Saturday, July 18, 2009

Good News! You DON"T have to spend HOURS in The Gym!

The story of David and Goliath is the ultimate "Less is More" lesson, and there are many areas in our lives where we'd do well to apply this maxim. Michelangelo's depiction of David in deep contemplation before doing battle with Goliath also serves to illustrate an important concept in my training...imagine how much more worried he would look if he had just spent 2 hours working out before finding out he has to fight a giant?

Many of us put ourselves in this exact predicament several times a week, spending ourselves completely in the gym and then heading out into our regular lives to "recover" in time for the next gym session. If you are spending crazy amounts of time in the gym each week, can you satisfactorily answer the question, "why are you doing it?" I'd hazard a guess that for many it becomes circular...we work out so we can get better at working out and the time in between gym sessions is just recovery.

I was like that once. I knew I wanted to take my fitness and health to the next level, and I thought the answer was spending ever increasing hours at the local Globo Gym. I entered a contest held by a muscle mag in which I followed a cookie-cutter "mass building" program/diet for 3 months, submitting before and after photos holding the relevant month's issue of the magazine to verify the timeline. I can't speak for everyone's goals, and I don't mean to demean bodybuiding if that's your thing, but this approach was not for me! Volume-wise, I was doing an insane number of reps, sets, and exercises, and leaving the gym absolutely blasted. It was a four day a week split, and each gym session required a devotion of roughly 2 hours of my day. That isn't including the time spent sprawled out on my couch moaning about what a "great" workout that just was, haha.

I stuck with it for two months, and was seeing some results...but nothing to write home about. My results were far out of keeping with the amount of effort I was expending, and I realized I was really unhappy. My life had devolved into a cycle of working, rushing to the gym, sleeping, and repeating the cycle. And my workouts were leaving me feeling drained and worn out! What was the point? The goal of exercise and diet is to enhance your life and make it a more fulfilling experience isn't it? We workout so that we have energy, are free from frailty, and like what we see in the mirror. Some of us add goals of strength or athletic performance to these, but what point is all our effort if it doesn't allow us time to enjoy the benefits?

Since adopting a more Primal diet and lifestyle and using kettlebells to keep my workouts short, intense, and mentally engaging, I've spent much less time actually exercising and more time enjoying the results of those workouts. And the results have been better. A relatively minor, stress free adjustment to my eating habits, and a few relatively short intense kettlebell sessions has yielded me more strength, fitness, athleticism, and leanness than all those hours spent pumping iron and running on the treadmill. And after I finish a workout, I feel like roaring and beating my chest, not collapsing in a groaning heap.

I guess the point of this blog post is to keep the goal in mind in all things you do, and to scrutinize the steps you take towards that goal. If you joined the gym in order to get a great beach body...don't forget to go to the beach because you're too busy in the gym. Make sure whatever you are doing is enhancing your life and not dominating it.

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