So often, we look at exercise as a way to change our appearance. If you look at the goal of most exercises, they actually have some sort of real life implication – either directly or indirectly. For instance, sitting down in a chair and getting up is just a regular squat. Having had several knee operations, one thing that the doctors all said is, “So, you know you can’t squat anymore…” In real life, what that really means is that I can’t sit in a chair or get back up, I can’t get in or out of my car, and I can’t use the bathroom—all because I can’t squat. These are all day to day activities. Squats are one of those primary movements that we do all the time; we just don’t think about it as an exercise.
When I was young, I'd spring right back up.
Think about getting down on the floor and getting back up. I remember as a young person, if I got down on the floor, I’d spring right back up—it’s just what young people do. Well, now it’s an exercise—in the gym, we call it a “Turkish Get-up.” The exercise has sort of taken the segments of getting on the floor and getting back up and is used to help us get stronger and better at it.
When carrying the groceries into the house—most of us are trying to get all of the groceries all in one trip. We’ve got ten bags, with the weight oddly distributed in each hand, and into the house we go. In the gym, we call that a “farmer’s walk”— the goal is to strengthen your core, your lower body, and improve your balance. Its name comes from the old days when people would carry water, or milk, or whatever from the barn or from the spring into the house. Going over the river and through the woods, the goal was to not spill what was being carried. We’ve made that into an exercise now.
As you get older, you'll need to be stronger to live the life you want.
You might be thinking, “Why is this important?” Particularly with the way our lifestyles are now. Well, our bodies haven’t changed much since then, and we now live much longer. For us to have productive longevity that allows us to remain independent, we need to be strong in those day to day movement patterns. At some point, as we get older, we start to get weaker. So the question becomes, “where did you start?” If you start out fairly weak, as you get older, it gets way worse. But if you start out strong, as you get older, your body’s ability to function at a high level stays pretty high, especially if you continue to work at it. That strength will allow you to live the kind of life you want to live. And that’s ultimately what your exercise experience should be—your exercise program should make it so that you are able to live life on your own terms with the freedom to do the things that you want.
Think about what you really need to live a better life.
It’s clear that the gym has many uses—looking better and feeling better should always happen, as should moving better and having better balance. The gym is an artificial environment that is intended to mimic the things in nature that we no longer do, but need to be able to do.
So often, what we get from our workout experience has nothing to do with what we see on the outside—it’s what happens on the inside that really counts. If you can move better, or breathe better, and have better balance, then your end result is living better.
- Bill Burnett