Fitness Purist or Dabbler? Why you should cheat on your exercise.

A quick clarifier: Cheating on your exercise does not mean not doing any exercise. Sorry 🙂

change workout muscle confusion

The more I started to explore the world of bodybuilding and physique competitions and the more I sought out fitness role models in that area, the more I heard about how weightlifting was “it” and cardio was kinda bad, or perhaps just for amateurs. In fact, many would say that cardio is not even necessary to achieve the ideal physique and that one could just lift weights faster to get that desired heart rate and cardiovascular pump.

Personally, I think that’s a pretty clever idea…if you like lifting weights.

The problem or limitation with this bodybuilding mentality is that it seems to be very focused on one activity to the exclusion of all others. But then, many athletic pursuits are. Much like we’ve come to define ourselves by our diets (paleo, vegan, pescatarian, locavore, flexitarian) we’ve also starting defining ourselves by our preferred sport – runner, roadie, bodybuilder, crossfitter, gymrat, yogi, zumba-freak (okay, not sure about that last one).

The point is, we tend to align ourselves with certain athletic personas, which is fabulous in terms of finding like-minded folks, but it’s counterproductive when we limit ourselves from other pursuits because we are hardcore and committed to that one camp. Because really, it is just exercise after all.

In full disclosure, I’m saying this as someone who finds it very easy to slip into a fitness camp and raise my little groupie flag tall and proud. And while it’s comforting and psychologically natural to want to belong to a positively perceived “in-group”, it tends to be detrimental to one’s overall fitness progression.

As I work through my fitness training certification, I’m learning more about the perils of repetitive motion, especially when it comes to muscle imbalances and potential for injury. Last year when I packed in my weight lifting persona and took up running 5 days a week, I quickly found that my knees weren’t game with my mental choice to switch all-or-nothing camps. Now I realize that the massive jump to the repetitive motion of running caused too much stress on my knee joints without any consideration to core stabilization and addressing tight, overactive muscles that was throwing off my form. Hence, my really cranky knees emerged fast and furious.

So what’s my point with all this?

I would have been much better off to drop the all-or-nothing self-identified sport purist attitude and become a dabbler instead. So rather than my workout schedule looking like this:

Mon       Tues       Wed       Thurs       Fri         Sat        Sun
Run          Run         x-train        Run         Run       Run       Off

(Look familiar??? I know some of you have training schedules like this!!)

It should have looked more like this:

Mon      Tues      Wed         Thurs              Fri                  Sat                       Sun
Run         Lift          Yoga     Run or bike           Lift        Circuit Training       Off/yoga

Now granted, if you’re training for a sporting event, there’s reason to keep your training focused more to one sport, but it should NEVER be just that one sport (yes, I’m talking to you runners!). Addressing core stabilization, proper joint strength/mobility and overall balance training are so important to staying lean and strong, so try doing a little yoga or Pilates once or twice a week. Speed and agility training in short circuit bursts is fantastic for burning subcutaneous fat (that’s fancy terminology for cellulite), so try a boot camp or doing a HIIT and Run if you’re pressed for time or gym space.

The takeaway here is to think holistically about your fitness. Get out of the mindset of being one particular kind of athlete and train in different ways using different forms of motion. Overall, as long as you’ve got one foot in the strength camp and one foot in the cardiovascular camp, you’re going to be much better off in the long run.

Live long and dabble.

 

xo caren

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15 comments

  1. I love this approach to fitness – I don’t have a problem nowadays in switching up what activities I do throughout the week, mainly because I get bored of one thing so easily! Would love to throw a class/some kind of martial art in with my current routine though

  2. I love this train of thought. It was a big reason why i got into triathlons so i wouldn’t get bored and because my knees were hurting from so much running.

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more. Cross training is so important. I’ve always incorporated cardio, spin, core and weight training along with my running as well as other cardio such as elliptical and stair master. I’m glad I have too because now that I’m recovering from a foot injury it’s given me other options to maintain my fitness. I’ve also taken up swimming and fallen in love with it.

    1. LOL… I try hard to love running. I used to (many years ago), and I love the idea of it because it’s so simple. You just have to head out your front door and go. But in reality, it’s never much fun.

  4. Great takeaway! I’m not really dedicated to exercising, but even I think I can follow your plan! I think I would be so bored if I just kept on doing the same thing everyday!

  5. This is so spot on! I’ve definitely had times where I’ve been burnt out in my fitness routine because I didn’t mix it up at all, like when training for a marathon. I’ve learned that even if you are training for something, there are ways to incorporate different types of activities here and there to not reach that point of burn out so quickly.

    1. Exactly, Trisha! I made that mistake training for a marathon and ended up getting injured. Suffice to say, that marathon didn’t happen 🙁

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