Photo by: practicalowl
It took me a long time to learn this lesson. If I bought a book or picked one out from the library, I felt an obligation to read it, even if reading the book was not an enjoyable experience. I had to train myself to believe that it was OK to put down a less than enjoyable book.
If within a few chapters the book hasn’t grabbed you, it’s not going to suddenly come alive in your hands. As long as I give the book a fair chance, then I have permission to put the book down and try another one. I don’t recall any Eureka moment, where I came to this conclusion. Rather, over time, I had to face up to the fact that Life is Too Short to Read Bad Books.
A bad workout plan or exercise regime should be treated the same way. Again, you have to give it a fair shot, like certain books some programs take a little commitment before they really get going. And, you have to pay attention and keep up with the plot. But, if you find that every time you’re going to the gym it’s a grind, it’s time to find another program. Seriously, like reading a good book before bed, going to the gym should be something that you look forward to. Life’s Too Short for Workouts to be Drudgery.
And, if you’re not mindful, drudgery can creep into the system. Here’s a personal example. Before I started reading and listening to conversations between people super serious about fitness and way smarter than me, I’d never heard of a back off week…lowering the training load for a block of time.
One such super smart person is Dan John. This fall I started experimenting with training inspired by Dan’s One Lift a Day program. Dan maps out a four week plan. Each week the weights and reps change. What’s week four look like? Week Four: Off!
At first glance, week four was the weirdest thing about this program. I had never intentionally taken a week off. Once I decided to give the program a fair chance, a strange thing happened. Knowing that I was working toward week four, I worked harder during the other weeks.
To my surprise, during the first days of week four, resting felt natural. My mind and body welcomed the opportunity to forget about getting to the gym. Then, about five days into week four, I was really looking forward to cycling back into a new week one. So much so, that during ensuing turns through this cycle, I have had a couple of cheat days during week four, where I went to the gym to work on form or experiment with new exercises, nothing strenuous, just having fun in the gym.
Like a good book, this particular program has grabbed my attention and I am enjoying it to the fullest. Just as people have different tastes in books, they have different tastes in exercise and exercise programs. A backoff week may not be for you. Like my friend Nick Horton, you might be a Bulgarian at heart gradually pushing and adapting the body to new levels of stress every day…with No Days Off!
There is no accounting for taste, which is why I have adopted a general rule against giving books as gifts. I don’t want anyone feeling like they have an obligation to slog through a book that I thought they would love, but it turns out they hate. There is no excuse for not facing up to the reality that life is too short to waste your time on a joyless obligation to finish something that is meant to be enjoyable, but isn’t.
My advice, you can’t read them all, so don’t waste your time on books you don’t enjoy and given the wide variety of choices for exercise and strength training, don’t waste time on programs that don’t grab your interest or that have become drudgery.