Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Gift of Improvisation

Five months. Since this year began, I've spent nearly half of this year traveling. It's gotten old too. I just want to stay home, spend some time with my wife, cook my own food, practice some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, maybe do some deer hunting and work out in my own basement for a change. I could care less if I traveled anywhere for the next three months. Fortunately, my physical fitness hasn't suffered at all during this nearly-constant travel schedule.

Presently, I'm working in Greensburg, PA and I was talking to some of the guys I'm working for over coffee, telling the story about how I gained my 23 lbs of muscle back in 2007. These are guys who don't work out regularly and they were puzzled about how I could get bigger and stronger without having regular access to a gym. So, I told them what I do and how I do it. I was surprised how interested they were. They must have assumed that you need a gym to get tough.

We all know that's a common assumption. The gym has to be only factory where people have to go to if they want to manufacture a powerful, healthy body... right? That requires stuff. All kinds of stuff. Machines. Mats. Cardio equipment. Big, bouncy balls. And iron. Lots of Iron. In a way, there are people who equate the ability to get fit to their access, or possession, of a lot of workout gear.

Apparently, I never got the message. The single, biggest reason that I Bodyweight train is because I don't have much of a choice. I can't depend on being able to carry weights wherever I go. I can't depend on being able to get to a gym. I admit that I really enjoy this style of strength training and that's a huge reason that I'm so committed to it. Still, the fact remains that there's a huge amount of improvisation that I have to do in order to get a good workout and there's no doubt that BW is the most improvisation-friendly form of strength training out there.

That's been a gift in a lot of ways. I've learned so much from being forced to constantly change up how I train. You may not realize how one variation on an exercise makes a difference until you don't have it for a while. You might force yourself to come up with a variation that you wouldn't have otherwise thought because of lack of access to certain pieces of gear. I might even come up with a piece of gear that I wouldn't otherwise have thought to build. I've ultimately learned that fitness is as much as in the mind as it is in the body. Improvisation took me to another, higher level of training.

"There's an inverse relationship between the amount of equipment a performance coach has in his gym and his level of expertise.

The longer I train, the less equipment I use. Or maybe I should say, the less I find really beneficial. Everything I use can fit in the back of my SUV. I was talking to Dr. Stuart McGill yesterday and he mentioned what training tools he has in his lab: a cable stack, some kettlebells, and a barbell set. That speaks volumes."
-Chad Waterbury

I've come to realize that a sense of materialism contaminates most people's minds when it comes to training. Just like people assume that buying stuff will make them happy, people assume that the more equipment they have at their disposal means that they're getting results. This, of course, comes from people who want to sell you something. At the very least, they're looking to get some money out of you that you don't need to spend. At it's worst, it keeps people from reaching fitness goals. If you take away one thing from this entry, or at least this blog, it's that your strength is far less dependant on stuff than you think that it is. You can get yourself into great shape with a bare minimum of equipment.



pierini said...

I agree but in the same stroke of breath will acknowledge that I enjoy the gym where I train and its eclectric training approach mentality. I would have no trouble going solo anywhere and anytime.

I've reached out in my travels and had great training experiences by bouncing in to place and getting myself invited to train. My most memorable experience has got to a great karate workout at a dojo in Pescara, Italy.

Justin_PS said...

Ed, that's because you have an AWESOME gym to work out at, that's why. It's not exactly Planet Fitness!

So, you can stop rubbing it in... anytime now! ;)

Thanks for stopping in!

pierini said...


Next time you are close to my part of the world, give me a yell and let's get together. I'll take you over to Bodytribe and you'll get a great workout. Chip Conrad and you would get along really well.

I'll put you up in the VIP Suite at the worldwide headquarters of Pierini Fitness.

Take care and be safe!

Justin_PS said...

Thank you very much for the open invitation. If I'm in the area, I'll definetly take you up on that.

Be that as it may, I kind of hope that's not any time soon. I've had it with traveling for a while.

In the meantime, take care of yourself!