We all may have that question from time to time, “why do I have to go workout?” And then there’s the other side of the conversation, “when do I get to go workout?” To me its two sides of the same coin. One person loathes training, the other person loves it. What’s the issue with this? It’s not balanced. Its too black and white, up and down, inside or outside. Why can’t there be a middle ground where training’s role is to help you get more “centered”?
I think its because training has become a marketing and business juggernaut. It lives in extremes, it functions from extremes. Its like, you train hard or you don’t train at all. And that’s not the end of it. If you train regularly, why do you do it? Typically I find people want to workout for an achievement, some sort of reward, whether that’s a six pack, pecs that ripple, or to ‘win’ something. And people who don’t train, or workout, they find their comfort either through yoga, walking, or simply ignoring physical stressors. So its no wonder to me that we have these polarities in the health and wellness industry.
Meanwhile, the people who are making out nicely are the physical therapists and chiropractors. They wait for the injuries to occur, and then you go to them, they rub some dirt on you, and eventually you’re off back to the races. It is what Tom Brady’s TB12 calls the ‘athlete’s vicious cycle’, TRAIN–>INJURY–>REHAB–>TRAIN. It never changes. So what the eff is the point? Why do we train so hard? What is it about achievement that pushes us beyond our capacities?
Then I remember the juggernaut of fitness. I think about childhood sports (all of which I played). I think about the state of the world, fast paced, too busy, and suckers for slim waists and big butts. We’re told (either subliminally or directly) that we aren’t good enough everywhere we look. Pictures in advertisements, videos on social media, all of these avenues impact our behavior. We learn from a young age that competition and winning is a big part of life, so when we attack fitness we go into it under those pretenses. We’re wired to push hard and equate pushing hard with greater success. However, pushing hard DOES NOT equate success, especially from a physical stand point.
And if you don’t like to workout, you accept decrepitude and accept that maybe its not your thing. If you do anything you walk, maybe take some yoga, but lets be real–you don’t like working out. And anytime you do, you end up in some sort of extreme training session where you’re being pushed way beyond your limits. And even if you do drag yourself to the gym, you’re a foreigner in an uncomfortable environment, where do you even begin?
DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?
So whats the point? Why train? I think each of us has a unique story and history as to why we are where we are in our body, and I think we’ve got to train to create new space in our body. I talked about finding center–a balanced place where we shed ourselves of stale identities and old patterns of thought process. Call this what you want, training with intention, practicing with mindfulness, whatever works for you. I think in order to become more balanced, both muscularly and psychologically, we’ve got to train in a way that makes sense to where our bodies are.
If you live your life in one posture, your training will be much more challenging and effective if you train outside your comfort zone to another posture. Now this gets complicated, but lets keep it simple. You always wear shoes when you workout, your whole life you’ve always worn shoes. So essentially, you know how to exercise with shoes on, no real awareness of the ground beneath your feet or where your center of mass lives. So the first thing you could change is taking your shoes off, and this will immediately change your posture. Your spine, your breath, your nerves, your arteries, and your joints have got to be the framework for which we train around. Can we build the lung tissue, heart muscle, while also opening up space for your nerves to slide and arteries to constrict? Can you inhibit certain muscles and recruit other more important kinetic chains? These are measures of a phenomenal mover. They understand how to minimize variables in order to increase efficiency and work output. There’s a subtle finesse to training when you begin to break down the madness that is biomechanics, and this is how I want you to think about ‘exercise’.
Ask yourself, can you access and use as much of your body as you think you can? And if not, what is the limitation? And once you identify the limitation, can you train in a way to have a positive effect on that roadblock?
This kind of middle-ground training will leave your body becoming more open to the possibility of new adaptations to change. However, it isn’t necessarily so easy to do. There’s a lot of undoing that needs to happen in order to break old patterns of unconsciousness in order to unlock new patterns of ability and human potential. Learning where you are is the same as looking in the mirror in your underwear and saying, “I’m responsible for everything I see before me.” Its not a bad thing, its a growing pain, something you benefit from going through. It requires some training to remove emotional identification from your body, but more importantly when you start to develop a language that is objective to where your bones are and when you can see why it causes that pain or limitation, it begins a type of healing process. It puts words to something you had no words for beforehand. Once you can understand that your hamstring tension is related to your head positioning, shifts in the pysche and the body are probable to follow. When you realize your shallow breathing effects your lack of pelvic control, it enlightens you. It gives your nervous system new information, it’s like speaking a new language.
And this is why I train. To grow, to learn, to understand what it is I am and who I’ve been. Training is a constant reflection of every life I’ve lived and decision I’ve made. It’s a constant process of peeling back layers to an onion that may never stop- and I’m okay with that! I train to be able to do anything I want to do. I don’t see the point in repping out squats or pushups or beating myself into the ground just because it makes me look a certain way (though as a human we are all vain to a degree, that is for another blog post). I also don’t sit on my couch thinking that I can avoid physical movement for the rest of my life. I understand that my heart needs to work, my legs have to be strong, and my spine feels better when it is supported by the right muscles. When I’m more upright, my bones stack in a fashion that leaves me feelings weightless, a kind of tensional balance on top of my feet. I think clearer and I’m more connected to myself because I feel myself. And whats more is my metabolism works well, I can elevate or reduce my heart rate in a matter of minutes, I can run, walk, sprint, jump, or throw myself to anything I want to be able to do–all without pain or restriction.
TELL YOUR STORY
So why do you train? Your reason can be different from my reason. But have the courage to find your story as to why you workout. I have clients tell me they workout to reduce their anxiety or to feel better. These are real reasons to train. “I’m falling down. I have chronic knee issues. My energy levels are low. I have body fat and high-blood pressure.” Again- more great reasons to train. And even if you’re a competitive athlete, “I want to run a 10k, I want to bike 30 miles.” These all make sense as to why to train.
I guess this post was to make you think about whats the point of the way you train? What is its relevance to your everyday life? Asking “why I train” is a good starting point. But if the answer stops at either the fact you don’t train, that you do it for vanity, or to achieve some external prize..I’d question how long you can keep doing that. I don’t think, and I’m almost certain, that unless you’ve had a disciplined understanding of your physical body for many years, the chances or training long-term and without injurious consequences are limited. Compulsion is not a valuable characteristic, though it along with your habits are some of the best teachers you have in your life.
If you don’t like to train, ask yourself why. And if you’re addicted to training, ask yourself what are you running from?