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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Endurance , Mindfulness & Stress Management

How “Belly Breathing” Helps During Workouts & For Anytime Stress Management

I guess if there’s any one thing you figure you “know how to do” already, it would be breathing. You’ve been doing it successfully for a while now, yes? 

But we adults have often gotten away from breathing the way a child or an animal does: using our diaphragm and the lower part of our torso (“belly”) to initiate inhales and exhales. Why? Tight pants, self-consciousness, spending a lot of time sitting…there are multiple reasons.

Belly breathing noticeably helps during endurance workouts (consciously try it the next time you hit that tough hill on foot or your bike). It also is great during any “mindful breathing” activity like meditation, or straight-up breathing exercises aimed at stress reduction or sleep inducement. 

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Fitness Planning & Gear , Strength

This At-Home, Full-Body Strength Routine Will Keep You Heroic Past 40 (and 50, 60…)

I’m always surprised at how focused the strength workouts are for guys doing traditional weight training as their main fitness thing. “What are you working on today? My left bicep.”

OK, I exaggerate. But old-school “lifting” does often focus on 1-2 things per workout (like chest, legs or back) while assuming you lift 4-5+ times per week.

But what if you’re a 40+ guy trying to balance strength, endurance and flexibility? (And not as fixated on getting Hulk-like as maybe you once were?). In that case, you aren’t well served by old-school strength training patterns.

Yeah, bootcamp-style classes address this need by working all-over strength in single sessions (strength-focused HITT does too). But at $10-20+ per session, each decade of training this way twice a week is a $10-20K+ proposition. I like attending such classes from time to time, for learning and for variety. But I’d rather spend my $10-20K per decade somewhere else, man.

So. With non-strength fitness/wellness needs rightly occupying part of your week, you need to work more body parts in fewer strength-focused days. And you need a long-term-sustainable strength routine you can do on your own, without driving and paying every time.

Put these needs together, brother…and you arrive at a key pillar of OlderBeasthood, regardless of whether you’re coming from a strength-focused, endurance-focused, or limited-fitness starting point. The full-body, at-home strength workout.

Here’s my take on a practical, adaptable routine you can do at home with relatively little equipment.

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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