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Are You A Prisoner To Your Workout?

Adapt - Confuscious

We all struggle with making workouts a consistent habit.  Motivation and willpower aside, sometimes life gets in the way and we don’t always have the optimal circumstances to workout.

If you want to be successful in achieving your goals,  you need to be consistent and committed to your efforts.

You don’t only train when it’s convenient, when you’re in the mood or when you have nothing better to do. In order to reap the benefits of training, it has to become a part of your lifestyle.

“Enjoying success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.” ~ Nolan Ryan

This post will raise more questions than answers.  Don’t worry, I’ll get into specifics in future posts, but for now I invite you to start thinking about the “bigger picture” of a life-long commitment to your training.

To be successful, you have to be prepared to adapt your training methods to the circumstances in your life.

“The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water moulds itself to the pitcher” ~ Chinese Proverb

Are You A Prisoner To Your Workout?

When people become “locked in” to a certain type of training, they become imprisoned by their regimen.

For example, if the only time that you practice your martial arts or self-defense skills is when you’re at your regularly scheduled class, your fitness and skills are outside of your control.

If you are away from home or can’t get to the gym, that shouldn’t prevent you from training.

If you can’t workout unless you have a kettlebell on hand… or an olympic weight set… or a heavy bag… or a sparring partner, then you become a victim to your preferences.

You should be able to maintain your commitment to training regardless of your circumstances… I also believe that  this ability to “create and adapt” will deepen your commitment to training and benefit you in other aspects of your life.

Three Premises About “The Adaptable Workout.”

This post is about being able to train regardless of your circumstances. It’s based on three premises…

1. You will not always have access to your preferred training environment and equipment.

2. Your body and skills plateau when you sustain the same type of training for too long. It is better to mix up your workouts to keep things interesting, productive and “adaptable.”

3. You’ll resort to training that you’re comfortable with. You need to develop a game plan and appropriate skills IN ADVANCE in order to “get into the groove” of a productive training session.

Five Realms of Training

To give you an overview of how to approach “a training lifestyle,” I’ve divided the circumstances into five categories.

pushupNakedNaked training is working out with NO EQUIPMENT whatsoever. If you were stripped naked and placed in an unfurnished room, you’d still be able to perform a thorough and productive workout.

rock liftEnvironmental – environmental training involves the creative use of your surroundings to design your workout.

It could involve using a tree branch or swing set as a pull up bar, a picnic bench or chair, or even a heavy rock on the beach for lifting, swinging and throwing drills.

Portable – Portable training involves small items that you can toss in a carry-on bag or knapsack and take with you…

If you know you’re going to be away from the gym, and you still want to train, you can plan ahead by bringing a few simple items with you…

Examples are a skipping rope, resistance bands, focus pads and bag gloves, running shoes etc.

KettlebellsTransportable – Transportable workouts involve equipment that CAN be taken with you… but there is are difficulties and limitations involved.

Transportable equipment is great but it has its limitations.  Examples include a kettlebells, dumbbells or perhaps a portable chin up bar.

These things are usually suitable to throw in the trunk of your car, or drag out to the park, or perhaps keep at the cottage… But they can be a “pain-in-the-ass” to move around in many “travel light situations.”

Fixed – Fixed workouts require a gym or training facility and usually expensive, immovable equipment.   Your workout should not be dependant on whether or not you can get to the gym.

Most people who train exclusively in this realm, usually have their own gym to go to… If they are away,  perhaps they can stay at a hotel with a gym or find a gym nearby.  But if they can’t, (and don’t have an adaptable game plan) they’re “hooped!”

Which Realm Is Best?

I’m not suggesting that one realm is “better” than another or that you should commit exclusively to one form of training.  Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of a fully equipped gym in your hotel while on vacation?  Why wouldn’t you want to drag a couple kettlebells to the park or cottage?

Think about the 5 realms as a hierarchy.  Having a simple, ready-to-go game plan such as a solid “naked workout” in your bag of tricks can go along way in maintaining your commitment to training when your workout options are compromised.   Then consider your environmental options, your portable options and so on.  If you approach it like that, you’ll never be at a loss as to how to get your workout in.

The purpose of this post is not to provide you with all of the answers…. but to get you thinking about the question… “How can I maintain my commitment to training regardless of my current circumstances?”

A Real World Example

To give you an example of some “do anywhere” workout options, here is an excellent example of naked/environmental circuit by Steven Maxwell:

Do you have an adaptable training game plan to maintain your workouts?

Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts on the matter.  I’d like to hear your opinions.

About Randy LaHaie

I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.

