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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How to Overcome “That Sluggish Feeling” When It Threatens Your Workout Plan

There are a bunch of reasons why you might NOT work out today. Some are good, and many are not-so-good. Of all possible reasons, the one I really hate works like this.

1. You plan to work out that day. Then as the planned time nears, you start to feel a physical and/or mental sluggishness. Nothing dramatic, but you just don’t feel like working out. You start to flirt with the idea of taking the day off, considering various possible justifications.

2. But rather than explicitly, decisively declaring a day off – sometimes you need one, even if unplanned – you let minutes tick by without moving toward your workout OR deciding not to. Deep down, you might know what you’re doing, but you don’t admit it to yourself.

3. Then all of a sudden, voila, it’s “too late” for your workout. You missed the window of time you had before your next work, family or personal obligation. Even though you caused this, you don’t feel glad about the “can’t workout now” reality. You immediately feel like you’ve let yourself down.

This ever happen to you?  If so, you just fell victim to That Sluggish Feeling (“TSF”).  

I’ve devised a new response to TSF when it strikes. I don’t seek to move directly from sluggishness to exercise. Instead, I do a short, easy “bridge” activity in-between, to change my energy and get me into a better frame-of-mind to decide if I’m really, intentionally going to skip that workout. Here’s how it works.

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