my workout is too easy, too boring, not hard enough, and other assumptions we make about training
One common sentiment I hear from friends, family and clients is that their workout is “too ______” [insert an adjective of choice here].
Too easy. Too boring. Too long. Too short.
This assessment is often followed with an expectation that their trainer will make changes to the workout, making it harder, more exciting, longer, shorter, and most importantly, different.
Allow me to question the underlying assumptions here.
Because that’s what I do. 🙂
My workout is too easy.
The assumption? Workouts are supposed to be hard.
I am not tired, beatdown, destroyed at the end of the workout. I feel like I can function, walk and breathe at the end of the workout. What’s up with that?
Notice the assumption that flows out of that – my workout SHOULD make me feel tired, beatdown, destroyed, sore.
In order to… what ?
Tiring or hard is not the same thing as effective. All the fitness instructors and yoga teachers reminding you to “feel the burn” be damned.
Any idiot can design a “hard” beatdown that would leave you in a sobbing pile of goo on the floor.
One thousand burpees! With a 30lb weight vest! After you run a marathon!
You are welcome.
The beatdown workouts can be fun – see next point – and very cathartic once in a while (as long as you know your body well enough to prevent acute injury). However, if exercise is the only thing that stimulates dopamine production in your life, this may be a wake-up call to develop other pathways to pleasure.
May I suggest sex? Or Pink Floyd? You could combine the two for a “brick workout” of sorts.
My workout is too boring.
The assumption? Workouts are supposed to be fun and entertaining.
Can you imagine a hockey player looking down at the prescribed strength workout, and telling his coach that it’s “too boring”?
In a recent article on how to get great value from information products, Scott H. Young laments that many people seem to want really catchy insights, rather than solid information, when signing up for a course:
… whenever I see people signing up for my course wanting a really catchy insight, I get disappointed. Because it means, more than likely, they’re just at the level of skimming the ideas, which is probably not going to deliver a return on their investment.
On the other hand, if you’re committed to actually investing in doing the work, the value you get is mostly dependent on whether the ideas are good or not. Catchyness is somewhat irrelevant, so you’re more likely to be investing at a deep enough level to see returns.
Good information, or a good workout, in this case, is rarely surprising or exciting. [Although there IS this really cool pre-workout I can sell you. Shhhh…]
Ok, so, you are not a hockey player. And it IS fun when a workout is fun, but that’s hardly the primary purpose of a workout (is it?). Are you working out for the sake of working out? [Cue the joke about CrossFit, as the sport of fitness here].
The goals of muscle gain or fat loss all pre-suppose certain formats of training and specificity (hint: daily Ashtanga practice is not the best way to prep for a bodybuilding show). Or think rehab exercises after a shoulder surgery, or doing sprint drills, or working on grip strength, or snatch form.
“OMG, I can’t train! What am I going to do with myself?” is a common statement in the racing community. If you are injured, you can still train. And if working out is your only means to personal fulfillment and entertainment, dare I suggest that you need to get out more? [Also see the above point about developing other pathways to pleasure].
My workout is too long (or too short).
The assumption? Workouts are supposed to be of certain arbitrary length.
Fifteen minutes is too short for a workout. And two hours is too long.
What are you trying to do? What is your purpose? Are you training for an ultra marathon? Or a 100m sprint? Or, perhaps, you are trying to stay active, and be able to play with your grandchildren without getting too out of breath?
Are you enjoying what you are doing? Is a beautiful three-hour hike through the mountains “too long”?
The problem is that we no longer stop and ask ourselves about the underlying purpose of that workout.
Perhaps, we never have asked ourselves that. Sad face. Something about how “unexamined life is not worth living” and all that.
What ARE you trying to do? What IS the ultimate goal?
Is your ultimate goal to feel tired? To feel beatdown?
And, perhaps, the answer is yes. [Hey, I’m not judging here, just trying to understand].
If that is the case… carry on! Here are couple of ankle weights and an “elevation training” mask.
If the ultimate purpose is different, if you are trying to lose fat, gain muscle, increase strength, get faster, move better, or work towards any other awesome things that physical training can help with, then consider an example:
Let’s say you want to get from Toronto to New York.
Your best (read: fastest) way to get there would be to catch a direct flight from Pearson to JFK. However, you decide that you want to do something else instead. The tickets are too expensive. Or you do not like planes. Or you’d rather drive there, or even walk. Skip a rope, while wearing a pig mask, and set a world record for the fastest person to do that. Zumba your way over there.
Meander a little, or a lot. Get lost even.
Awesome. Enjoy the journey. YOU get to pick HOW you are going to get to New York. Hell, you could change your mind and head over to Milan instead.
However, do not whine that you are not getting to New York as quickly as you thought you should. Or as quickly as other people who chose NOT to wear a pig mask have.
Identify the purpose.
Find someone who knows what they are doing, and do as you are told.
For few years.
Then, keep going.
And check out my earlier post on what faith has to do with fitness.