Getting into Shapes

Many times fitness and exercise are based around cardiovascular fitness, high calorie burns, body image, or becoming more flexible. “I want to be in better shape” may include one or more of these ideas depending on your own personal history and goals.

  1. Better cardiac health means more running or spin class.
  2. Better flexibility means more stretching.
  3. Better calorie burn means doing high intensity interval training.   
  4. Better body image means doing muscle toning/isolation exercises.

Trying to separate all of these out into different workouts or parts of a workout is very time intensive and demanding. At the same time, trying to isolate separate aspects of fitness will lead you to miss out on a lot of other opportunities that movement and exercise presents.

  1. Running and cycling does increase your heart rate, but it is a predominantly leg based workout and your upper body misses out on the cardiovascular load.   
  2. Holding stretches for 10-30 seconds does have some physiologic benefit, but it only focuses on the fully lengthened position of a muscle rather than the control needed to transition into and out of that position.
  3. High intensity interval training is typically a whole body workout that will burn a lot of calories at a high heart rate, but people often get sloppy with form during these workouts and push through fatigue almost as a form of self punishment.
  4. Exercises that are focused on a specific muscle, again have physiologic benefit to that muscle tissue, but completely leaves out how that muscle works with other parts of your body to complete an actual task.

Our fitness endeavors are better spent focusing not only on getting into “better shape”, but rather getting into, out of, and transitioning between different shapes...positions, postures, poses, forms, etc.

  1. Spend a few minutes on the ground crawling around and feel your heart rate go up as you use your arms and legs.  
  2. If you want your hamstrings to be more flexible, practice getting up and down from the floor in various ways using your hand(s) to lower yourself and then to push yourself back up.
  3. If you want to know when something is too intense, make sure there is an element of balance or skill in the exercise you are performing and you will notice a drop in performance when you get tired and can allow yourself to rest. (Breath holding is a good indicator too.)
  4. If you want to work a specific muscle group, find movements that use that muscle that also resemble completing an actual human task like walking, carrying, climbing, crawling.

Good news...you can do all of this at the same time!  Personally, I practice Jiu-Jitsu and use Animal Flow as the foundations of my movement and exercise routine. It’s a lot of fun and I get to watch myself become more flexible and stronger without stretching or counting sets and repetitions. The more you try to separate things, the more you miss out on and the more work you create for yourself in the long run. The more you can integrate and stack things together, the more you can accomplish.