NOTE: This is an old but popular post from my old blog, so thought I’d migrate it across 🙂
The same type of job is not ideal for everyone; neither are the same hobbies and so on and so forth. It therefore confuses me when people think that the same kind of training ought to suit the lifestyles and interests of everybody.
The truth is that not everyone gets as excited as I do by walking into a gym, and there is no reason why anyone should feel bad about that. I was literally laughing out loud on Thursday when my deadlift German volume training was feeling really good and hitting my hamstrings hard – that is not the behaviour to be expected from everybody.
There are health benefits to be gained from working out, but there are many ways to skin a cat (pun very much intended gymnastic friends), and I’m a big advocate of searching until you find the mode(s) of exercise that really make(s) you smile. If you work out but you don’t enjoy what you do, then I cannot emphasise just how much better you will feel if you shop around to see if you can find another way of achieving your fitness goals without needing to resort to activities that just feel like a chore.
Before suggesting a few options there is a necessary reality check: advertising for fitness related products and routines can sometimes be more than just a bit unrealistic. You will not find that easy, quick magical workout that makes you drop 10kg in a month with just 15 minutes a day for $19.95 – if all those gimmicks worked then all of the best athletes in the world would use them instead of working so damn hard!
Also, we are creatures of habit but our desires fluctuate with our moods, energy levels, what’s been happening that day etc. etc. You will never find something that you adore doing under all circumstances – that applies to just about everything else we do from day-to-day so don’t expect any different from your training. What you want to find is something that you really enjoy 99% of the time that you can still bear to drag yourself to on those really bad days. Note that the activities mentioned below are very much not exhaustive, but are rather a quick list that just came to mind. Also note that I am strictly only mentioning outside-of-the-gym activities, because trust me, over time there will be PLENTY of information on here for people who want to spend time in the gym 🙂
Some people hate the idea of being indoors to train. If this is you then you could consider activities such as cycling, rock climbing or team sports. Cycling outdoors is a great way to keep your cardiovascular health up and you will most definitely build up some impressive legs. Rock climbing is an excellent all-body conditioning sport that brings in balance, endurance all wrapped up with some good old brute strength. I personally find rock climbing a great challenge, not only because I’m actually quite afraid of heights, but also because every climb is a puzzle as well as a physical challenge. Team sports are great for getting in some socialising together with your training which is always a lot of fun. I personally have very little to say about this as I never played any team sports, and something to be aware of is that if you want to push this to a higher level, there is generally a conditioning program that will be expected of you over and beyond simply playing games, but that tends to be the case with any sport when your each a certain level of competence.
If all you want to do is switch your brain off and tune out then you might enjoy endurance related activities such as running or swimming. Note however that while these activities tend to be excellent for your cardiovascular health, they tend to not do much for your muscularity. You don’t want muscle you say? What you probably mean is that you don’t want muscular bulk – so don’t train like a body-builder, but everyone should aim to perform some form of resistance training to build lean muscle. The full story of why is not something I want to go into right now, but the benefits include actual shape to your body, a higher ability to burn fat, an actual strong body that makes you less prone to injury as well as bone density benefits, which becomes much more interesting and important as you age.
Some people just want to lose themselves moving. If this is you then you have many options open to you. If you want to find some inner serenity in something more slow-paced and meditative then you should definitely look into yoga and pilates. If you are worried that it might not do much for your overall fitness just have a look at the flow/ashtanga/power styles of yoga and you will probably find something that suits you. These are excellent for your mobility and flexibility and body alignment and balance, all of which are excellent for helping you stay injury-free. Personally I would love to have more time to do yoga, and hope to be able to make more time for it in the coming months because I find it great for my peace of mind as well as a great way to keep my body from tightening up too much as a consequence of all my other training.
If you are at the other end of the spectrum and want to get some aggression out then you probably want to look into fighting and martial arts. These are amazing all-round sports with the added benefit of some pretty serious emotional release – if you work a stressful job, there is an awful lot to be said for how much calmer you will feel after some time belting a bag with all your might. Again, if you want to move but you want to really get in some laughs or meet new people then you might enjoy dancing. I started my active lifestyle in dance and I loved every minute of it. You may still want to figure out some other way to build some lean muscle (depending upon what style you choose) on top of it, but you will definitely work up a sweat as well as get in your daily dose of fun with dancing.
I’m sure that there are many other things that I have forgotten and please feel free to post comments about any ideas that you have! I hope that this has given a few people some ideas on how to jump on the health and fitness horse without having to compromise the fun factor.