Do Cartwheels: Why You Need Learning and Fun in Your Training

I’ve discovered training is much more enjoyable when I’m outdoors and when I’m learning new things. How do you keep challenging yourself, and are you still having fun?

The gym and life are a lot alike. For any shot at being successful you have to come to terms with being uncomfortable. We all know that the most productive workouts are the ones that push us to a new level. Perhaps it is that one sparring partner who you can never lay a glove on, or it’s a certain exercise that is your own personal struggle.

Many people these days will turn away from adversity. They’ve made themselves too comfortable. Newton’s first law pretty much says that an object at rest will remain at rest unless it has its ass kicked in order to get it moving. Did you know that obesity statistics show that if you are forty or more years old and overweight or obese you are likely to stay that way until you die? I won’t go into all the possible psychological reasons behind many people’s obesity, but being comfortable with having a completely reversible life-threatening condition is, to me, odd. Changing shape – in this case going from being motionless on the couch – will require a special kind of kick in the ass, particularly if that individual has been at rest for some time.

One of the things I like most about training is that the mental strength you get from training – the discipline, the ability to persevere and the ability to withstand hardship – all transfer to the rest of our lives. Like getting up when it’s cold and dark outside and running anyway because your plan says to, or juggling kids, training, and other chores so that you fit them all in. And all this makes managing your time at work seem easy in comparison.

Over the last twelve months I’ve had more fun training than I have had in years. There are two main reasons. Firstly, it’s because training for Ironman Melbourne meant I’ve been training outside. Vitamin D is part of a healthy and happy body, and I’ve found that I really enjoy being outside a lot more than I remembered. Over the last four weeks since Ironman I’ve felt nowhere near as happy or content as I did leading up to it. So the first thing people should do is get outside. Winter in Australia isn’t anywhere near as harsh as some other places, but I managed to train outdoors all last year. I’m a firm believer that training outside prevents colds as well as reduces allergies.

mental strength, learning, learning new sports, learning new skillsThe second reason, the main one, is simple: learning a new thing is awesome. It has been a great journey to be able to focus on learning the ins and outs of a new sport (in my case, triathlon). From training to gear to eating to planning out my weeks to fit it all in the last year has been a great educational experience. Along with the knowledge I’ve gained, which will help my clients enormously, I’ve had great fun seeing my skills in the three triathlon disciplines increase too. Most of my training has been fairly stagnant for years, so being involved in something where I got to see increases regularly again was great.

But now that’s finished and what do I do? While I have plans to do some more racing again over summer, I also want to have a bit of fun in a structured variety kind of way. This transitional period between specific preparation and beginning the same thing again for next summer is typically called the transition phase and it’s useful to let the body and mind freshen up for more training later.

During this period I have some odd sounding goals:

Stretch more. I used to “almost” be able to do the splits. I’m pretty sure I can get back to not just “almost” but actually doing the splits. It’s going to take some work though. Believe it or not, hard stretching, like the kind required to get to the splits as an adult, is every bit as taxing as a hard weight lifting session and can leave you sore for days.

Mastering the way my body moves is a large part of my current goals. It may sound childish but part of this goal is a good cartwheel in both directions. Like many, I can do one side but not the other with any semblance of skill. I’ll be happy when they both look the same.

A freestanding handstand is a good goal. I’ve been working on that for about two months now. One of the reasons I want more flexibility is so that I can hold both a pike and straddle position better. (And a straddle sit to handstand just looks cool).

mental strength, learning, learning new sports, learning new skillsOn top of those three goals I’m going to stick with a pared down outdoor training plan that sees me continue running, swimming, and riding a bit, so I keep getting my precious outdoor fix even during our winter. I noticed today that my esteemed editor, Becca Borawski, has started to experience that when she gets outside and starts her day with a two to three mile walk the rest of the day is better.

What’s the point of all this? To have some fun. I’m writing this a day after teaching a Primal Move certification where we place a lot of emphasis on fun. Coincidentally, it also happens to be the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. Right now the world could use some fun and it could use looking at things from a new perspective. Learning new skills, meeting new people, and seeing things from a fresh perspective could be quite good right now. The long-term gains from learning a new skill will pay off in the long run by leaving you free from burn out, injury, and boredom.

Go have some fun.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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