Warning: Your Gym or Exercise Class is Suffocating Your Soul

The OlderBeast fitness philosophy for the second half of a guy’s life is about spreading our focus across endurance, strength, flexibility and balance.  You can work on all those things in your gym, and do exercise classes that cover those bases, too.  So no disrespect intended to the great gyms and classes out there (nor the teachers and trainers who work there).

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The OlderBeast fitness philosophy for the second half of a guy’s life is about spreading our focus across endurance, strength, flexibility and balance.  You can work on all those things in your gym, and do exercise classes that cover those bases, too.  So no disrespect intended to the great gyms and classes out there (nor the teachers and trainers who work there).

But to contribute most to happiness and longevity, working out should do more than “just” work your physical body in these ways.

Brothers, you owe this to yourself, too:  create opportunity to dwell in your own mind and heart without distractions…to get lost in thought, to help creativity bubble up with ideas and solutions…to cleanse the psychic grime that we accumulate daily in the modern world.

This isn’t just philosophy, it’s science.  Researchers see mounting evidence of benefits we get from open spaces and contact with nature.  Access to, or views of, open space have been demonstrated to improve us physically (e.g. patient recovery times at hospitals) and mentally (e.g. managing life issues, performing better in cognitive tests).

We know this at a deep and instinctive level, and have for thousands of years – that’s why we’re drawn to the ocean and mountains.

Does your gym or class environment elevate you to this?  Gyms are packed with TV’s, blast music that’s not what a 40+ guy wants to listen to (to put it mildly), and are full of other people in your face.  Many of them have few or no windows.  Same for most classes, and there, you’re also focusing attention on the instructor and acting in lockstep with classmates.

So, the gym or fitness class aren’t exactly Superman’s “Fortress of Solitude” or the primal hunter’s sense of inner peace as he surveys the plains.  Gyms and fitness classes can get you fit, but on their own, they don’t feed your soul – which absolutely needs feeding, man.

runner-by-mountains

This is why it’s so important to fold in at least one non-gym/class workout or physical activity per week.   Go for a run or take a hike.  Go cycling on your own.  Paddle across the lake.  Even hitting the pool helps here (no views, but you’re really alone with your thoughts; for more on how to starting swimming, read this).

Or…easiest of all, and something that can be purely additive to your routine instead of displacing something else…take a WALK.  In future posts, I’ll talk more about benefits of walking, but I bet you already know a lot here.  The simplest of all human activities is one of the best.

Rotating these non-gym/class activities into your weekly routine is great, vital even, for your spirit and sense of well-being.

And a bonus:  returning to a narrower view of “physical” fitness, more variety is great for that, too.  It exercises more parts of you, and gives you options to keep going when inevitable injuries or physical setbacks make any one activity hard for a while.

Experiment with this for a couple of months – I’ll bet you a case of beer you stick with it!

“It’s been so long since I’ve seen the ocean…I guess I should.” (Counting Crows, A Long December)

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Fitness Planning & Gear

90-Day Plan for (Re)Starting Fitness as a Habit

At some point, nearly all of us have been there: you’re working hard, commuting, maybe traveling, investing a lot of time with family…and NOT GETTING MUCH EXERCISE, if any.

It’s hard to move toward fitness from this place, partly because of the time challenge. But equally or sometimes even more, this is what’s tough: simply knowing “where to start.” And feeling that uncertainty makes it very hard to decide to start, dude.

As a friend recently described falling out of his exercise routine, “once the ‘switch’ is turned off, it’s #$%&! hard to flip it back on again.”

So use the fact that you’re reading this as a kick in the butt, man. Not from me, really, but from your inner self that motivated you to read this. Flip that switch!

Here’s my ultra-simple suggestion for a 90-day plan.

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Fitness Planning & Gear

Nine of My Favorite, High-Value Fitness Products

Despite its paramount importance, in one way fitness is just like any other pursuit in our modern world. There’s a lot of “stuff” you may need acquire (and “toys” you want to).

You can spend a lot here. Think: multi-thousand-dollar bike…expensive home-gym equipment…membership at high-end gyms or studios…personal trainer…performance nutrition products. And depending on your situation, man, these things may well be worth it…much more so than other areas of discretionary spending in your life.

But a small number of things – not that expensive – will go a long way to setting you up with what you really need. Things you’ll use every week, and which do their job very well for a modest cost. A growing list of these things (products, as well as “services” like gyms, studios and online fitness programs) are featured on OlderBeast’s Recommended Products page.

Here are nine of my favorites – things I SWEAR by, and which will be great for most guys.

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Philosophy & Motivation

Get Back, Man…to Physical Things You Once Thrived On

I think we all recognize—if we really stop and think–that we lose some precious things as we move through life. Do you have something you “used to” do, that was really good for you physically and mentally…but which you don’t do anymore?

However natural and understandable this is, it has multiple adverse effects we don’t want:

⇒ Physical: we lose the contributions of that activity to our ongoing quest for endurance, strength, flexibility and balance – and the diversity of movement that’s so important to all-over fitness

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Fitness Planning & Gear

For Fast, Clear Results: Try This 10-15 Minute “Yoga Tonic” Each Morning

TWO QUESTIONS:

1. Are you mentally sold on the idea of yoga, but just not able to do it much because of other fitness and life priorities?

In my case, I’m ultra-sold, but I still only do a full yoga practice once a week. I don’t want to displace other workouts or my rest day. But I know I’m missing out on some of yoga’s benefits from this infrequency (especially the flexibility benefit). 

2. Do you feel sometimes feel stiff and sluggish when you get out of bed in the morning? I do.

For both of these reasons, I started doing this 10-15 minute mini-yoga practice most mornings.

I’ve noticed clear improvements in my flexibility and ability to really nail and hold some key poses. And it reliably limbers up and energizes me, too. 

If you’re a seldom-yoga guy, this will bring you (physical and also mental) benefits as a standalone habit. And if you do longer-form yoga practices with some regularity but it’s not feeling like “enough,” this consistent short-form habit will set you up for better performance when you do spend longer on the mat.

8 Comments
  1. […] Plus, it’s a great way to mentally unplug and to be outdoors with fresh air, under sunshine or moonshine (or in the rain – it’s all good).  This “outdoors” part is critical to your sense of wholeness and joy from fitness – more on that here. […]

  2. […] dimensions. Especially Stress Management, but also in that fitness activities bring us both reflective solitude and the opportunity to be in nature…with both being central to the “Environmental” […]

  3. […] usually have you indoors watching or listening to someone else – not getting the full range of wellness benefits from an activity mix that includes solitude, time in nature, and diversity of […]

  4. […] OlderBeast, we often talk about benefits of walking and getting outside for fitness. Here’s a great article that puts those together…about how walking in nature […]

  5. […] of creating a “positive addiction” for yourself. This likely means sometimes getting yourself out of the gym, […]

  6. […] Gets you outdoors and into nature. Getting all your exercise inside a gym/studio can starve you of some important wellness-enhancing things. […]

  7. […] being inside and following on-screen training. NOT offering benefits of being in nature and having reflective solitude we […]

  8. […] for peace and tranquility. Exercise—especially running or walking outside, swimming and yoga—bring us a respite from the constant press of modernity. It creates time for refreshing mental […]

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