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  • Bill Rush

    Hi Randy-another thought provoking post that I can’t resist replying to.

    I think the main issue with motivation for a lot of people is often that they are apt to make the structure of their workouts the responsibility of somebody else-A trainer or sifu or even the author of a book.

    The ‘dosage’ can tend to be highly prescriptive and sometimes draconian. It might take 10,000 hours to get great at anything, but it doesn’t mean you have to complete them in any time frame, or even complete them at all.

    Losing the ambition (call it ego if you like) can sometimes paradoxically mean you do more. The Chinese saying of ‘absorbing what is useful’ applies nicely to training orthodoxies sometimes.

    I hear so many of my friends, now that we have seen 50 or so winters, copping out of training because it doesn’t fit previous moulds and lifestyles that for whatever reason no longer apply.

    One of the best is ‘What’s the point in training when you can only get in the gym a couple of hours a week?’ That’s working on a ‘dosage’ principle. I’m sure that specialist practitioners are happy to do a ninety minute workout with weights/boxing/pilates every day, but what if I like their particular discipline, but not to that extent? Does that make the activity worthless for me?

    Sometimes the books and gurus recommend their level of exercise as a ‘one fits all’ portion and then people don’t use it because they feel they can’t make the baseline dose.

    I probably only do three hours a week myself, but its split into six thirty minute portions that involve whacking stuff, lifting stuff and stretching.

    I love the kettlebells, but more than ten-fifteen mins a day bores me. I like to curl a dumb bell, but only about twenty reps per arm. The key factor though, is that I do it for fun, I do it with intention and I do it regularly.

    Compound that to always using the stairs, refusing the doughnut and doing little ‘snack exercises’ through the day (thirty squats in the shower, 20 press ups before turning in,etc) and it adds up to something that makes a difference, even on only a couple of hours a week.

    It won’t get you ready for a marathon or three rounds of amateur boxing, but it’ll ward away the stress and keep you strong.

    • Excellent points Bill… Thanks for your comments… I totally agree that we have to tailor our training to our own goals, point in life and even our personality. What works best for one person, may not “fit” for another. Like so many other things in life, training is a work-in-progress. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  • mark

    Hi Randy,

    As Bill said above, another thought-provoking post.

    As I’ve gotten older (46, now), i’ve had to adapt my workouts. Simply don’t have the stamina that i used to.

    and, as someone once said, none of us can jump as high as we did when we were 21. I’ve found this whole aging process a mixed blessing. On the one hand, who wants to get old and see their skills deteriorate. On the other, i’m finding my workouts much more — i don’t know, stimulating, refreshing, relaxing — these days. I workout much less intensely, but i often workout longer. Also, these days, i find that i’m much more into the nuances of the training. I’ve got no problem practicing a particular technique for hours — or weeks — until i get it right. Definitely wasn’t as patient when i was younger.

    that said, i also find i’m somewhat less willing to adapt my workouts outside my comfort zone. I largely do functional movement type of stuff, e.g., stretching, functional strength, balance training. Been doing this about 2 years now. At some point, i’ll probably need to shift to incorporate more focused strength training (one of my weaknesses), but for now, i figure as long as i’m working out regularly, i’m ahead of the game. (oh, as an aside, i’ve started incorporating the kettle bell training in, per your previous post. thanks for the suggestions.)

    anyway, i digress.

    thanks for the post. I especially liked the 5-level hierarchy. Gives me a framework to work with.

    yours in the struggle,

    mark x.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Mark… It sounds like you have your head on straight about your own training. I’ll be writing a lot of my stuff specifically for people in “our age bracket.” Like many of my readers and clients (83.5 % of my subscribers are over 40), I’m also interested in maintaining as much health, fitness and function as possible as I age… The more research I do, the more optimistic I am about the future. There A LOT that can be done to maintain and improve our health and functional fitness if we’re smart and strategic about it. As you eluded to in your comments, it’s about training “smarter.” Thanks again for weighing in.

  • Ed Henderson

    I don’t know about this losing it after a certain age. I’m 59. I’m probably faster, stronger, and have more stamina than other phases of my life. I believe in the “water forming to the rock” workout mentality. To keep my workouts fresh I rotate between body weight, gym weights, bands, swimming, tennis, basketball, running, skiing, surfing, martial arts and anything else I can put in so that I learn and grow physically. I travel a lot and it always involves some form of physical activity such as hiking or skiing (as an example). I ALWAYS bring bands. And, to be honest, I LOVE TO WORKOUT!!!!! A day is wasted without some form of physical activity!!!!

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