How To Run Your Own Race When Exercising Alone

Hey friends, and welcome to this episode of HGTV!

In the next 6 minutes, I’m going to share a few thoughts on why you might be finding your workouts more challenging if you’re currently exercising alone. This piece was inspired by a Ninja currently doing MFFHomebody, who wrote:

“I’ve taken Ninja Essentials a zillion times but that squat into bear crawl into burpee in the D set either: hits harder at home, or it’s never been programmed in that order. Yowza!”

Wheels reminded us that that particular sequence of exercises – squats, into bear crawls, into burpees – is particularly challenging for the legs and quads specifically, which is totally true. For me though, and my relationship with the particular Ninja who shared the post, I think the actual simplest answer is exactly what they wrote: These moves hit harder at home.

Here’s my theory: Bear crawls suck, but they suck less in groups. So, when you’re sharing a space with people, when you’re able to see your Ninja neighbor working, there’s a psychological and neurological impact where the presence of others eases the burden of our physiological output.

Dr. Kelly McGonigal talks about the beauty and benefits of moving together in groups in her book, “The Joy of Movement” – which I absolutely recommend you read, but for now, let’s use the great African proverb; “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

I don’t know of a single fitness community in the entire world that’s as closely knit and supportive as the one at Mark Fisher Fitness, and that community is our greatest asset in this challenging times. It also means that while we get so many community benefits of having a virtual workout and a digital community,  we don’t have a physical shared space in which we can rely on the shared strength that comes from syncopated movement in the presence of others!

When the benefits of group buoyancy are integral to our training, it makes their absence stand out in more stark contrast. Exercising alone – even within a Zoom class – can be really exhausting, right?! And when done with intention and mindfulness, it shines a power spotlight at our inner motivations and exposes how and when we rely on the power of the groups that we’re in!

Perhaps sometimes our strength of community can also provide us with room for growth – for being mindful of how our movement experiences change when we’re not in our groups, moving in unison, and literally sharing in the empowering energy of synchronized movement!

Now that all of Ninjas, all of New York City, and most of America is exercising together from afar, I see tall of this as a beautiful science experiment in taking inventory on what we can gain – and what we lose – when working out without other people in the room, and what we learn from that reflection can energize the work that we do when we’re finally able to share space together again.

If you’re used to a group workout like our classes at MFF, the odds are that you’re primed to be more aware of the fatigue and effort that you’re putting into your workouts. When we’re physically together we can subtly bear the burden for each other, but right now a lot of people are learning how to carry their own cross.

It’s my hypothesis that right now, while the case count for COVID19 continues to climb, that the stress of these conditions mean that any “standard” workout you may have feels harder than normal. If you can control for the work output that you’re doing, let’s say by counting the number of sets/reps/weight, or knowing a specific pace to run at – then expect your perceived exertion to be higher.  Normally run 5 miles at a 7 minute mile pace and it feels like an 7/10? My guess is that it’ll start to feel like an 8/10. It’s not that you’re less fit, but that you’re more stressed.

I’ve been experiencing this in my own workouts as I ride the Echelon spin bike that we’re borrowing from a friend – it feels so much harder to do the same amount of metabolic work that I feel totally comfortable doing on my mountain bike or road bike. I wasn’t aware of how much I took the outdoor environment for granted until I started to try to recreate my outdoor workouts inside – but now that it’s been a few weeks, I’m learning to better appreciate and regulate my emotional response to the work that I’m doing. My “advice” for you in this post isn’t about 3 Action Steps to Make Fitness More Fun, or One Tip To Make Movement Suck Less. It’s actually an invitation to do the opposite: Embrace the suck.

Embrace the fact that if you’re out of your normal training routine, if things are different, it’s likely that they will feel harder, more challenging, or less fun – and that’s okay. More accurately, you might not want to be okay with that, but I do believe that it would behoove each of us to learn how to “run our own race” – that is, to find the most appropriate exercise intensities for our personal needs and desires – differently when we’re exercising in groups versus when we’re exercising by ourselves. Those are fundamentally different workouts!

If you’ve become accustomed to exercising in a group, especially within an incredibly supportive community like that at MFF, then perhaps now is the time to recognize and appreciate the gifts of strength drawn from that community, and use that to inform the work that you’re doing now, alone. I believe that if we can intentionally embrace the mental challenges that come with training solo, if we can develop that strength of spirit in solitude, we’ll be better prepared to contribute to the exercise communities that we’re missing right now.

Alright friends, that’s it for this episode of HGTV, thanks for joining me.  Before you go, I’d like to know how you’re doing with your solo workouts these days – are you finding them more challenging? Are you embracing solo sweat-sessions? Leave a comment and let me know. If you’re new around here, please subscribe and turn on notifications so you can get my latest fitness advice as soon as possible. As always, if you’d like to watch these words, you can with this Instagram video below:

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Hey friends, and welcome to this episode of HGTV. In the next 6 minutes, I’m going to share a few thoughts on why you might be finding your workouts more challenging if you're currently exercising alone. This piece was inspired by a Ninja currently doing #MFFHomebody, who commented that, "These moves hit harder at home." Dr. @kellymariemcgonigal talks about the beauty and benefits of moving together in groups in her book, “The Joy of Movement” – which I absolutely recommend you read. For now, let’s use the great African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” If you’re used to a group workout like our classes at @mffclubhouse, the odds are that you’re primed to be more aware of the fatigue and effort that you’re putting into your workouts. When we’re physically together we can subtly bear the burden for each other, but right now a lot of people are learning how to carry their own cross. If you’ve become accustomed to exercising in a group, especially within an incredibly supportive community like that at MFF, then perhaps now is the time to recognize and appreciate the gifts of strength drawn from that community, and use that to inform the work that you’re doing now, alone. I believe that if we can intentionally embrace the mental challenges that come with training solo, if we can develop that strength of spirit in solitude, we’ll be better prepared to contribute to the exercise communities that we’re missing right now. Alright friends, that’s it for this episode of HGTV, thanks for joining me.  Before you go, I’d like to know how you’re doing with your solo workouts these days – are you finding them more challenging? Are you embracing solo sweat-sessions? Leave a comment and let me know. If you’re new around here, please subscribe and turn on notifications so you can get my latest fitness advice as soon as possible. As always, if you’d like to read these words, you can head to HaroldGibbons.com. Cheers! #FitnessIsFreedom #MFFClubhouse #GroupFitness #GroupExercise #SoloFitness #OptOutside #AdventureFitness #ArtOfActivity #JoyOfMovement

A post shared by Harold Kaufman-Gibbons | Coach (@harold_gibbons) on

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