I’ll try to make this enticing: How would you like to go on a coffee date? We can pick up our favorite seasonal flavors, then do whatever you want; want to find a cozy corner in the coffee shop to chat about the neural adaptations that London’s cabbies experience, how beautiful these pictures are, or how this guy is a total boss. If you’d like, we can discuss my hunch that Karl Marx would probably appreciate the styling of Karl Lagerfeld, or where they would fall on the Carl Jung inspired MBTI. I’d be fine talking about all of those things, and you can throw in your own K/Carls if you want. Eventually though, I’m sure the conversation would turn to health and exercise. Uh-oh.
Depending on how the conversation was going, I’d do my best to explain what I feel are rather moderate views on training. The topic would definitely begin with a ‘Yea, go pick up heavy things’, and I’d discuss an emphasis on strength as the foundation of your training, but we’d also discuss movement quality, feeling good after workouts, and perhaps even having some fun. You know, the things people forget about. Basically, if you’re bragging about how hot yoga made you stronger, I’m going to tell you to step it up. If you’re bragging about your time on today’s WOD, I’m going to tell you to reel it in a bit.
Just as there is with everything in life, there’s a balance to training. The spectrum of what we see and use as exercise is extremely wide, and while there are certainly people at each end of the spectrum, there definitely seem to be a negatively skewed distribution of exercise in America, and around the world. For each person that’s swinging a kettlebell or testing their push-up to inverted row strength ratio, there are a greater number of people who are alternating between hot yoga and Zumba as their exercise, an even greater number of people who walk on the treadmill 3 times a week, and still even more people who sit on their butts and don’t do anything. If we were to graph the intensity, it would look something like this:
Typically, I find myself telling way more people to step it up than to take it down a notch. We’ve lost our culture of physical activity, and it’s been replaced it with a sedentary population that seeks quick fixes for their laziness; a pill here, a patch there, some fad diet that they saw online because Google AdWords recommended it when they searched “No exercise weight loss”. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’ve found there to be a significant gap between people who see regular physical activity as something enjoyable, and those who see it as a task or chore. It’s the difference between feeling like you have to exercise or wanting to exercise.
I’ll be the first to say that I have to train, but it’s in a slightly different context. It’s as much for the mental health as the physical health. When you exercise, you feel better. It’s really that simple. Plus, I don’t want to look like Marcellus Wallace.
During my workout yesterday, a certain scene from Pulp Fiction popped into my mind. I was in the middle of putting some plates away, and I abruptly belted one of Samuel L. Jackson’s more eloquent lines. It was a good workout, not necessarily the hardest ever, but harder isn’t always better. I’ll lay it out for you below:
- Sumo Rack Pulls, 1st pin (probably 3-4 inches off the ground)
- Clean Grip Reverse Lunges
- Band Knee-Ins
- Farmers Walk/Sled drag combo
- Gasp for air
- 60 yd sprint
- Walk around the block
I completed a PR pull for my last set, took it rather easy on the reverse lunges, stopping at 185lbs for a set of 6, then set up the trap bar and prowler so I could train to be Rudolf in a few weeks. I’ve neglected the sprinting recently, so it was nice to haul across the parking lot and feel kind of fast. On a scale of 1-10, it was probably an 8; I was gasping for air, but not searching for a garbage can. It was the sweet spot of “Yea, this is hard, but I still feel great.” I asked one of the gym folks to take a clip of my pull so I could check out my set up and back position, and I’m pretty content with how this looks:
I’d credit some of that effort to hiking up my shorts and wearing a lumberjack hat; I was told that made you stronger. That last pull was 405lbs, twenty pounds over what I’ve been stuck at off the floor. My sets included 135lbs, 225lbs, and 275lbs x 5, then 315lbs, 365lbs, and 385lbs for three each before the single at 405lbs. The last two sets were heavy for me, but they weren’t heavy compared to these guys. Compared to them, I’m Marcellus Wallace. When I was warming up someone asked me if I was “really using three plates?” Here’s some perspective:
Most of us focus on that “This feels great” side of training, and sometimes that’s entirely necessary. Sometimes, a walk in the park, or a yoga session, or some Zumba is just what you need to clear your mind, work up a sweat, have fun, and smile. In the grand scheme of things, all of that is going to be beneficial for you. You should also feel what it’s like to move some heavy-ass weight, have a working knowledge of ‘lactate threshold’, and spend enough time learning how to lift that you understand that justifying your lack of squatting with ‘but I run a lot’ will almost always make you sound like Marcellus Wallace. (If that running is sprinting, and you split squat instead, you might get a pass.)
Go train. Don’t exercise, don’t workout. Go train. Your equipment should be an inanimate piece of metal and your body weight. Maybe a band or strap will be necessary as well. You should feel like you’re working hard. Hard as in “Crap, this is pretty difficult, but I can still own it.”
Next time you’re heading to the gym, try to use this simple assessment: Are you sweating and smiling? No? Change your look up, Marcellus Wallace.