Worried You'll Lose Gym Progress? You're About To Gain Something Far Better
World-wide, gyms are closed because of COVID-19. I won't go into details as to what it is, why it has been such a horrible thing for so man good people or where we are with it.
It’s information you should already know, to be honest. Plus, there are much better sources than a fitness blog for that kind of information, so I'll spare you the reintroduction to the situation.
I will say that I never thought I'd experience something like this in my lifetime. That's for damn sure. Its been incredibly surreal, and it will be a while until the new version of normal emerges. Whatever that ends up being.
Ok, enough of that, let's talk fitness. I mean, since I'm a trainer and this is a fitness blog, I'm guessing you'd like some info related to the title. So, here goes.
If you're a tried-and-true gym die-hard, you've probably busted your ass to earn the fitness/strength/size level you've got now. My hat's off to you for your dedication, btw.
Unless you've got an elaborate home gym with all the iron you could ever lift, you're probably also now in a situation where you don't know what the hell you're going to do to hold on to said fitness gains. I completely get how you feel.
And this might not be a bad thing. Stay with me here; I'll bring it all together for you as to why in a minute.
You Can't Get to The Gym. Maybe That's a Good Thing.
Wait, what? Why is it a good thing that you can't get to the place where you get better? The place where you work on being a stronger, more fit version of the person you were the day before. The place where you're part of a community.
How the hell is that a net positive?
Because now, you've got an opportunity to gain something a lot more important than any muscle you gain, calorie spent or cardio class taken at the gym: perspective.
Here's what I'm getting at: What is the point of working out from the physical standpoint? To build a higher level of fitness.
Put very simply, fitness is ultimately "the ability to perform a task (1)." At the core (see what I did there?) that's all working out really is.
You're giving your body a stimulus (time under tension for your muscles) to cause an adaptation, allowing you to perform a particular task better. That's a very rudimentary look at the process, but that's pretty much the whole thing in a nutshell.
And this now means something completely different to me. I'm guessing you too if you're working out at home now.
You see, the last few weeks I've had a mindset shift. This incredibly terrible COVID-19 situation has forced me to stand in front of the mirror and reevaluate what's actually important to me.
My fitness life included. Ultimately, I learned that a lot of things needed to be simplified. So much so that I've actually stopped working out. Yep, you read that correctly - I don't work out anymore, and neither should you.
You're probably thinking:
"Great my house-of-iron sanctuary is closed, I'm frustrated by that, I'm concerned about losing my progress, the world is completely upside down and this yokel is telling me to stop doing the one thing that made me feel better. WTAH???"
If fitness is only "the ability to perform a task," how much fitness do you REALLY need for your every day life? Be 100% completely honest with yourself.
Begin by asking yourself 1) What do you do all day, and 2) what kind of strength and fitness levels does that actually require?
If your livelihood depends on a certain level of fitness to get paid to perform a demanding physical task, you're playing by an entirely different set of rules. The S.A.I.D. (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) principle is your best friend, and you're most likely walking on hallowed ground us mere mortals will never tread.
For the rest of us, it’s time to get real.
Would I love to have the physique of a 100m sprinter? You bet your glutes I would. It has always been my ultimate training goal.
To me, that's the epitome of human performance potential. Huge muscles that move explosively that don't have an ounce of adipose tissue on them. My fast twitch muscle fibers head to head against yours, and let's find out whose faster!
Is that level of fitness (the ability to do a task) in any way functional (what I need to do daily) for me? No, and I'd be stupid to think otherwise.
Do I do anything in my life that requires that level of fitness? At the age of 48, no.
And realistically, I never will. To put that kind of training stress (not too mention expectation) on myself would create far more anxiety than muscle and ultimately lead to disappointment.
Plus, adding that kind of physical stress to the existing stress of the current world situation would be the equivalent of trying to douse a fire with petrol. I'd be inviting my body to gift me "forced rest," and that's just not an option right now.
Been There. Done That. Hated It.
