listen to your body, not to your heart rate watch. Move as the whim takes you, not according to a training plan.
A plea for a bold change of perspective
No doubt, our body is capable of many things. We can see that in the performances of Tour de France cyclists, Ironman finishers or mountain climbers. Looking at professional athletes or ambitious hobby athletes like these can motivate us in our own training workload. However, it can also make us go beyond the current limit of our body’s performance and motivation. You can often see that in the posture and faces of hobby athletes. Whether it’s a jogger or a road racer in the hot summer sun, or gym rats in the hottest days of summer in the sweaty course room or on the cross trainer.
What motivates ambitious sportsmen to accomplish enormous bodily workloads? What makes hobby athletes go beyond what their own motivation? Why can you trust yourself more than heart rate watches, tracking apps, and step counters? How can sport become more fulfilling and fun instead of only being strenuous? And how can you bring more sense and feeling in your movement program with outdoor training like Functional Training? You’ll get the answers here.
I’m not a machine…
I’m a human being made from flesh and blood. In his song released in 2016, Tim Bendzko sings about the monotony of functioning. This monotony reigns over many an athlete: rigid training plans that demand to be followed; a dietary change to the next big super food for more power and less body fat; steadily increasing weights and resistances regardless of muscle pain or fatigue; a mindless process of training with one eye on the step counter and MP3 player while your thoughts are concentrated on your dinner.
If you also feel like this, then you’re not alone. This is the frustrating reality in almost all gyms worldwide, every day. And more: this is a mindless, qualitative inferior, and ineffective way to train. But don’t feel too bad. I’ve been the same for years.
We can observe this development in many social areas, sport is just one of them. The performance society finds its way to the playgroup: which child can do x first? Early intervention in kindergarten, followed by a rigid school program and university or apprenticeship. Burnout, more serious illnesses in younger and younger years or a lack of perspective round out this picture. Functioning as little gears without questioning anything? Or breaking free like Tim Bendzko in the video to the aforementioned song?
Go push yourself
Udo Bölts pushed his then-team captain Jan Ullrich to the Tour de France victory in 1997 with the legendary exclamation ‘torture yourself, you sod’. Functioning is the first priority in professional sports as well. But why?
In order to understand this, we need to extend the notion of the human being as a purely physical body with ongoing biochemical processes with his/her thoughts and feelings as well as with his/her intellectuality. These aspects might already be touched by sport psychology and mental training for athletes. Simplonik as a science of simplicity deduces it from natural laws.
Everything starts when we are conceived and born as a child. At some point, whether it’s in our mother’s womb or as a baby or in kindergarten, we experience not being accepted as who we are. Maybe it was just because we were crying when the grown-ups had to be focused on something else because they were stressed. Nevertheless, this experience seems threatening. After all, we need a community in order to survive – especially as a child. Now, we start looking for ways to assure recognition. We think the community likes us when we function like they expect us to.
With this procedures like these we learn many truths and belief systems in our lifetime. Example: ‘Only when you are fast and strong you’re worth something’. ‘You can only make something of yourself if you assert yourself’. ‘I am only proud of you when jump from the 5 m diving board’. Our individual belief systems are our world view and shape our ambition. Ambition for performance and adaptation which – so we hope – brings attention.
The described process can be found in every human. If we don’t understand it, it can become a tragic incentive for never-satisfying strain. Personal records can be achieved in this way but always with the lingering doubt whether they are already good enough or not. Or could it also have been even better? Thus, you torture yourself with lifting ever-increasing weights, climbing higher and higher mountains, always running faster and further. At some point, you don’t even fit through the door with your mountains of muscle. But: a real sense of accomplishment can never be achieved. Instead, the euphoria over a newly accomplished goal is quickly followed by inner emptiness. And the automatic circle of searching for a new goal leads to the compulsion to accomplish new, often even higher, workloads.
I am a human being made of flesh and blood
The recent developments show that you listen more to the heart rate watches, step counters, and rules of thumb of trendy guidelines than your inner voice. You don’t feel like jogging any further but you have only burned 400 calories yet? Then keep going. You have been doing bench pressing with 110 kg for the last three weeks, so not it’s time for 10 kg more. Even though shoulder is acting up for weeks now. Do you think this has nothing to do with your needs, your inner voice and your feelings towards training?
The secret is balance: active and restorative phases should be in balance throughout the day. In the wild, activity has almost always to do with fight or flight and is a mechanism to secure survival. It goes hand in hand with stress. Muscles are contracted for powerful movements. Once survival is guaranteed the organism changes back to relaxation and restoration.
Responsible for controlling this balance are the complementary forces, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Life, and with it your movement program and sport, becomes involuntarily difficult as soon as activity predominates.
No question: strenuous movements like in training or sport can be accounted to activity. And still, there is an intuitive performance and passion limit. This limit communicates via feelings at first. No motivation, a desire for something different, boredom, or the need for fresh air are only a few examples how our body communicates with us. If we choose to ignore these feelings – and rather listen to our fitness gadgets – our body will change to other signals like muscles acting up, pain or lack of energy. Psyche and body go hand in hand.
Learn the art of movement
With the derivation of motivation for sport in mind, we can understand the true sense of movement: no matter which movement or sport you choose, the true sense only unfolds as soon as you concentrate your focus and feeling on the doing. You are suddenly free from thoughts about what could happen. You only feel true focus on the moment. Your search for recognition moves into the background. Your body is in action and yet relaxed and sensible. Your feelings are open and free.
Let’s take an example to clarify this: if e.g. you go up a steep mountain you can either take a sniveling look up at the mountain top and then at your heart rate watch. Or you are so caught up in the action and the moment that you are fully concentrated on every single step. The next step is always the most important one.
How can we accomplish this in our movement or sport program? Human beings have five senses. By using them we experience the world. This sounds simple enough and is clear to most people. However, there are impressive example from the gym where we don’t understand this: we spend most of our day inside and for our workouts we go inside as well. Temperatures are almost always nice, we have mastered the art of steady lighting conditions 24 hours a day, and sounds – sometimes even noises – are always present. If the music ng from the gym’s sound system isn’t enough we add music from our MP3 players. Thus, we can divert ourselves from the monotony of our training program by selecting another song every three minutes. This sensory overload is strenuous, our nervous system reacts stressed. The sympathetic nervous system is activated.
If we go out into nature and achieve tranquility to appreciate it, however, we experience a bandwidth of seemingly endless sensory perception. And we experience it on a level that is natural and processible for us human beings. The wind in our hair, in our face, and on our skin, the countless color nuances of leaves or the stillness in which we recognize a multitude of bird voices, crickets, and the rain hitting puddles and leaves. Your own life starts to have enormous depth. We live and feel reconnected to nature.
We can implement our sport program into this state of being one with nature and the environment. The flexibility of Functional Training with its light and simple equipment or endurance sports make us independent from exterior conditions like opening hours and allow us to train as we feel like in the moment. And when your body demands for a break in the middle of it: grant it one. By accepting your individual performance limit and feeling your desire for movement at maybe completely different hours than normally, you can reach a new fulfilling movement program after some time of reorientation. Sport then becomes a game more and more. Though strenuous in the moment but fulfilling since you don’t think about anything else. Have fun rediscovering your naturalness.