Life these days is chock full of activities. New York City, in particular, offers an incredible variety for those who want to get up and move: globo gyms galore, parks and green space and big lawns, boutique fitness studios, CrossFit boxes, dance classes, yoga of all sorts, stairs, bike paths, pools, trapeze classes – you name it, New York has it. We’re both lucky and overwhelmed in that way. New Yorkers are constantly looking for the next activity, chasing the next sweat high and personal best accomplishment. This is especially true for those of us in the fitness industry.
Putting any physical and performance goals aside, this is not always a positive thing. Why do we feel the need to be so physical so often? When did doing ALL THE ACTIVITIES AND THEN SOME become the norm?
I’m guilty, too. I love doing things and checking them off my list of “things to do today,” even if that list is only in my head and serves no other purpose than being a list. There’s a great feeling of accomplishment in doing tasks, especially physical ones (at least for me). There’s also a sense of peace and inner satisfaction in knowing, at the end of the day, I did all I could. Literally.
But what happens the next day, when I go to do things again? I’ve noticed more and more lately that my body advocates for itself. When I don’t get enough sleep, it’s challenging to become motivated – and I’m incredibly tired in both brain and muscle. The thought of walking to the toilet is exhausting. When I go hard in a lifting session the day before, or really bring the intensity to a conditioning piece, or run a half marathon, my body needs proper recovery and something light the next day, if anything at all. It doesn’t have to be Fran or Murph, or a ton of cardio or Ashtanga yoga. It has to be simple – movement. And that movement can be as simple as talking the dog on an extra long walk.
Maybe it’s age. I am getting older, after all. My body isn’t up for abuse the way it used to be. I’m beginning to think that’s a very good thing. A “good” workout is individual to every person, but in general, strength training, body weight training and conditioning are a recipe for success, no matter what your goals. Strength and conditioning is scalable to any age and experience level. The work doesn’t always have to be so rigorous.
It could also be experience. I’ve accumulated a lot of physical activity throughout my life that, to a degree, doing something for the sake of doing it is not going to be effective. That’s when I begin to think about why I’m working out. Yes, I enjoy the benefits: performance, strength, hormonal balance, aesthetics, food. I also just enjoy working out. I found activities that I love (tennis, CrossFit, Olympic lifting, squatting, biking, sometimes running), and I do them. I love programming what I do and why I do it, and sometimes I just want to sweat.
If we continue to push our bodies to the limit constantly, without room for recovery and rest (that’s not to say laziness), our bodies are eventually going to break. Whether literally (injury) or mentally (“I don’t understand why I can’t do one pull-up today and last week I could do 10!”), our spirit will be tested. While there’s a difference between being sore and being in pain, I think that movement of some kind every day is powerful. It doesn’t always have to be a crushing workout, and you don’t have to fit in as many activities in one day as you can just for the sake of doing things. Intense activity and working out multiple hours each day without rest for several days in a row (read: more than three or four, five is even pushing it) is a recipe for disaster, and it’s no way to develop a lifestyle that you can sustain infinitely.
Listen to your body. But don’t use this as an excuse NOT to do something. “My coach/trainer says I should listen to my body, so I just won’t work out today since my pinky hurts.” –> That’s lazy. If you truly don’t want to work out, maybe you should consider searching inside yourself for WHY you don’t want to work out. Find something you enjoy doing, then do it often. But please leave room for fun and rest. There’s this thing called “balance” that I think more of us need to remember every once in a while.
Gymnastics night at Chelsea Piers, having FUN! See, we know how to have FUN!