Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Feel Good Workouts

I assume most of you will read the post title Feel Good Workouts and tell yourself, "Hey, I want to do feel good workouts! What are they?" Well here it is: A "feel good" workout is a fitness session in which almost nothing is accomplished, but during (and following) the motions of exercise you FEEL GOOD. Your guilt-ridden conscience gets miraculously cleared, as if discarded with the few sweat droplets that managed to squeak out of your pores. Feel Good workouts find a home in that wasteland between doing absolutely nothing, and doing just enough to fool yourself into thinking it exercised. Still want to hear more about "feel good workouts?"

I'm not sure about you, but my time is precious. I have to make serious compromises in life to accommodate my time spent in a gym or on the track or trail. I cannot afford hours wasted in mindless, thoughtless, low-intensity workouts that do little for me except make me feel good.

For some of you, jumping onto an elliptical machine at the health club is your workout. Others have a favorite trail they can run while talking to a running partner. And while you're working out, you feel good. That's crap! If you were truly working out, you'd be dreading it, hurting, gasping for air, feel like quitting, barfing. And then when you'd finish....you MIGHT feel good with a sense of accomplishment. The feel good emotion should not be felt during the workout. If you do feel good during the session, your body is not being pressed enough. If you can carry on a conversation or follow a TV program, you need to boost the intensity. Do not be misguided by a little sweat on your shirt....it's a poor indicator of work.

In my past, my so-called feel good sessions were making me do just that...feel good. They were helping me deal with the natural stresses of life (probably like most of you out there). I enjoyed the pump in my muscles. I liked having a routine and leaving the gym believing I did something positive for my body. But I kept being pestered by a truth that my efforts were not yielding quantifiable results. Two years ago, after I began my slow transition into a functional fitness system, I realized how much time I had been wasting with only small results. Now, my sessions are shorter in time duration. They are higher intensity, and combine a resistance and cardio workout into one.

During a true functional fitness workout session, you do NOT feel good. The exercises and workouts are very challenging. They press your body to its limits of speed, power, and strength. This can only be accomplished with a physical effort beyond feeling good. For me, what feels great is when I review my past journal entries and see how much faster, stronger, and powerful I have become. But during the workouts, I feel like crap...constantly forcing myself to ignore signs to rest, relax, or slow down. Those are voices only the mediocre listen to. I refuse to be mediocre.

The next time you are working out, think how you can add intensity to your session. Shorten your rest periods. Add a few more repetitions before you put the weight down. Do the movements faster. These few suggestions will help break the routine of a feel good workout, and begin flirting with a functionality yielding results both in the mirror and in your workout journal.

Any fool can get onto an elliptical machine or stationary bike and figure out how to use it while tuning the TV to a favorite show or reading a magazine. It takes someone with a bit more drive and desire and courage to make that conscious decision to workout alongside the discomfort of true effort. Look at the motto of Trinity Training Group: Committed to Excellence in Mind, Body, and Spirit. It's not about simply going through the motions of a workout. It's not about "feeling" good. It's not even about "being" good. It's about being the best you can be!

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