I am Harold, and I’m experiencing the following dilemma: I think that everyone should exercise in a gym, and I think that everyone should exercise not in a gym.
I work at Mark Fisher Fitness. If I’m not referring to MFF as the Enchanted Clubhouse of Glory and Dreams, I’d call it what most people would call it – a gym. It seems slightly risky to say that people should exercise outside of a gym, especially when our work at MFF depends on our community coming to the gym, er, Clubhouse. I want everyone to come to MFF, but I also want everyone to exercise outside of MFF.
I’m as confused as these puppies:
Let’s bring some clarity to this confusion, shall we?
Let’s consider the type of exercises typically done in a gym setting: We’re using foundational movement patterns that require many of our biggest, strongest muscles to coordinate at the same time. This includes squatting and hinging for our lower body, pushing and pulling for our upper body, and a number of carrying and crawling variations. Save a “functional training” sidebar, this is about practicing quality movement, and challenging our ability to move well with appropriate external loads.
Consider the type of exercises typically done outside of the typical resistance training gym setting: The possibilities are endless! Take 10 seconds to scroll through your preferred social media platform, and you’ll see people who are walking or running outside, swimming or paddling on the water, taking an outdoor yoga class, going mountain climbing or rock climbing, playing in a volleyball or football league. Where did those examples come from? I saw every single one of those online this week.
Each of those outdoor activities offers something that an in-the-gym exercise session does not provide. There’s a different sense of reward and accomplishment that happens when you’re moving through nature.
No, this is not an invitation to carry a barbell to the top of a mountain.
This is an invitation to consider where you most frequently exercise, and figure out how to change that. Let’s say that you’re bringing balance to the Force. If the Force has a Light side and Dark side, maybe your “dark” side is the place where you currently exercise less, be it in a gym getting stronger, or out in the world, exploring your surroundings.
Bringing balance between our workouts is essential. There will be moments when you’re exercising in the gym, putting mindfulness into moving well and getting stronger. There will be moments when you’re exercising outside, enjoying the breeze, the smell of outdoors, and the passing nature and scenery. If you’re doing everything indoors or outdoors, you’re missing out on the unique rewards that the other offers. We want to live in the Inbetween.
YES, I just switched from Star Wars to Stranger Things. Get on board!
If you’re a trainer, you may be thinking, “Why would I encourage my clients to go workout somewhere else?” It’s simple: Because you care. When you truly care about someone having a meaningful exercise experience, I encourage them to have those experiences. If someone is drawn to something new, that’s awesome. I am passionate about people who are passionate about what they’re into. Maybe they make new friends during this new activity and tell them about how great their trainer is. That’s a double win in my book.
If you’re not a trainer, my guess is you’re currently experiencing one of the three stages of “What’s Next?”
Stage 1: My routine is great, I’m not ready to change anything.
If you’re here, I want to talk to you. I want to learn more about your routine because maybe it is great. My current guess is that it’s not actually that great, and this is a bullshit excuse because you’re scared to make a change. I would be honored to learn about your great routine or talk you through that change, but I don’t want to confuse one for the other. Quick awareness check: Are you confusing confidence in your routine with the challenge of change?
I do it all the time, so it’s okay. Now let’s hold each other accountable. Send me a message HERE.
Stage 2: Maybe I could try something new, but I’m not sure what to do.
This is a good place to be, the world is your oyster. (Which are gross, btw.) Sometimes all of the opportunities can make this stage paralyzing, in which case you should phone a friend like it’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. To really get a feel for what it’s like, watch this entire
potato video, which is totally worth it.
How scary was that?!? Seriously, I totally get that finding new activities can be scary. Everything is better with friends, and finding someone who’s already practiced and experienced an activity can make learning it a lot more fun. If you have a friend who likes to walk, go join ’em on a walk. Someone loves yoga? Drop in for a class. They rave about their soccer league? Go kick a ball around before you cheer at the game!
If you’re getting into a gym for the first time, things might be different. In NYC, we have a bajillion places to workout. If you know what you’re doing, but haven’t done it in a while, maybe a membership at a big-box gym would work for you. If you need a tune-up, I can point you to great coaches in most of America, and they can help you get a kick-start, or plan for long-term training and accountability. A good coach is more about connection than credentials, but finding people with NSCA-CSCS, NASM-CPT, and CFSC certifications is a great place to start.
Stage 3: OMG Yes, this is the best, I love trying new things!
Hold your horses there, bucko. Why do you love trying new things? Is it a genuine curiosity for exploring the world around you, or is it a lack of structure and balance in your current exercise program? Follow-up to the second half of that question: Are you a millennial?
Trying new things is an essential part of life, and so is mastery. If we’re constantly trying new things, we’re constantly mediocre at many things, and that’s not where happiness comes from. There’s a minimal effective investment of mindfulness and time that’s necessary to make meaningful improvements at what we love to do, and in some cases, doing fewer things becomes the important action step.
If you’re constantly trying new things, your version of living in the Inbetween is to find consistency in the chaos. Pick one or two things to focus on at a time, and see if you can practice very specific measures to get better at. Giving yourself the guideline can actually lead to more enjoyment than you expect!
Where is your workout?
Where will you be the next time you exercise? What about the time after that? I’m dreaming of the world where we fluctuate between a few meaningful things in our days and weeks, and it’s the combination of our complimentary workouts that bring more satisfaction than any single workout strategy can on its own. Finding that balance can be a tricky one, and I’m happy to find it with you.
Let’s get into the gym, let’s get outside, and let’s have as much fun as possible while doing both of those things.