Rant 38 January 2007: No perfect workout

By guest ranter Gus Sonnenberg

About a year ago I asked Krista to help me find the “perfect” workout. Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Well duh there’s no such thing.” Unfortunately, I’m not as smart as you are, so I went looking for one anyway. Krista, clearly recognizing that I needed to figure it out on my own, kindly referred me to some good resources and sent me on my way. This is the story of my search. I offer it to you during this season of resolutions. Keep it in mind as you set your goal for 2007.

My primary exercise in my early twenties was weightlifting. Nothing fancy, just the run of the mill bench, squat, and curls kind of thing you see most young men doing in the weight room. Well…maybe the squats were a bit unique. Thanks to a bit of commitment and a dash of discipline, I enjoyed all of the benefits the iron has to offer: strength, stress relief, and self-confidence. But then things changed.

In a span of three years I became a husband, lawyer, homeowner and father. All very cool things, but absolute schedule killers. In my struggle to adjust to these new roles I made a mistake: I stopped lifting weights and lost the benefits I desperately needed.

Then one day I’m passing the time by reading an old copy of Outside Magazine. This issue included an article explaining what workouts a man of adventure should do in each decade of his life. “Oh no,” I said to myself, “I’m not doing what I should be doing to stay in shape.” Next thing I know I’m running several times a week, and hating every step.

I’m grateful that the article got me moving, but it also gave me a bad idea: that there was a perfect workout that I should be doing. The Internet just made it worse. There are hundreds of websites, online publications, and blogs written by well-meaning people who strongly argue that their workout is the best and that everything else is a waste of time. Eventually I found one program that convinced my little brain that it would somehow turn me into a superhero. I was hooked.

I found a local affiliate and went to work convinced this was the perfect workout. It featured all kinds of cool stuff: kipping chin-ups, clean and jerks, tabatha squats, and so on. I dreamed about the amazing shape my body would take. So I went after the program full-speed. (A point should be made here: Krista told me to take it slow, I regret to say I did not listen.) In a short time, I got hurt. And not just once, but several times.

During one of these injury timeouts, I did some thinking. What am I doing? What do I want my body to be able to do? What could I do that would help my body do these things while avoiding injury?

Then it dawned on me. I’m a husband, lawyer, homeowner and father. I want to be able to:

  1. lift and carry everything in my house
  2. rake a yard of leaves and have enough energy to jump in the piles with my kids
  3. to carry a tired child to the car
  4. sprint across the street to save a child; and
  5. do all these things without pulling a muscle.

That and I want the strength, stress-relief, and self-confidence that only come from strength training. I want all of this in a workout that fits into my day.

With a little imagination, and a helping of Krista’s generosity, I created my own workout. It takes 20 minutes and fits snugly in the schedule. I had to be flexible. My work schedule changed and I lost my access to traditional weights. But I gained a park that includes bars for chins and dips, plus a good-sized rock just right for all kinds of odd lifting. I try to workout every day, which enables me to skip a workout without freaking out. The workouts focus on what I consider essential daddy skills: lifting, carrying, and sprinting. Since I set the pace my injuries are down. Plus I take the time to stretch out every night after putting the kids to sleep. It’s not perfect, but it fits.

When you are looking for a workout program to help you meet your goals in 2007 remember: there is no perfect workout. But you can create the best workout for you by taking the time to consider what you want your body to be able to do. Set your goals accordingly. Having trouble picking up your daughter and carrying her up the stairs? Make a sandbag and carry it up your back stairs for 20 minutes. Can’t play tag without wanting to throw up? Wake up a little early and run some short sprints in front of your house. You know what you need. You don’t need anyone’s permission or blessing. Just go and do it.

Happy new year!