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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Once or twice in a big-picture sense when I wasn’t exercising enough, or eating well enough. Many, many times in a next-five-minutes sense. As in, “if I don’t change clothes and start a workout in the next five minutes, I’ll lose my available time window today.”

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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.

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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.

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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