Train for life and work out like the pros.

Written by Philip Walter on Feb 3 at 7:23 pm in itBODYnature, weMINDculture

Last week I found myself on the treadmill reading a recent issue of Joe Weider’s Muscle and Fitness Magazine. I’m generally not a big fan of muscle-bound mags like this, but in the January 2008 issue, there’s a great article about NFL Wide Receiver and outspoken personality Terrell Owens, detailing his on- and off-season workouts. I’m not by any means a professional athlete, but as a trainer and general fitness dork, I love to see what kinds of things the pros do to keep themselves fit. Aside from the unique moves in T.O.’s workouts, his fitness philosophy really struck a chord with me and reiterates a mainstay of the Brickhouse Bodymind approach.

It’s a simple quote but one that truly speaks volumes. When describing how resistance bands increase the effectiveness of his chest presses, he mentions the obvious point that this really gives him an edge when throwing a stiff-arm at a defender. He goes on to say, “Everything I do in the gym is meant to translate directly to the football field.”

That’s beautiful! He is speaking to the crucial aspect of relevance in exercise. It’s hard for him to overlook, seeing as how his livelihood is staked upon his ability to kick major ass on the football field, but all too often the rest of us completely ignore this fundamental point. Most of us go to the gym and crank out one robotic set after another of generic, predetermined exercises. It’s not because we’re boring people. It’s not because we’re really doing anything wrong. It’s because no one told us any differently … and because we don’t get paid millions to be fit.

But I’m here to tell you, you don’t have to be a professional athlete to adopt and benefit from T.O.’s simple philosophy. His philosophy of relevance in exercise is also an integral part of the Brickhouse Bodymind program. I believe your exercise should be relevant to your life. It should prepare your body for the real live, day to day rigors of living. Otherwise it starts to feel like a Geometry or Trigonometry class in High School. You remember the burning question – When am I ever going use this stuff?! Many people I talk to see exercise as a necessary evil, something we do to conform to some ideal of attractiveness or to reactively return from the brink of death at the hands of heart disease or diabetes. If we could see exercise as an extension of living life, where every movement is relevant to making us better at being fathers, wives, brothers, homeowners, workers, whatever – we would look forward to the process more, we would be more likely to make time for it.

When I’m raking leaves every fall, I’m thankful for all those oblique exercises I’ve done. When I’m pulling weeds from my flower bed and planting flowers in the spring, I’m benefiting from the prisoner squats and deadlifts that are a frequent part of my workouts. When I’m holding twisting triangle pose, I can’t help but think of the last time I had to reach behind my dresser for that tealight candle that keeps falling back there.

The ways in which we can train for life like this are endless, and I believe everyone who works out would benefit from a deeper exploration of these relationships. When you find yourself doing things around the house or out in the world, try to imagine what exercises would better prepare you for those situations and add them to your workouts. As I said, it’s easy for the pros because their livelihood depends on it. There simply is no disconnect between their fitness training and their daily lives. For the rest of us, the disconnect is often bigger than we realize. When we begin to reconnect our training to our daily activities, exercise becomes more relevant and interesting. Once that happens, we’re far more likely to enjoy the process and find time to do it.

One of the main examples of this disconnect is how utterly ill-prepared we are for sitting upright. If you’re like me, you spend much of your day engaged in this activity, whether you’re working at a desk, surfing the net, reading a good book, or watching television. I plan to write a separate post dedicated to this particular problem soon, but for our purposes here, it’s easy to see how impractical much of our workouts are when it comes to preparing us for our daily lives.

Below are a just few things you can do to remove these disconnects.

  • Mix up your workouts by throwing in different moves to keep your muscles on their toes and increase your neuromuscular connections.
  • Since you’re rarely called upon to simply sit on a bench and lift things, inject bursts of intense cardio like jump roping, sprinting, or doing jumping jacks between sets to remind your body that large-scale movements like walking, running and jumping are just as important as lifting, pushing and pulling.
  • Don’t forget to stretch. Flexibility is such a huge part of life and longevity. It should be part of every workout.
  • Visualize your life as a workout. As you’re going about your day – bending, twisting, reaching, lifting, squatting, pushing, pulling – imagine what exercises you can do during your next trip to the gym that will make those things easier on you. Then when you get to the gym, imagine that instead of working out to get a better body or whatever, you’re making yourself a better mother, husband, home owner, etc.

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