Tuesday, September 16, 2014

That Old Balance Thing Again

To me, it seems that a pendulum is most effective when swinging through the middle position. In the below diagrams, that position is called the "equilibrium" position, and it's noted that "velocity is maximum."

Sorry to get all physics class on you, but my possibly poorly illustrated point is that extremes, when it comes to physical activity, are often the least effective when it comes to balanced physical fitness. I'm saying this anecdotally, of course.

I have a tendency to take extreme approaches to exercise. When I decide I'm going to run, I go all-in. When I want to become strong, same thing, that becomes the narrow focus. And yet I know that, for me, these approaches almost always lead to burnout and/or injury. I know this sounds very anti-goal oriented...which I'm not, by any means...but this is a lesson that has been very hard for me to learn and incorporate in my approach to fitness. There are some amateur athletes, even in my age group (late 40's) who seem to be able to defy the odds and push to the limit for extended periods. I'm not one of them.

For someone so interested in physical fitness, I'm pretty fragile. If you've followed this blog over the years, you'll know that I've experienced just about every common running injury out there. And, when I've shut down the running and picked up the heavy weights, I seem to eventually pull or strain something.

With that said, I have achieved goals. I ran and completed my first (and so far, only) marathon in May of 2010. During one of my injured periods, I met a fellow runner's challenge of getting six-pack abs. I've achieved a set of 20 overhand pull-ups, deadlifted 320 lbs., bench pressed 222 lbs, etc. Not that any of these are impressive, but they're goals I've met, despite my fragility.

There are still physical goals I have yet to achieve. I believe we all must have them, and they must be personal. Doing something just because someone else has done it or is doing it isn't a reason to shoot for something. If your goal is to do 10 perfect pushups, that's no less important or significant than someone trying to run a sub-3 hour marathon.

However, as I get older and my focus gradually shifts from attempting impressive physical feats to being as fit and healthy as I can be, my approach needs to change. I'm still in the process of figuring out exactly what that means. I know it will involve doing a little of everything, rather than "all running" or "all weight lifting," or any other unbalanced approach I'm good at taking. That approach, unfortunately, isn't terribly inspiring when it comes to achieving goals.

Getting personal, there are a few things I do want to achieve in the near future. I'd like to get a lean waistline again. In my effort to build strength this year, I've become sloppy with my diet and have put on a belly that I can no longer accept (I've already started eliminating processed sugars. Again.) I'd also like to be able to do several pull-ups once again. I do miss running, too, but I know I'll probably never be able to run like I once did. Even while running a slow 2 miles with the dog today, there were frustrating aches and pains. On the flip side, my efforts to increase my deadlift have led to a lower back that has been "out" for the last few days. Alas, I don't think I'm meant to be a powerlifter (which is likely an understatement.) I still may attempt to enter a deadlift-only meet with my daughter in January, but that will be dictated 100% by my back. And whether or not I think I can lift more than most of the women at the meet.

So, to hopefully wrap up a rambling post, I need to figure out a way to stay motivated and inspired, while approaching exercise and fitness in a much more balanced way. The goal of "being in shape and not injured" sounds great, but it's far too amorphous. I've considered having weekly quotas, such as a certain number of pushups, pull-ups, miles run or ridden, weight lifted, etc., but I haven't really fleshed that out yet.

In any event, more balance (which I believe was my "key word" back in 2011 on this very blog) and less specificity will have to be a major part of my approach going forward.