We all hit these points, these ruts. Lack of motivation has many causes. Some are easy to identify, like work or personal stress, being over tired mentally, emotionally, physically, or all of the above. Some reasons are less obvious. Perhaps you’ve been working out for a fairly long period of time, been consistent with your workouts, but no real progress has occurred as far as your fitness goals are concerned. Perhaps you aren’t getting the support at home from family and/or friends, who keep undermining your determination. Perhaps your just bored, or situations in your life cause you to question the point of it all.

The reasons can be as shallow or deep as anything else in life, but it tends to leave you in the same situation: you’re unmotivated. The irony is that when in this state of mind the easiest cure, at least symptomatically, is to exercise: getting all that oxygenated blood pumping furiously through your body can clear your thoughts, improve your mood, and change your perspective of whatever shit you’re dealing with, no matter how deep your shit is.

Just getting your butt in the gym can fix a lot of things, but I know as well as anyone how tough it can be. I know as well as anyone that sometimes the thought: why bother; can be overwhelming. The longest I’ve ever gone without working out at all, as an adult, was 12 months. There have also been long periods of time where my workouts were decidedly underwhelming efforts, barely holding onto my level of fitness, and even allowing my overall fitness to drop dramatically, but getting into the gym at all can make a huge difference to your outlook.

I know the struggle. If this struggle is something you are going through, or have gone through, remember this: everyone goes through it. If you know someone who hasn’t ever hit this kind of rut, they will. Everyone goes through it eventually. More than once. Remember it’s normal. Remember to try to get in the gym anyway. All things pass.


Training with Intent

INTENT. 1 a : the act or fact of intending : purpose; b : the state of mind with which an act is done

When you go to the gym and exercise/train, what is your intent? That is, what do you intend to accomplish? Do you even think about it, or do you just go to the gym and “do a bunch of stuff” and hope for the best? If so, have you thought about what you’re actually hoping for?

It’s shocking how many people in the gym never think about any of this. Working out without intent is akin to being given a destination to a town somewhere in North America that you never heard of, and told to find your way there without using a road map, gps, or any other device more complicated than asking random people for directions. Good luck finding your way. You might, but it’s not likely.

Intent can be very personal if you actually have any, but I’m going to try to break it up into a few categories; some specific and some necessarily broad and vague, in alphabetical order since importance is an individual decision:

1: Anaerobic- body building/body shaping
2: Aerobic/anaerobic-weigh loss/weight management
3: Aerobic/anaerobic-cardiovascular health
4: Aerobic-Athletic endurance performance
5: Anaerobic-Athletic performance for strength and power
6: Aerobic/Anaerobic-sports specific performance
7: Anaerobic-anti aging
8: Aerobic/Anaerobic-Health
9: Entertainment

Once you’ve chosen the intention of your exercise, you have the opportunity to make an informed choice about what kind of exercises to engage in. Want to train for the next NYC marathon?  Do you want to just finish, or are you trying to see how fast you can finish? #’s 2,3,4,6 apply to you for sure, #’s 9 and 10 might if performance isn’t an issue. Engaging in exercises that adhere to #’s 1,5,7 could prove very counter productive to your immediate goals.

In the coming weeks I’ll touch on training methodologies to best carry out each of the above categories.

Results oriented training part 2: In The Beginning

The most important things you can do to ensure your children grow up with the best chances for future physical fitness are:

1. Let your infants crawl as much as possible. Crawling is one of the most necessary elements to develop neuromuscular coordination and proprioception. Do not try to force your child to walk sooner than necessary. They will get up when they’re good and ready.  Remember, the vast majority of their future life will be spent sitting down, so let them develop those muscles and coordination skills early and innately.

2. Encourage any natural inclinations for athletic activity, matching your level of encouragement to their personal inclination; do not try to enforce your higher enthusiasm or desire beyond their own. This will lead to resentment, rebellion, and eventual refusal to participate.

  • Most children will enjoy sports if given the chance and proper encouragement; minus the unrealistic expectations of adults.  But some will absolutely abhor them, simply because they are so dis-inclined of those natural gifts that make anything we do joyful.  I never liked math, and avoided studying something that seemed so alien to me, while literature and history was engulfed by my mind.  Why is this concept easy to understand while the physical equivalent is somehow so difficult?  I was always a good enough athlete that I enjoyed overcompensating for whatever physical gifts I lacked.  But most children never will like participating.  It will be emotionally painful and physically uncomfortable.  That’s reality, as is occasionally failing at things and not doing well at more things.  Understand that creating the right environment using yourself as an early role model is no different that a child growing up watching their parents read a lot.  Those children are far more likely to become readers themselves, though they are unlikely to ever become Ernest Hemingway.

