is v.muscular - do dips and then duck walk across the floor as his workout with Trainer John Mendes. This is Mr. Hypertrophy's workout? Dips and Ducks?

A few of us thought that looked like fun, and started doing the duck walks beside Freddys - it was work - but at least two of us were laughing while our legs started to burn.  This actually turned into a bit of a Systema ground work session with Leah Davison on how to move fast and low. Total surprise to get new knowledge within the context of these wee moves.

That we have so many choices - not just about the workout reps we do, but what we do any day. That too is a kind of quality.

The Perfect Rep. Pavel Tsatsouline talks not about workouts or training but about Practice. We practice our perfect reps.

Perfection requires a certain quality. I've thought of that qualtiy as being perfect form. But we are more than muscle and bone; we have more qualties and we bring these to everything we do.

Do i honour the perfection i seek to bring that lifeful of joy to every practice i undertake. I used to joke, "to press the kettle, we must love the kettle" - but i think that may be truer than i knew: whether that's to throw a frisbee, or press a kettlebell (i'm still reaching for that 24) or deadlift twice my bodyweight, or run faster the next time i do that hill. Or just promise to enjoy each step up the hill. That is also practicing perfect QUALITY in a new way. If that full on qualtiy of rep is just as important as its form, i may have to listen to myself more closely. Ensure that when working hard i'm pushing just right not too far. It's a discipline in itself. Am i strong enough not to rush but to be perfect?

Hard to describe, you know? We can choose to do a few fewer reps; we can choose to do isometrics instead of lifting heavy. We can choose to go for a run or pull a sled. As Threat Modulation coach Kenneth Jay said to me recently "Do you smell smoke? That's my brain"

Meditatus Radix. This may not be how many people want to practice. We are impatient and want to get there. I'm not sure how well i'll do at it either. But i do know that all the folks whose council i respect, with the possible exception of one person,  are also really jacked up or recovering from same. So maybe something else needs to come into the mix too? 

Life's rich pageant. Perhaps going for delight, for joy, for full QUALITY of perfection in our strength we will arrive stronger, more resilient and happier? Dunno. I'm still kinda stunned by the possibilities there. But they seem promising.

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Gary Horn said...

Good insights. This fitness topic is a black hole of time and a tsunami of information. It's gotta be fun or I won't do it.

To keep it fun, I scavanged up a 3 foot piece of railroad rail and a large block of stone and I'm lifting them, applying some of the techniques I've learned from kettlebell lifting.

Lifting a variety of heavy things keeps it fun, adds new challenges, and "keeps it real", since I want to be able to apply strength and endurance to real life situations.

Unknown said...


You've mentioned me again in one of your posts ... You know how to make a person feel special :)

As you probably have guessed by now, 'enjoying training' is one of my hobby horses ;)

I do believe it is a process, though. Training is an acquired taste. And some types of training taste better to some people than others. So training requires a little persistence, a little attention (trying to see/find the pleasure that's available), and a little experimentation (there's a lot of fitness 'genres' out there to try).

I also think it's important to build a 'depth' to training ... What I mean is, people often put all their training eggs in one basket (e.g. kettlebell people only play kettlebell, powerlifters only play barbell etc.) And that's fine for athletes, but I think ordinary folk would do better mixing it up a bit.

I think being overly focused on one genre of fitness can be a problem on a number of levels ...

If you're into running and it rains what do you do?

If you're into lifting barbells and you get a shoulder injury, what do you do?

If you're training is starting to feel a little stale, what do you do?

If you're involved in a fitness club and you have 'relationship issues' with someone and don't enjoy going to the club anymore, what do you do?

If you're involved in a specific fitness genre, and your ideas no longer conform to the status quo, what do you do?

All these kinds of problems can be better dealt with if you have a depth to your training.

I'm not saying you have to do EVERY kind of fitness style out there. But having a handful of fitness activities under your belt really does make enjoying and maintaining a fitness lifestyle easier.

Well, that's how I see it, anyway :)

dr. m.c. said...

gary, thanks for the additional ideas.
i wonder what the uni would do if i started stacking up blocks on the field? or just big coils of rope anchored to a post?

thanks for the considered list of questions.
i like the one about rain a lot cuz it rains on this rain forest island rather a lot.

i actually do not think really that it's fine for anyone to put all their eggs in one basket and do only one thing - not if we're concerned about a healthy longevity. Nothing supports a unilateral vision of fitness.

that's not a convenient idea. break the normal plane of our movement. but it doesn't have to be hard. it just - i think - kinda has to be.



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