Exercise v. Recreation…

Strength training isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure.

Strength training is done indoors. Golf is done outdoors.

Strength training is hard work. League softball is social, and fun.

Strength training might wreck your back. Walking is low-impact.

Strength training is for people who like to look in the mirror. Biking is for people who like to look at the scenery.

No, strength training isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. Ah, yes it is, and if you’re not currently including 1-2 days of strength training in your exercise regimen, you might be well advised to begin – today!

People who regularly engage in physical activities other than weight training as their primary form of exercise often spew these gasses at me from their volcanic mouths, often passionately opposed to the concept of strength training.

The afore mentioned assertions always end or start with this phrase; “I don’t need to lift weights because…”

People too often can’t identify, or won’t acknowledge the broad line between recreation and exercise. Or, they view it Americanly, through the eyes of rationalization. In fact, most of what people tell me they do as a means of improving their fitness level is recreation, and not exercise.

Rigorous exercise can be joy, poetry, prayer, therapy, and success, all rolled up into one sweaty ball of you. Exercise can be cleansing and beautiful. But understand that recreation is not always exercise, and that strength training is rarely recreation.

Recreation doesn’t always burn calories in bunches. Recreation doesn’t always strengthens muscles, tendons or promote balance. Recreation doesn’t always stave off the loss of bone density. Recreation doesn’t foster an increased flexibility and an increased metabolism. Not all recreation helps minimize blood pressure, cholesterol, and decrease body fat. Conversely, strength training, done correctly, isn’t always recreation – it can be work.

Strength training might make you sweat, may make you breathe hard, and can cause a person to become fatigued – in the short-term. Strength training can also be invigorating, in macro ways that general recreation can never reach. Done correctly, strength training, in my opinion, is the single most efficient form of exercise there is. To me that is the best part of strength training – its utility in a busy and modern world.

Yes, there are other forms of exercise that are not recreation, and they are good: Yoga, Pilates, and group classes such as Step, ball classes, kickboxing classes, and just plain old cardio and calisthenics. I’m never going to talk down about any form of exercise. Exercise, like music, sex and pizza, knows no bad, only different levels of good.

Strength training can be superior to all of the others because strength training, done correctly, can be all of the others. With proper management, a consistent strength training regimen can bear all the depth, width and breadth of the entire modern exercise spectrum.

If you work a strength exercise through a complete range of motion, the act of strength training is simply the act of yoga – intensified. Intensified because the resistance is serving to help you achieve your stretches and postures more completely.

No different than Pilates, strength training is the act of flexion and contraction. If you hold your muscular extensions, and muscular contractions at either end of a strength training movement, then you are attaining what those who engage in Pilates seek to attain; a greater command of your muscular body.

If you select challenging (but never excessive)weights, keep your rest minimal between the sets of your strength training exercises, and seek to engage all the major muscles groups throughout your workouts, you can be take your strength workout into a cardio state – one unequalled by those hi-impact group classes.

If you strive to increase concentration and body-awareness from strength workout to strength workout, you promote a Zen-like mental clarity similar to that you might experience in intense prayer.

If you have done all of the above in a 30-40 minute workout, you have used efficiency to rinse your body with the warm waters of health, longevity, and clarity.

Bottom line: Keep your bowling night. Play softball. Golf. Ride your horse along the trail. Ski the black diamond’s of Vail, and conquer croquet. If you are looking for recreation, you have found it. If you are looking for exercise, may I suggest strength training…? Rhetorical. Be well. rc

2 responses

  1. Perhaps there are some people whose jobs give them plenty of muscle stressors to maintain their strength, but I’m sure the majority of folks do not get this on the job training!
    For those, weight lifting or even properly applied body weight workouts are very important.
    Thanks for this heads up to a very necessary, and often neglected area of health and fitness!
    Excuse me, but I’ve got a 50 lb bag of feed to carry to a grateful horse, and some very tight lids on jars that need opening!

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