Have I achieved everything I’ve wanted athletically? No. BUT!!! I did get this really cool robot helmet from some French electronic group who didn’t need it anymore. So I have that going for me. Which is nice.
After 10+ years punishing my body for a crime it did not commit – with various challenges motivated by various things in various settings – I have some conclusions…
- Feeling fit is better than feeling strong
- Home workouts are better than gym
- Running = Heaven
- Nutrition should be SIMPLE and enjoyable
- Balance balance balance
1. Fit > Strong
I respect the strongman competition as much as anyone. But for my money, and by that I mean, my time and effort, I love the opposing pulls of endurance cardio and strength. Something about tension, in food, in music, in art, AND in fitness… forges great things. Cardio and strength are polar opposites and many people tend to favor one or other other. And, while the elite marathoners and strongmen truly have my utmost admiration, I love the tension of doing both regularly – how it shapes both mind and body.
In 2019 I quit cardio and spent an entire year getting STRONG. And, well, it worked, I worked my way up to a 405lb x 8 deadlift and other maxes. And initially, this was fun, but after a while, watching runners on the street in public made my inner voice ask: jesus H, man, you done yet? Get on your GD horse and pump your heart. And so, I did. My comeback year coincided with Covid lockdown and a friendly competition to run max miles in a single month. I ran 215 miles in July 2020, including a week of 5 total half marathons, three of them over consecutive days. It’s been two years since then, and still, the combo of strength and cardio is definitely the place I want to be for as long as I can until I’m dead.
2. Home > Gym
Another happy Covid consequence: forcing me (and the world) to leave the gym work out at home. Thankfully I happened to install a pullup bar months before lockdown. The only equipment I needed to order was a 45lb plate on ebay – which – I paid some stupid amount for due to supply/demand (the entire world was scrambling to make a home gym). Initially – home workouts felt like a “backup” plan to the gym. But after a few months, I realized how much I loved the simplicity, the ability to workout any time of day, several times a day, and truly make strength training feel like more of a regular part of my life – not just something I went to do in some building a few times per week. The lines of life and muscle-use were blurring – I saw this as a good thing.
In August 2021, when gyms reopened, I started going back full time. Initially, it was fun again. Heavy weight. Max reps. But, interestingly, I started to LOSE my edge. After 1.5 years of home workouts, I had actually pushed to an overall fitness level I’d never experienced before. The irony. So I’m leaving the gym for good. Pullups, pushups, bands, a couple weights. Careful effort. Everything I need.
3. Running = Heaven
This is an offshoot of item 1 – however, I want to go a little deeper on running. Nothing against any of the other amazing endurance activities – I enjoy them all: Biking, hiking, swimming, etc – all great. But gee – running… it can be done anytime, anywhere, and the body sure does love it. At least mine does. No question – the payoff is both mind and body. Mentally, you are quieting your thoughts, which, is obviously one of the most powerful things anyone can do – period. You are also habituating yourself to stress – building mental toughness. Physically, you are giving your body the ability to use energy efficiently and pumping your heart. This applies wonderfully to just about any other fitness activity you do in life. Plus – another reason to be outside… something primally awesome about that.
Run short and fast. Run long and slow. Run long and fast. Run intervals. Run up a mountain. Run all the ways, I say.
4. Simple Nutrition
I’ve written about this already – check out the long version here. In a nutshell, the simpler the diet, the better. 90% of the time – don’t eat for pleasure, eat for your body. Eat only a couple times per day – unprocessed food – balanced in protein, fat, carbs. The other 10% of the time, have an absolute blast… pizza, ice cream, whatever.
Food is such a dominant thing in life and culture. This is too bad – it’s hyper-available and on our minds WAY too often. And I get it – food is wonderful and we live in a world of abundance. But this is screwing us. Eating all the time saps energy and distracts us and takes a toll on our bodies maintenance processes – namely, autophagy.
It’s true. Moderation is key. Sometimes it’s nice to pull out all the stops, and push yourself to the absolute limit – whether than means extreme workouts or extreme diet or whatever. But in the long long run, over the course of an entire lifetime, simplicity and balance is everything. At least for me. There are so many things in life to be appreciated and explored. Fitness and nutrition are a foundation to support all of those other things, from my perspective.
Home Workouts 2.0
If it weren’t for Covid, I’m not sure I ever would have explored, and subsequently embraced, home bodyweight workouts. As I open my eyes I see so many incredible athletes using nothing but careful movements and bodyweight. I look forward to exploring this even more closely… to have the gym with me wherever I go – alongside my love for running and getting myself active in the world however I can.
To be continued.