Starting over. Whether you’ve had a layoff from exercise or have been doing it consistently but not seeing results, it might be time to change things up, but in some surprising ways.
Here’s what you need to know:
-Do what you do the least of a little bit more often.
-Never do anything that is boring or unappealing.
-Make movement the foundation for exercise.
-A “plane” workout is a good workout.
Do a Bit More Of…
…whatever you do less of. Why? In general, life gets easier if you can handle heavy objects and move quickly when life makes you. When we aren’t exercising or our workouts feel stale, we tend to do what we have always done out of habit. And this means we will be less likely to do the things we don’t do as often. Heavy is relative to each individual, so try lifting heavier in a way that makes you pay attention to the weight, as this will engage your mind.
Or maybe it’s better to move quickly on some exercises while using less weight. Again, speed and complexity are relative to each individual, so lifting heavy or moving quickly does not equal dangerous.
All you need is a couple days per week each of moving quickly and lifting heavy things. In a short time you will feel more capable and confident as you move your body.
Never Be Bored
Never do exercise if you don’t feel like it. And if that feeling never leaves, then find a type of exercise you are drawn to. If all else fails, it might be time to adjust your mindset.
I don’t want anyone doing any form of exercise they don’t enjoy because they feel like they should. This is a terrible approach and destined to fail. Think about anything you do only because you “should.” You never enjoy it because it carries the weight of obligation. If you hate it, you’ll never work hard enough to have success with it.
There is enough variety in the various forms of physical activity to find something you enjoy. No human is born to hate physical activity—all kids like to move to some degree or another—so there’s something out there for you. If you’re feeling stuck doing stuff you don’t like, stop. Keep trying until you find something you really enjoy.
Exercise Like You Move
Humans sit, stand, walk, pick things up, put them down and do it all over again many times a day. Sitting is moving in a relatively parallel foot stance, walking is an asymmetrical and single-leg activity, and all day long we push, pull and rotate things in our world with our upper body and torso.
These five primary movements, when used to also form the foundation of your exercise choice, mean that the exercises you do in a workout program will make you better at life. And when you start to notice how the movements in your exercise program carry over into your daily life, it makes you pay more attention to your body as it moves all the time—and this makes your workouts better. Why? Because as you move more mindfully, your movements get better and you also get more “practice” doing the same movements you do in your workout.
Fitness is what happens when you take high-quality, efficient movement and turn it up to an intensity that causes the body to make itself fitter.
Plane is Good
We move in three planes. Everything in the physical world moves in some combinations of three possible directions. Walking forward is one plane (sagittal), walking sideways like a crab is another (frontal), and rotating or twisting is another (transverse).
Most common exercises require us to move in the direction we are most familiar with—the sagittal plane. But life is a 360-degree experience, often requiring you to move in many different directions. When you’re doing housework, playing with your kids, walking your dog or just trying to not fall if you slip on something, you’re going to have to be good at moving in all directions, not just the ones that the machines and most common exercises train.
Here’s a helpful table you can fill in to make sure you’re including your movements in all directions, with different ways of challenging yourself. A single exercise might have motion in more than one plane and might qualify for more than one movement category.
For any workout, pick six to eight exercises and perform two to four sets based on your available time, goals and current fitness level. In general, with the “Heavy” sets, keep the reps lower (below 10); for the “Fast” sets, keep the reps between 10 and 20.
There is no need to mark every single box with an “X” in the table. Just fill in most of the columns with at least one exercise and your workout will likely be well rounded. And with the mix of fast/light and slow/heavy movements, the pace of the exercises will keep you engaged.
Exercise is too much fun—and far too valuable—to let it be boring and not deliver results. Rebuild your workout to ensure you do all the things humans do in all the ways humans do them.