In defense (and praise) of the EASY workout

It’s important to keep physically challenging ourselves as we age. That’s why OlderBeast feature things like push-up challenges, exhortations to increase your weekly workout frequency, and calls to keep on running uphill.

But the name of the game is to do it thoughtfully, man — in a way we can sustain for years and hopefully decades. And on some days that calls for a game-time decision to do an EASY workout.

There’s the planned easy workout, to recover from intense effort yesterday or get ready to go hard tomorrow. But here, I want to talk about something different…a last-minute call to just do something “light” today.

Maybe a shorter and/or slower run. Or just some light body weight exercises and stretching. Or some lower-intensity cardio on a machine and then a short core routine.

The idea of switching to an easier workout is really about our relationship with motivation: having more than one response to call on when we feel unmotivated.

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It’s important to keep physically challenging ourselves as we age. That’s why OlderBeast features things like push-up challenges, exhortations to increase your weekly workout frequency, and calls to keep on running uphill.

But the name of the game is to do it thoughtfully, man — in a way we can sustain for years and hopefully decades. And on some days that calls for a game-time decision to do an EASY workout.

There’s the planned easy workout, to recover from intense effort yesterday or get ready to go hard tomorrow. But here, I want to talk about something different…a last-minute call to just do something “light” today.

Maybe a shorter and/or slower run. Or just some light body weight exercises and stretching. Or some lower-intensity cardio on a machine and then a short core routine.

The idea of switching to an easier workout is really about our relationship with motivation: having more than one response to call on when we feel unmotivated.

The Impromptu Easy Workout — a Third Option When De-Motivation Strikes

Sometimes the workouts we plan are simply “hard” when you think about them objectively. You going to run 5 miles, do an hour of strength & conditioning, swim a mile? That’s great, brother.

But occasionally these plans create a binary choice between “Hard” and “Nothing.” And when we’re tired or otherwise not at our best, “Nothing” can tend to win that battle.

This is especially true if we’ve had a recent interruption in our fitness habits due to travel, aches and pains, or other life circumstances. At such times, we’re a little bit out of the mental groove on fitness and vulnerable to lack of motivation.

For example, if I get even slightly out of my routine of doing a strength workout twice a week, I find myself kind of dreading it and feeling pangs of de-motivation. For other guys, it might be the cardio aspect that’s more prone to this phenomenon.

Feeling this binary Hard vs. Nothing Choice, without any third option, risks letting a “mini-lapse” of fitness turn into a true lapse. And because getting into shape is much harder than staying in shape — and re-starting a habit is much harder than continuing one — the true lapse is an infinitely bigger threat to our long-term goals than not having a “hard enough” workout today!

Benefits

So, under exceptional circumstances that you don’t let become your norm…sometimes just make a last-minute plan adjustment to go easy, dude.

When you do, you’ll experience several benefits.

First, you’ll actually get in a workout today. Something — anything — is better than nothing. An easy workout still gives you a sweat, burns some calories, gets your heart rate up a bit, and does some maintenance of muscle tone. That harder workout you were “gonna” do, but didn’t? Of course, it does none of these things.

Also, the easy workout still brings you the routine mental reset you need even if you’re physically not feeling tip-top today. De-stressing, having some time to yourself, stepping away from the various screens that are so-often in front of you in the 21st Century…with the easy workout instead of the blown-off one, you still get some of this precious benefit.

Finally and most importantly, you won’t seriously threaten the positive habit track you’re on. The discipline of planning, then fulfilling on your plans, won’t be completely violated. And nurturing discipline (and rewards you feel from it) is the biggest battle of all for the OlderBeast.

Conclusions

To be clear, I don’t advocate this as a routine compromise to make. Keep challenging yourself with hard workouts as part of a varied weekly plan. If at first you feel some sluggishness, employ tactics to overcome that lazy urge.

But if the reality is that you’re on your way to blowing off a workout you have planned for today, and nothing else is working…then go EASY, man. You’ll be glad you did.

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Six Fitness Actions You’ll Thank Yourself For *NEXT* Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you have much to be thankful for this year, man. Even while you gratefully make note of all that, this is also a good time to think ahead.

What would you additionally like to be thankful for next Thanksgiving?

What if on Thanksgiving 2018 you could take a personal inventory and conclude:

1. I’m staying more motivated for fitness – and avoiding major backslides

2. I’m eating better (not perfectly, but better)…and I feel better for it

3. I forgive myself for not always following my fitness plans…but I hold myself more accountable to usually do so

4. I’ve varied my fitness routine, so I’m in better all-around shape than I was a year ago

5. I’m using exercise to better combat stress and make my life feel more spacious

6. If needed, I overcame aches-and-pains to do these things – instead of letting 2018 be a year of narrowing possibilities

Dude! That would be an incredible “thanks” list. So enjoy the coming weeks of 2017 wrap-up and holidays, yes. But I invite you to also make this time a springboard into a meaningful 2018. (Don’t wait for the cliched New Year’s Resolution.)

Here’s the why-and-how of six actions you can take, starting now, to add to your “thankful for” list for next year.

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Why “Solitude + Exercise” is a Key Wellness Formula

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Your Pig Day — Surprising Key to Long-term Nutrition Discipline

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But this post is about the second challenge – following the plan. Let’s start with two premises:

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“Too Old” to Run (or Bike) Up That Hill? This Will Help You Keep Saying “Hell No.”

There are great reasons to keep fighting gravity, man.

Going up hills works different muscles than staying on the flats (and it works the same muscles harder, too). It provides natural interval training. You don’t need some trainer shouting at you “now go harder” – Mother Nature takes care of that. And not least, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and can-do power to help sustain fitness motivation as life unfolds.

But it’s not easy. As the saying goes, if it were easier, more people would be doing it. To keep you among the relative “few who climb,” here are tips for use before, during and after that hill looms up in front of you.

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