I’m taking a break from my regularly scheduled “5K training is the new marathon training” talk and starting today’s post with a quick story time.
I’ve learned the hard way that more isn’t always more and sometimes LESS IS MORE.
My friend Lindsey used to tell me that about makeup in high school. Thank the Lord she did because for awhile there I was wearing a ton of bright blue eye shadow on the regular. And not like the kind from makeup commercials that you’re like, it looks pretty, but I’m never invited to any sort of occasion that would require me to have makeup that intense so I’ll pass. Not even the kind that would look cool if you were at an 80s costume party where people actually put on blue eyeshadow on purpose. It was more like a 7th grader smeared multiple, uneven streaks of it on her upper eyelid, because that’s exactly what happened. Not my best look. To top it all off, my orthodontist would ask what color I wanted for those little (devil) bands they’d put on my braces, and I’d get the blue ones to match my eyeshadow. Blue everywhere. No shame.
When training for my 3rd marathon, I started to learn that less is more when I decided to “listen to my body” and dial down the intensity. I PRd by 40 minutes. I DEFINITELY learned it when I ran the Brooklyn Marathon two weeks after the NYC Marathon and decided two marathons in two weeks was not my best idea.
Where am I going with this?
With the exception of running, most of my workouts are done in fitness studios. I’ve been noticing lately that there’s this trend of creating workouts so hard and packed with exercises, they make Pinterest recipes look easy. (If you’re questioning that comparison, you obviously haven’t tried to make a dachshund out of dough.)
Throwing together a random assortment of intense exercises while threatening students with the possibility of a non-bikini body (THE HORROR) seems to be the motto of instructors these days.
But good news, last I heard, they let people of ALL shapes and sizes wear whatever the F they want on the beach! Yay America!
Sometimes a girl needs a recovery day that involves a little more than wine on the couch (that comes after, of course) so I’ve been hunting for lower intensity classes. I did find one little glimmer of hope; a class that begins with 20 minutes of band work, similar to what I did in physical therapy, and wraps up with a 30-minute treadmill speed workout. The point of the class is to focus on loosening and strengthening those little muscles that help you run and jump and do whatever it is you do athletically, and then work on your speed. But without the “the point of this is to kick your ass so bad you can’t walk for 3 days” sentiment. I feel like all they want is for me to get stronger and reach whatever goals I have.
I LOVE IT.
I love it because that’s the stuff I have trouble doing on my own. I need accountability, and what’s better for accountability than cold hard cash. Well, giving it up, that is. Pair that functional stuff up with a speed workout, which is definitely better when you have someone else watching you and telling you what to do, and it’s a golden workout for a runner who is easily distracted. (That runner is ME.) And they encourage everyone to push themselves at their own pace instead of telling you what pace to run, while of course being honest with yourself about what you can do.
They trust me to do my best on that day.
The thing with this class is, the band work isn’t necessarily a workout (although I did feel the burn in a couple movements!), it’s just a way to give your body – a body that works so hard – a little love.
I talked to the studio owner about how sad it makes me that people don’t seem to appreciate these classes, and we started chatting about the abundance of HARD WORKOUTS everywhere. If you go by “motivational” Instagram posts, word on the street is “it doesn’t count if you’re not sweating”. Everyone is telling us to do more.
In my experience, those tedious little exercises are the key component in completely changing my performance and sense of security when it comes to injury. The injury that was bothering me for over 8 months was almost completely gone after a few weeks of structured PT, and I was solely working on strengthening with bands – no manual therapy. I obviously don’t expect fitness instructors to diagnose or treat any kind of injury (<—my disclaimer) but I appreciate these classes for the prevention opportunities. Sadly, some of my favorite studios are cancelling corrective exercise classes because people don’t attend. Every time I find out one has been cancelled I yell DAMN ITTTTTT very loudly and Brendan runs into the room wondering what tragic thing just happened (and then lectures me on my tendency to overreact). OVERREACT, PSH. MY FAVORITE CLASS WAS CANCELLED.
I like to reward myself with peace of mind that I’m taking care of myself, and to me, rest and low-impact exercise are important keys to improving, along with those tough workouts. It’s not one or the other, it’s both.
Maybe it’s a money thing. People want instant, sweaty proof that they’re getting what they paid for. Maybe everyone else is more focused than I am and they do this stuff at home for free. Maybe they want more bang for their buck when they take the time to go to a class. All very logical. For the record, I would never encourage anyone to settle for just being “good enough”; I think it’s a very positive thing to challenge yourself…I just believe in the importance of balancing it all out.
I feel like I’m playing entirely different game here. (And am pissed my favorite classes are getting cancelled.) The cycle of work so hard you burn out, rest until you feel like crap, work so hard you burn out again is something I’ve totally fallen victim to in the past and it’s upsetting because it took me so long to learn my lesson and I’m still trying to nail it down, but the fitness industry itself isn’t helping. It scares me for new-to-fitness-classes people, that they might think this is how it’s supposed to be all the time. That this is how fitness is…because it doesn’t have to be like that. Anytime I take a friend to a class with me (one who doesn’t go to classes often) I feel the need to keep telling them “it’s okay to modify!” or “do what you can!” because I truly feel that way, but the environment doesn’t always encourage that. (Mayyyyybe I need to find new, safer classes!)There are always those instructors who say “you’re not allowed to drop to your knees for push ups or we’ll make the whole class do 10 more” or whatever it is.
Some days I can do 50 push ups with perfect alignment and other days I need to drop to my knees to bang out 10 because I’m tired and my alignment is off. That’s just how it is.
I wish instructors trusted me to do what I need to do on any given day. I can see how students want results but should instructors “give them results” at all costs? (You don’t get great results when you’re tired and injured, FYI!)
As I always say, YOU NEED TO ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF. Pretty sure I say that to someone at least once a day. We trust our instructors, but I think educating ourselves to understand what’s right and wrong is vital, because there’s such a fine line separating motivation and injury and every body is different. IT GIVES ME ANIXEITY. It seems like people whole-heartedly trust fitness instructors instead of their own brain. We’re all so impressionable sometimes.
There are some great instructors out there and I think you’ll find that the classes you’re excited about are the gems you’ll stick with. Just remember, YOU’RE THE BOSS.
Do you see a problem with high intensity all the time? Do you ever attend corrective or low intensity classes?