Balancing Life Both Inside and Outside the Gym
Fitness is a lifestyle.
This has been a long preached slogan by members of the fitness community, and this statement has an abundant amount of truth to it. Ok, so that much is clear, but just because fitness is a lifestyle doesn't mean anything less than three or four hours at the gym is unacceptable. On the contrary. What I want to emphasize here today in this article is a delicate word we call "balance". This may sound cliché at first, but without keeping this simple, yet very difficult factor in mind, you run the risk of sabotaging both your personal life and your gym life.
It may be easy to see from the outside looking in, but when you are determined to reach at set goal by a set time (which isn't bad in itself, but being realistic plays a factor), one is often quick to neglect certain aspects of their personal life that can begin to have a negative impact on them. Of course, this goes both ways and this brutal habit can be an equal opportunity offender.
Through my personal experience and through the insight of others, I've come up with a few important things to remember when considering the delicate balance of a fitness lifestyle.
More Is not Always Better
Here we look upon the battle of quality vs. quantity.
Some things in life just don't seem to make sense. For example, why do you not necessarily feel better after twelve hours of sleep than you do after seven or eight hours? I've had nights where I get five hours of sleep, and I've never felt better, but then the next night after a good, solid eight hours, drag through the day desiring a nap. The key here is what is the quality of sleep. You can go into the gym, workout until your blue in the face for three hours, but that doesn't guarantee you will have a better workout than your buddy who left the gym after only an hour and a half. In fact, a slightly shorter, more intense workout is better. If your intensity and your pace are elevated, you will not only be constantly pushed outside of your comfort zone which is optimal for growth, your maximize your time in the gym as well.
When I was in college, I loved to stay in the gym for two or three hours a day. Even though a little bit of the time was devoted to chatting with regular gym goers, I was quick to go after seven or eight different exercises per muscle group at some points. So when I found a program online that only called for an hour to an hour a half a day, but was getting a large amounts of positive feedback online from it, I still debated overlooking it. I tried a workout that only lasted seventy five minutes, and it was one of the best workouts I had experienced in a long time. The quality of that workout was much better than some of the two and a half hour ones I had pieced together in the past.
Remember, you are looking to break down the muscles, not assassinate them, run them through your paper shredder and then lay them out to dry.
When Engaging in One Activity, You are Recovering from the Other
There are two dimensions to growth, the breaking down and the building up.
When you are in the gym, you are not growing. You might have a skin splitting pump and look larger than life, but this, too, is part of the breaking-down process. You are growing when you are receiving proper rest, recovery, and nutrition outside of the gym. Your success in the field of fitness is driven more by how you treat the 22 or 23 hours you spend outside of the gym each day. What do you consume right after your workout? How much do you sleep? Do you put your best foot forward in your job? These are just a few questions to get us thinking about the quality of the time we spend outside of the gym. It is important to ensure that your body has had time to recover and rebuild properly before you attack your next workout. Through this, you will avoid over-training, which can zap your gains, make you sore enough to move like the tin man, and rob you of your good cheer.
There is something to be said, though, for your workouts being a good break from the monotonous grind of work or your schedule. They can also serve as a great place to channel any extra emotions or energy that you might have too. Sometimes we need a break from people, tasks, and things we just don't look forward to doing. I like to think of the gym as part of my "me" time. It is important to have this, lest the demands of life burn us out way too quickly. There are few times I feel more refreshed and rejuvenated than when I have finished a great workout. This leaves us in good spirits and helps supply us with the energy to finish the demands of the day. You could argue that this is a necessary component to helping us be the best we can be more consistently.
It's Not 50-50, It's 100-100
Have you ever thought "Boy, I really need to save my energy for that later" or "I'm not going to work too hard because of that this afternoon"?
This is an easy trap to fall into. We often divide our energy in sections each day as if it were a pie chart out of 100, and give 20 percent here, and 15 percent there, and so on. This is true for both physical and mental energy. Yes, we get tired and worn out after completing some tasks, but I've also had the experience where I'm falling asleep eating supper at 6:30, and then an hour or two later later, I'm jumping around the room like a maniac with my heart pounding out of my chest after my favourite sports team just won their game.
100-100 doesn't necessarily constitute giving the same amount of energy to each task, but rather being committed to giving your best to each task and at each moment. It is true you might not have the energy to throw up a 275 pound bench press after running 10 miles, but this does not entitle you to skip bench or stop a few reps short of failure because you already worked hard running. Some days will demand more from you, and some will demand less, but it is our job to respond to the call and give it our best in each scenario!
The delicate balance of the fitness lifestyle is different for everyone, but your fitness and your friends and family both deserve the best. When you are doing you best to give an appropriate amount of time and energy to both aspects of your life, they will work in unison together to help you live more fully.
How well do you feel you balance your life inside and outside the gym?
Nothing Is Set in Cement
This is an important one to not overlook and pay heed to.
While having a set schedule and routine is very important, don't be so scrupulous to the point of turning down an evening with friends or family because of your scheduled session at the gym. If something happens in the morning where you can't make your usual session, work it in the afternoon or combine some exercises tomorrow. If you walked into the gym and you are just not feeling good in your legs and that is what is on the docket to be worked, change to back or shoulders. Having some flexibility within your scheduled routine is always a good thing. You never know how each day is going to go, and you prepare yourself upfront if you are ready to make some changes if necessary.
This is not to be confused with laziness or lack of drive, but life happens sometimes. I can attest to the regret of not making these changes when necessary. I have canceled or skipped handfuls of gatherings, outings, even trips to water parks and theme parks because I need to get my lift in. Being flexible will ensure your friends and family don't get put on the back burner, and that you have more rich experiences. Regardless of how wonderful lifting is, there is so much more to life!
So while fitness is truly a lifestyle, make sure that your in-the-gym self and outside-the-gym self live in harmony with each other. These two aspects can really supplement each other, especially when done correctly. Working out can rise to become a great passion for many people, and can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Properly balancing your time in and out of the gym will help ensure you don't burn out or fall off the train for years to come.
Go see what you are capable of when your personal life and gym life are in tune!