I've had six pack abs and a pretty high level of fitness. And it was one of the most stressful times of my life.
I had to dedicate every waking hour to holding on to it. While I was "happy on the outside," I was pretty miserable on the inside.
I had to eat perfectly. I had to have the perfect workout program. I had to train at a gym as hard as I could go.
And I wasn't even getting paid to have that level of fitness. At the age of 21, I missed out on a lot fun with friends and some pretty cool memories because of the stress involved with chasing an elite level of fitness. Eventually, I decided it wasn't worth it.
The same thing happened when I raced my mountain bike. Getting faster was never fast enough.
Every ride had to be a training challenge. I couldn't ride with friends who weren't as fast as I was "BECAUSE OMG!! I'LL GET SLOWER!!"
Winning races weren't really victories because the second I crossed the finish line, I realized I had to start training for the next event, keeping me from feeling good about the one I just finished.
Any of this sound familiar yet?
So back to the original point as denoted by the title of the post. Maybe it’s a good thing you have to approach your movement life in a different way.
I'm not saying don't set and reach goals, that's not the point. The gist is take to take stock of what's really important in your life for this CURRENT period.
Take an HONEST look at what the physical demands of your days actually are now. For the next few months anyway until reality returns to some base level version of normal.
Do you have aches and pains that haven't gone away? Maybe now is the time to take care of them.
Do you have movement gaps you need to fill in? It might not be a bad idea to pick up bodyweight/calisthenics training. Fewer things will expose a lack of strength like using you as the load you move.
Essentially, how can you improve your movement quality in the most simple, stress-free way possible? How can you cultivate your new movement mindset?
When I was eight and playing baseball in my first season, my father gave me the best piece of advice I've ever received:
"Never walk off the diamond with a clean uniform. If you do, you didn't play hard enough, and you let your teammates down."
Forty years later, at 48, it’s still how I approach my days. While this mentality has helped me do quite a bit since the day I first heard it, it has also rewarded me with a lot of forced rest because I didn't fully grasp what my dad told me.
It’s got a completely different meaning for me now, and I think I finally get what he was trying to tell me. Yes, I'm a late bloomer whom sometimes the obvious easily eludes.
I don't think he was telling me to go 100% all-out each time I played. I think what he was really trying to tell me was to give the appropriate level of effort at the right time.
Applying that right now, he'd say I'd be making a mistake by blasting myself into oblivion working out. He'd tell me I'm doing the right thing using a basics-work-best approach with the at-home movement habit that I've created for myself.
He'd tell me a "dirty uniform" now entails taking care of business based on the requirements of my life right now: Being at home for my family. Supporting my wife. Keeping my kids safe.
Not walking off the diamond with a clean unie now means something to the effect of:
Did I try to generate new business to help us create a stronger safety net?
What new information did I learn today to help me get better?
Did I help other people?
The third one was always a big one for him. He felt that regardless of what's going on in your own life, you can always help other people through a rough patch in theirs.
So for now, as far as exercise goes, it means just moving and not working out. It means focusing on the simple things, knowing basics work best. It’s putting the 100's of potential exercises (and exercise combos) from bands, suspension training and bodyweight movements to work for me and those I train.
This Zoom thing is a kick in the shorts, btw. It’s like having your own fitness TV show, but you're exhausted after each episode.
This also means, now is the time to learn. Gain a new perspective and put that knowledge into creating strategies that allow me to have the level of fitness I need to best perform the tasks that my days require.
Now, it’s your turn. It’s your time to simplify and adopt a basics-work-best mentality to exercise.
It’s time to begin to embrace that while you might lose a few of the gains you've made at the gym, you're about to earn something a hell of a lot better: a new way to see things.
If you got down this far, I really appreciate it. If you're in the Silicon Valley (or elsewhere, since we are all virtual these days), and you want some PE perspective to create the most consistent home movement habit possible, contact me and let's set up a socially-distant call to see how we can best work together to point you in the right direction!
1) "INTERVENTION: Course Corrections For The Athlete and Trainer," Dan John