When the Gym Isn’t Just a Task

I’ve written posts on will power and the importance of lifting, and I live I life that prioritizes health and physical fitness over many other things.

But I often find myself in conversation about dedication and how disciplined I am about lifting weights and going to the gym, and people tend to say:

“Man I wish I could be that good about going to the gym”… or something to that effect.

See the gym is much more to me than something to do to keep myself in shape. That’s actually one of the last reasons why I go so regularly.

The gym for me is an outlet. It’s an escape. One where I can blast music, let my stress go, and listen to – and connect with – my body.

For these reasons (and also that it’s good for me) I keep it close to the top of my priority list.

But what people see on the outside, though, is someone who finds time to go to the gym more times during the week than not, to keep themselves in shape. And this is something that seems to be envied by a lot of people.

But when the gym is more than just something you do to stay in shape, it isn’t always a good thing, or something that should be envied.

Because when I miss a workout, I’m missing much more than just an hour of mindless sweat and fatigue. Missing a workout means missing time that I need with myself, and it can make me stressed, anxious, upset, and angry.

When someone goes to the gym with the sole intention of it being good for you and something you should do on a somewhat frequent basis, it’s easy for those people to skip a workout to do something else, like grab a few drinks with friends instead. It’s easy because there aren’t many other elements tied to the workout, like the therapeutic effect, the self-competitive effect, among others.

See these people have actually subconsciously mastered the idea of moderation and balance. An idea that doesn’t come easy for some, including me.

No matter what your reasons are for going to the gym, it’s important for us to always remember that a life of balance will ultimately give us more joy than one with unequal weights.

Sometimes we must recognize when it’s okay to take a step back and enjoy the things around you and experience all that we can to help us live a stronger, healthier, and happier life.

But priorities are priorities for a reason, so we must help each other understand what’s important to each of us so we don’t feel like balance is a difficult thing.

And if you surround yourself with people who truly care about you, they will understand and work with you to have balanced relationships and friendships that will only grow stronger as time goes on, while also allowing you to attain the personal goals you set out for yourself. 

The Importance of Moving in all Directions

It’s time for a mini lesson:

There are 3 main planes of motion that humans are capable of. (1) Sagittal, or, front and back; (2) Frontal, or, side to side; (3) Transverse, or, upper and lower halves of the body allowing you to twist.

These planes can also be combined together to create an extremely wide variety of motion for the human body. And because we stand on 2 feet, this makes us extremely dynamic, mobile, and athletic creatures. But it also has the potential to make us very unstable by design if imbalances are created due to overtraining certain planes and under-training others.

With this in mind, it’s time for some reflection.

In life, think of all of the daily activity you participate in. Walking to work, sitting at a desk, sitting on the couch.

In the gym, think of all of the activities you probably partake in. Biking, running, squatting, deadlifting, crunching, pulling, pushing.

What do all of these things in life and in the gym have in common?

They all work in the sagittal plane of motion.

Almost everything we do requires us to use our anterior and posterior muscles – antagonistic and protagonistic – in just one plane of motion.

But as we just learned, our bodies can move in 3 planes!

It is extremely important to remember that we must train to be useful bodies. Because a useful body is always a good looking one, but a good looking body is not always a useful one.

The flashy, sexy muscles like the quads, biceps, triceps, pectorals major, all mainly function in the sagittal plane of motion, where they provide the most strength. But other muscles of the legs and arms (adductors and abductors of the leg; deltoid, teres, and infraspinatus muscles of the shoulder) are designed to move in the frontal plane – laterally – away from the midline of your body.

Not only should we be training these muscles in isolation as well as the big, flashy ones, but we should also be training them together and at the same time.

Our bodies are capable of a wide variety movements, and many of life’s tasks that cause injury involve using one or more plane of motion at one time. Think about the last time you picked up something heavy off of the floor to put it on the counter. Twisting, bending, and extending were all probably a part of that action. And because your body becomes unfamiliar moving in different planes at once, you become very unstable, and very prone to injury. 

We should all train just like this from time to time, instead of isolating muscle groups and working them in one direction.

So next time you’re in the gym, take note of the planes of motion you exercise in. Are you using compound, multidirectional exercises in your routine? Or are you overloading in the sagittal (front and back) plane of motion causing imbalances that can lead to injury?

Let’s remember to train our bodies in the dynamic fashion in which they are designed, all to live an even stronger, healthier, and happier life.