3. Be as fit as possible, yourself, and be seen enjoying fitness related activities as your children grow up. You want to maximize your chances of having an overweight child who develops adult onset diabetes at 11 years? Be unfit and disdainful of physical activities yourself.

4. You will never be able to eliminate junk food completely, so be wise. “Junk” foods are treats, and should not be allowed in uncontrolled portions. Don’t leave them around in easy access. A treat isn’t a treat if it’s normally accessible.

The next post will take us into the ages most commonly found in gyms and health clubs.

My reasons

I’ve thought about this question; “why fitness? Why workout? Why compete in sports?”, for a long time. If I’ve learned anything about myself, it might boil down to one loaded word: overcompensation.

I was always smart. The Plainview school district where I grew up started administering intelligence tests in the 3rd grade. In the 5th grade my reading comprehension tested at 12th grade level. I was only average at things like math, but I could pretty much understand any concept. In the 11th grade I played chess grandmaster Shelby Lyman to a draw in a match that lasted over 3 hours.  I was cutting classes to stay in the match and the principle was watching the last 60 minutes of it.  It was the crowning moment in my love of chess. But I always felt I was cheating just a bit.  I was born talented and smart the way some people are born beautiful, I hadn’t really earned it.  I took it for granted, absolutely.

I was also born short. Slightly built to the point of puny. And a big nose. Smart, short, skinny, and a big nose, made me an easy target for bullies, but I had some less obvious physical advantages. I was crazy fast, possessed great reflexes, and I had a much older brother who I loved to rough house with, so I was tougher than I looked. I learned to make myself more trouble for the bullies than it was worth, using my brain, my speed, and a first strike policy if I thought a fight was inevitable. I was and am small, but my ego was (is) 10 feet tall.  Did I mention I was competitive?  Whatever I liked doing physically I needed to do as well as I possibly could.  I hated losing in anything if I believed I should win, and I hated not doing as well as I thought I could, even in defeat.  I was always a good sport, but would obsessively work on improving my game.  The sports I loved to play as a kid were Basketball and football.  Did I mention I was puny?  Didn’t matter.  I played smart, I played fast, and I played big by surprising people with my unexpected strength.  It wasn’t that I was super strong, it’s just that people underestimated me and I loved taking advantage of that.  When opponents would adjust, even when they shut me down, I felt great; I forced opponents to notice me!

That started slowly changing with puberty, and the discovery that I really liked looking at girls but was at a total loss as far as interacting with them. I retreated. I was still short, puny, big nosed, and now pimply. All the girls were taller than me.  I felt I was undesirable in the extreme. I was more comfortable with adults, books, and my art (I was a self-taught sculptor at 4), than with peers.  People praising me for being smart or talented meant nothing to me though.  These were gifts from fate (or genetics).  I wanted, needed, to be acknowledged physically.

I was 17 when I got a job at a nearby gym the summer after high school graduation. If I was afraid of girls before, now it was worse! All these sexy women in their form-fitting leotards (it was the 80’s) and I’d never kissed a girl or been on a date, and was convinced no woman could want me. Low self-esteem. Low self-esteem came into conflict with the fact that I always felt special, above average, above normal, because of those natural gifts. High self-esteem. I started working out to make my body over in the image of my ego.  I wanted to feel super strong and powerful.  I wanted to earn it.  I started building my body, from 5’6″ and 120 lb., to 150 lb.  I started playing racquetball and soon became a top club player and a competitive “open” level player, competing in tournaments all over the northeastern seaboard.  And women who liked athletic guys started noticing me.  The popular athletic guys started wanting to hang out with me, started looking to follow me.  I had re-invented myself.  There was a cost. I became someone I’d grow to not like very much.  It took time to reconcile low self-esteem me to my high self-esteem self.

Eventually I added an additional 20 lb. of muscle, getting to 170.  I was really strong and felt compelled to keep pushing.  By my mid 30’s I was stronger than anyone my size and un-augmented ought to be and the injuries started piling on.  By then I’d learned a secret.  All these people who were pulled into my orbit were being pulled in because I was smart and passionate and supremely confident in those attributes.  My physical accomplishments had little effect on people’s behavior towards me.  It was all about my attitude towards myself. I still want to be the best at whatever I do, but try to be smart enough to know what I can’t do.  I haven’t beaten low self-esteem, and it still exerts its influence, but I have improved myself in some ways, taken backward steps in others.  It is about health now, and a little more.  I still dream of getting myself really strong, if I can do it smarter.  I still like being the go to expert on anything I care about.  There’s that ego again.  Overcompensation isn’t always bad if you channel it right.  Still working on figuring out how to tell the difference, 23 years later. The adventure continues…