Health and Fitness as Practice, Not Work

In an attempt to refresh some content on this blog, I will be posting some ideas I have for possible Performance Menu articles. I have been approved to write one for the November 2013 issue, but I will save that content for the issue.

“Health and Fitness as Practice, not Work”

Too often nowadays in the fitness world you hear people talking about exercise while using the vocabulary of work, punishment, torture, and pain. It’s quite literally everywhere: Pure Barre talks about a “full blown attack” on the body, CrossFit has Pukie the Clown, and a simple conversation with the average gym-goer yields discussion about how utterly sore and destroyed they are from their most recent painful excursion with their trainer.

Quite simply, I reject the fitness paradigm of work, punishment, torture, and pain. While this may expend energy from a metabolic-cost perspective, it encourages low-quality movement, mindless apathy in the gym, and a negative, self-loathing mindset outside of the gym. (Besides, plenty of other activities in life burn calories and are way more fun: walking, climbing, martial arts, sports, sex, etc.) When the focus is “burning calories,” “no pain, no gain,” “working off the weekend,” or any other similar cliché, then both the client and the trainer miss out on a whole world of possible benefits.

Instead, I put forth Health and Fitness as Practice, not Work. There should be a mindset of Constant Improvement and Progression of Skills. Your Practice should be Goal-Oriented, with Improved Fitness as a Byproduct rather than a direct goal. (For example, if you want to be happy in life, you actually have to do things that make you happy, rather than just focusing on happiness in and of itself.)

Whether you know it or not, you are currently practicing and getting better at everything you do. The real question is, “what are you practicing?” Sitting, procrastinating, and being lazy? Or how about handstands, squats, and sprinting? What about cooking, mindfulness, and gratitude? If you want to get fit, then figure out some goals and match your behavior to get you there.

The beauty of “practice” rather than “work” is that practice is inherently suited to the individual: an experienced gymnast needs more and varied handstand drills to improve his handstand compared to a novice (same for an experienced weightlifter and the snatch, for instance). A 40-something soccer mom will see incredible results from practicing the fundamentals of bodyweight squatting, pulling, pushing, and hinging, whereas an expert mover like Ido Portal might need just a wee bit more detail.

Want some examples? How about set a timer for 20 minutes, and practice handstands against a wall and kettlebell swings to head-height with a clean, crisp hip “pop.” The emphasis should be on quality movement, technique, and sensation rather than quantity or density of reps. Instead of “AMRAP” (as many reps as possible), aim for as much quality as possible (AMQAP?).

I hope this post inspires some of you to ditch a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness where the focus is on work, punishment, torture, and pain. Rather, I would encourage you to cultivate mindfulness in movement, practice more complex skills, and enjoy your time spent moving while reaching your goals.

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