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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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.

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But there’s a bigger, capital-letters “WHY” underneath all this. All theoretical reasons and intellectual understanding aside, WHY do we actually get out of bed early on a cold morning and go for a run? Or squeeze out those last 5 push-ups? Or eat healthy today instead of waiting until tomorrow?

“WHY” is a question of underlying motivation, man. It’s the bedrock of OlderBeast resolve to “double down” on fitness, nutrition and Wellness for the second half of life. We began discussing motivation in this earlier post.

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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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