What Your Workouts Are Missing
You don’t know how to REALLY scratch your fitness itch!
Do you constantly have a fitness itch you need to scratch? Do you often feel the need to improve your body? Your athleticism? “Diversity” is the name of the game, my friend. We all need some sort of physical challenge (whether that’s in the gym or elsewhere) in order to maintain your health (and for some of us, our sanity). Given this, I wanted to talk about the importance of diversification across your athletic pursuits. Diversification is immensely important for your quest to become the most well-rounded athlete you can be, but is even more valuable to your sanity since having other options for athletics will be crucial if God-forbid you are prevented from doing your activity of choice. This is something I had to learn the hard way (see *Five Mistakes You’re Making When Injured*link), so I wanted to play Captain Obvious for a minute as I run through some of the other activities you could be doing to diversify your athletic activities. Since opening my mind to trying these other things, I have had my eyes opened as to how much fun (and still challenging) many of these activities can be. Each of these can be done at virtually no cost and can provide benefits well in excess of what you can do in the gym!
*Benefits below labeled (M) represent “Mental” benefits, while “P” represents “Physical” benefits.
I didn’t always love hiking, but lots of convincing by people important to me has made hiking a staple in my athletic routine. The benefits of going for a hike far exceed just putting one foot in front of the other (even though there are still plenty of benefits to that!). Some of the benefits from hiking I’ve experienced are:
1. (M) Hiking allows you to connect with nature and escape the congestion of everyday life.
2. (M) Hiking has proven, studied health benefits in excess of the exercise one gets. Being surrounded by nature allows you to inhale cleaner air and is said to be extremely therapeutic.
3. (M) A hike may lead to a look-out or a beautiful view, which is extremely rewarding (Think Instagram pictures!).
4. (P) Hiking - no matter the difficulty - forces you to walk on uneven ground across dirt, rocks and roots at varying inclines/declines. This allows you to work-out the stabilizer muscles in your legs in addition to strengthening your ankles, knees, hips and core.
5. (M) Building camaraderie with a longtime or budding friendship.
In addition to getting you from “A” to “B”, biking outdoors has many benefits. Before possession of a driver’s license and a car, biking was how I got around with my friends. There’s something particularly gratifying about ‘working’ to get somewhere, as opposed to just hopping into a car and driving there. Beyond the gratification, biking has many benefits like:
1. (P) Biking is easy on the joints and requires exercising of the lower body and core.
2. (M, P) Biking in areas that are heavily trafficked can allow you to get places more quickly than driving or walking.
3. (P) Biking forces you to sharpen your coordination as you turn, avoid obstacles in front of you, and remain aware of other people/vehicles around you.
4. (M) Biking allows you to be outdoors and soak in some sun/fresh air.
5. (M, P) Can be as challenging as you want it to be (can even be competitive), and similar to a hike can lead to a place with a beautiful view or place to relax like a lake or beach.
Walking can improve your health significantly and is seriously underrated. Even if it is your only form of exercise (and if you do it on a regular basis) there are many benefits to walking. I frequently use walking as a way to socialize with some of my family and colleagues, and walking is said to be extremely beneficial in the following ways:
1. (M) Can be very relaxing and therapeutic, helping to clear your mind.
2. (P) Walking stimulates blood flow and helps boost metabolism.
3. (P) Only modest effort is required and it is very easy on the joints.
4. (M) Walking is a suitable activity for many and can be used for both exercise and camaraderie.
Swimming has its share of benefits in excess of getting your body in bathing-suit-ready shape before summertime trips to the beach! It’s fun on a hot day and can be done anywhere there is a pool or body of water nearby. Swimming, of all cardiovascular exercise, has the least impact on your joints and also burns calories efficiently. The main benefits include:
1. (M) Is fun and can be very therapeutic/relaxing and a refreshing change from a normal workout.
2. (P) Swimming is a full-body workout and is virtually free of impact on any joints. This makes it particularly appealing for those who have cranky knees or a bad back!
3. (P) Swimming is a great cardiovascular workout that improves lung function and capacity.
4. (M, P) Can be made competitive, through timing yourself and/or racing against a friend.
Yoga is great for both men and women AND it can be done anywhere! There are no excuses not to try yoga because there are enough variations of the activity to fit any preference. These include: Bikram (Hot Yoga), Ashtanga (Physically Strenuous Yoga), and Restorative Yoga (Relaxation, breathing). With all the variety, there is something for everybody to enjoy and benefit from. Some of the basic benefits of Yoga include:
1. (P) Yoga can help improve mobility, which is a big weakness for me and surely something most of us can work on!
2. (M, P) Yoga helps develop the mind-muscle connection, particularly with balance and stability.
3. (P) Yoga helps improve controlling your breathing and maximizing lung capacity.
4. (P) Yoga helps improve strength and body composition as it can be a difficult workout filled with very strenuous poses and movements.
5. (M) Yoga can help build camaraderie since there are many yoga classes or group sessions available.
The Local Park!
Another great place to look is your local park. We can go on and on about sports like football, baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis, etc. The athletic benefits are essentially endless, but we have also developed many of our most powerful friendships through our involvement in many different teams across different sports. Without getting into the specifics of each sport, here are some of the general reasons why taking up a sport or playing team sports at your local park can be extremely beneficial:
1. (P) These sports help to improve hand-eye coordination as many sports involve passing and catching (or hitting) of a ball.
2. (P) Team sports involve varying types of athleticism (lateral quickness, speed, endurance, jumping) and you can get a tremendous workout from playing for a short time.
3. (M) Building friendships and camaraderie. As described above, being on a sports team creates a powerful bond of working toward a common goal.
4. (M, P) Sports can be chosen or adjusted based on certain physical limitations you are experiencing. Just don’t be afraid to try something new!
Other activities to consider trying are: Rowing, Sailing, Skiing, Snow/Skateboarding, Martial Arts, Climbing, and more! These activities may require additional resources and are therefore may be slightly more challenging to do, but are still HIGHLY recommended. Now, get up and throw a wrinkle into your athletic routine! You’ll be better off for it and may even find a new favorite activity!