The state of health and fitness in the United States has come to a virtual standstill. Obesity continues to rise, with no sign of slowing down. Organized sports have replaced neighborhoods as the primary structure for after-school activity. The “January Rush,” due to New Year’s Resolutions at gyms and health clubs across America, will only yield a national surge in participation of about 12%, which will quickly dwindle in the months that follow.
I certainly remember the days of free play and daily activity. Do you? I remember not the forced repetition of gym machine reps and health club treadmill wars, but rather, the fun in the activity I was engaged in. Riding bikes with the fellas, climbing the monkey bars, backyard sports extravaganzas and the like – this is where I learned what fitness was all about.
This may sound like a bleak outlook, but on the horizon, a hopeful trend is emerging.
There is resurgence in the fitness industry to provide you, the consumer, with an experience within the experience. Beyond the individual exercises, and education to perform them effectively, your engagement should include relationship-building, task-orientated activities and empowerment. You should walk away with a sense that you are making physical progress and that your experience is keeping you wanting more.
So how do we get this done? I submit that we get back to our fitness roots.
Here are 5 ways you can reclaim your fitness roots.
Although aspects of the following list will seem new to a few readers, if your birth year takes you back far enough to know who Richard Simmons is…we are about to go old school!
1. Play more. Workout less.
The more you can engage in activities that you enjoy, the better. In fact, if you perceive physical activity as play, you will have a more difficult time stopping…than starting! The best way to achieve this is to play games. Yes…play games. When is the last time you played tag? I can guarantee your heart rate will be up, your legs will burn and you will be laughing the entire time. But similar benefits are derived from virtually any physical game – tennis, pickup soccer, ultimate Frisbee, whatever. Bottom line: You have to stop play. You have to force work.
If fitness in your life can result from joyful activity, rather than a forced process, you will enjoy countless years of better physical, mental and spiritual health.
2. Don’t box yourself in.
Traditional fitness programs have their place. As does just about every form of fitness you can imagine. Sticking to what you love to do is essential; finding it is vital. Getting stuck in the minutia of whatever program is touted as the be-all and end-all exercise regimen leaves people with the same start-up procrastination that plagues most of our country.
If you are not happy with your current level of fitness, or again, if your current exercise plan is not exactly lighting you up inside, then it’s time to make a change. I encourage you to think outside the box and be open to new possibilities. Color outside the lines with your fitness program.
A fantastic benefit of trying new modes of getting in shape is that you will stay engaged longer, and it will be a catalyst for avoiding those nagging injuries due to overuse of muscles and joints.
3. Explore new things.
If you take nothing out of this article but this one point, I will be ecstatic: All exercise works. It all has its place. The most important factor is finding what resonates with you. Fitness training is, and should be, contextual. What feels good and is fun for me might not be what you like to do…and that is ok. Actually, it is perfect.
The fitness industry’s dirty little secret is that all the infighting about the efficacy of one training style or program over another is pointless. Case in point – the lack of physical fitness in the United States that I reference in the beginning of this article, even after decades and myriad trends in fitness evolution.
If hiking is what you love to do…hike. If Latin dance classes fire you up…dance. If lifting weights is what pulls you out of bed in the morning…let the gun show begin!
You will know which activities resonate with you, because you will become engrossed to the point that the cares of the outside world temporarily disappear. The restrictions of time and space will seem to vanish. You will be in the moment.
4. Use your body (weight).
You were born with the most amazing exercise machine on Planet Earth. It self-regulates, adjusts to changes in speed or resistance, and it will tell you when to stop. It is always available to you, and the more you take care of it, the more efficient it will become. Your body is a miracle-machine.
Body-weight exercises have long been a viable means of increasing strength, joint mobility and muscle flexibility. Physical education was historically rooted in gymnastics, calisthenics, and body-weight strength training. In the spirit of developing a strong, injury-resistant and lean physique, adopting a body-weight strategy is both refreshing and empowering. Which exercise are the best?
Here are my top 10 body-weight strength training exercises, in no particular order of importance:
- Bear Crawls
- Jumping Jacks
- Crab walks
- Pull-ups or chin-ups
- Hip Extensions
- Log Rolls
5. Bring friends for the ride.
The social aspect of fitness is critical in light of the smartphone-driven communication style we subscribe to today. Get back to your roots of talking and having fun with friends while exercising. Have you ever noticed that when you exercise with friends, you actually express more effort than you do with your trainer being in your face, demanding more reps? This is due to transparent and opaque competition.
Transparent competition is when you compete directly against your partner or peers. Tug-o-war is a perfect example. One team competes against the other with one clear winner in the end.
Opaque competition is internal. When you reach a personal record in a time trial, or perform a higher number of quality pushups, the joy you feel is due to the competition within yourself. However, opaque competition can come in several forms, including when a group of people are trying to complete a task in a certain amount of time, as a team.
Both forms act as strong motivators. Beyond the psychological merits of competition, however, working out with friends is simply more fun. At the end of the day, the goal is to develop a physical culture within yourself. The social aspect of your fitness cannot be overstated – we are social beings. Reach out to your friends today and get active!
Exercise is whatever you define it to be. Your body, and your heart, will guide you to make choices that feel right for you. Whatever fitness activity you choose to engage in, enjoy the journey, because it is in the journey that you will ultimately find the joy.
Watch Dave’s short video with the Top 5 Exercises you can do anywhere:
Learn more at coachdavegleason.com
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