Part 1 of 3 - WORKING OUT vs TRAINING
Being “in shape” is all relative. Everyone has their own idea of what being in shape means. In fact, I remember some years ago while teaching a class of adolescent students, one of the other instructors told them they needed to push harder during a drill in order to get in shape. Immediately, one brilliant student called out, “but...round IS a shape.”
He was right. Round is a shape.
And the bottom line? Round is okay. Skinny as a rail is okay too.
It’s okay to have strong arms and weak legs, or to be able to run a marathon but still be unable to get rid of that beer belly or muffin top.
There’s nothing wrong with being the person with the slowest time, or who lifts the lightest weights, or who needs to take a break before anyone else.
The problem with any form of fitness, is that people often don’t differentiate between their health and their self-image.
When the focus is all on self-image - what the scale says, what the mirror shows, how strangers look at you...it’s nearly impossible to ever be happy with yourself.
I’m very happy with myself, at least in terms of my health and fitness. And the reason is simple - I never work out and I never diet.
If you set a goal weight and work out tirelessly day in and day out to reach that goal, everything is about loss and about hitting some numerical target. It’s easy to give up on a goal like that, particularly when it’s a long-term one.
And if you do reach your goal weight? What is your reward?
You get to spend the rest of your foreseeable future doing everything you did to get there, over and over again. But now, there’s no further achievement. There’s no new number on the scale to show for your trouble. There are no more before-and-after photos to compare, and the compliments stop coming in because you’ve already done the impressive thing you set out to do. Now, your hard work becomes the status quo. And before long, it’s easy to bail out.
And really, can you blame someone for that? What’s work without reward? What’s sacrifice without gain?
The concept of being “in shape” falls across a broad spectrum, with so many different interpretations of what it means and how one should look. There are also so many approaches to achieving a similar end, that it becomes a dangerous thing to compare yourself to others when trying to reach a fitness goal.
If I were to line up in front of a mirror with a dozen
other people, it would be very easy for any one of
us to feel as though we were less than we are,
or be intimidated by the person standing next
to us. Myself included. Depending on who in the
line I talk to, I might be viewed as a super-fit
athlete, capable of doing incredible things and a
great role model for fitness. But to others...
I’m round. I’m a round shape.
It’s all relative, how we feel about how we look; to
what standards we hold ourselves and toward
which goals we strive.
So, no, I won’t work out. I refuse to work out. Work isn’t fun. Even if you enjoy the process of counting reps and sets and calories and carbs, eventually the parabolic drop-off occurs, when the pressure to maintain begins to outweigh the satisfaction of accomplishment. The joy and pride you experienced have been replaced by habit and necessity.
In addition, the way I train is results-driven. I focus on what I can DO, not some abstract measurement of success. It’s always been far more fun for me to work on some new technique or conquer some tangible obstacle than to add another plate to the bench or shave a few seconds off my run.
That was always an easy sales pitch for the martial arts school owner - long term planning that included systematic benchmarks to follow in order to gauge your progress. For me, I started my training back when a black belt was a borderline superhero, not a watered-down commonality. I never set my sights on the belt. I focused only on the techniques I could master - how to evade the proper distance so as to still effect a manipulatable reaction in my opponent. How to disarm an assailant in every conceivable situation, whether I was armed or empty-handed. How to read and analyze multiple opponents simultaneously, all the while getting to know myself better in the process.
After many years of training this way, the belt was an inevitability, not a possibility. But more than that, I learned that the belt was virtually meaningless. It was merely a symbol, representing the cumulative knowledge and skills I’d gathered from countless bumps and bruises, the myriad lessons both received and given.
For me, it was never about the belt, or the trophy, or the scale, or the clock, or the mirror. It was about what I could do and the pride I took in the learning.
With that in mind, when it’s 5 o’clock and I swap the dress shoes for sneakers, remove the tie and throw on the headphones...it has nothing to do with working out. I train. I train to conquer the next goal, to achieve something I’ve never done, to end the day with a pride that has nothing to do with statistical analysis. A good day means I pushed myself to greater heights, knowing that even a plateau means that the next training session will bring me to an even higher echelon and that in itself, is a victory.
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Stay tuned for part 2 of this feature!