There was a popular book in the 1970s called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The book centered around the narrator and his friend. The friend just wanted to ride his bike and have it fixed whenever it broke, while the narrator was always carefully looking after his bike, evaluating, and diagnosing. The book was a philosophical hit using motorcycles as an analogy for other “vehicles” in our lives.
Indeed, riding bikes is great fun, but they are precise machines and require proper upkeep and maintenance or they can be ridden straight into the ground. Truthfully, I have always been that guy who just wants to ride the motorcycle. Partly this is because of all the gifts God bestowed upon me being handy wasn’t one of them. Partly though, this is simply because I am lazy. In my family when something was broken you got ‘the guy’ to come fix it. All well and good if you have the means to do so, but when it comes to our bodies, sometimes the guy can’t fix it.
We’re all big boys and girls and if we wan to play hard, proper maintenance is required. While others can help, ultimately, we are the drivers of our own vehicles and are responsible not only for driving but for upkeep as well. Here’s some tips on how to keep your vehicle in order for good hard driving:
Tip 1: Always Listen to the Engine
Sometimes if your car stereo is blaring you might not pick up on the engine sounding funny, or perhaps if you’re texting while driving you might not see the check engine light. Life in this day and age is full of the distractions and we in the fitness business have also jumped very much on the distraction bandwagon. Fine to take your mind off walking lunges or sprint intervals with some grooving tunes, but only if you’re also listening to your body.
I give an announcement at the start of every fitness class I teach as it relates to safety. As I am going over the safety parameters of our workout, I also weave in a little bit on paying attention to our bodies. In a dynamic exercise class there are a lot of moving parts and listening to our bodies doesn’t always occur naturally. This can be especially challenging to novice exercisers. But even experienced exercisers aren’t always adept at picking up cues of how they truly feel. This is because expectations and goals can supersede the actual reality of where our bodies presently are. People are trying to achieve the goals of the moment and while such drive is commendable, using perceived exertion should match those goals. In essence the question “How do I truly feel in this moment?” should drive the workout.
Every moment of every day our bodies are giving us information: I feel tired, I feel hung over, my knee hurts. My response: “Go with that.” Listen to that information and pay close attention. You can’t kill it every day and arrogance is just as egregious as being slothful. Some days it’s right to bust your butt, while other days it’s time to slow down. When we listen we succeed. In paying attention, proper attention is achieved.
Tip 2: Buy the Right Tires
One of the best investments you can make is in good footwear. It’s amazing that people will pay $80 an hour for their trainer and show up in old gym shoes they wore ten years ago. That or some of my ladies wear very fashionable flat-soled shoes that look cool, but aren’t made for running and jumping. You’ve got to be smarter than that. Again to the analogy – you wouldn’t buy a Porsche and put run-of-the-mill tires on it. Well, at least I wouldn’t.
In buying the right tires you should also have your gait evaluated. Looking at someone’s gait can tell us a lot. Pronation and supination can wreak havoc on our joints and many of us have been repeating these patterns for years. The right shoe can help correct the problem. If you haven’t had your running gait analyzed, you should so you can be fitted properly for the right footwear.
Tip 3: Put the Right Fuel in Your Vehicle
If your energy is low or you’re light headed, more often than not this is a function of fuel. I cannot tell you how many times over the years I have had people come blowing into the studio from work raring to go, only to make it half way through an intense workout and then bonk – they hit the wall and are done. The culprit here is fuel. You should be fueling 60-90 minutes before exercising with the right mixture of complex carbohydrates and quality protein. Nothing too heavy, but enough to make sure you have gas in the tank. I also like to have some Clif Shot Bloks (or a similar such product) on hand during exercise, in case I feel like I am hitting that wall. These blocks are easy to chew and are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. The also won’t upset your stomach. Of course, proper protein for recovery following a workout is also crucial, and the sooner the better. A natural whey protein isolate mixed with water should so the trick.
Tip 4: Ask for Directions If You’re Lost
Here’s yet another great bike analogy – when you’re lost you need to ask for directions. I received a comment card recently from a member who complained that instructors weren’t giving proper modifications for members with lower back issues. This was a bit of a head scratcher to me as she had been in my class and never mentioned anything to me. I am not a mind reader and while I try to cover all of my bases I can’t know what everyone needs at every moment unless they tell me. Sure, a high-energy exercise class can be an intimidating environment and sometimes speaking up might seem, well, intimidating. Admittedly, instructors are often very fit and can gear their energy, classes, and demonstrations to the more fit populations, but it’s important that novice exercisers and those with limitations feel just as welcome. However, those exercisers have a responsibility to communicate as well. If you ask your instructor for help and they don’t offer any, then I’d fill out a comment card.
Over the years I have learned many life lessons as it relates to my lifestyle in and around fitness and exercise, but none more important than providing my vehicle the proper maintenance. Getting the proper fuel, rest, and maintenance work is beyond important. If you want to keep your car running at performance level for well over 200,000 miles, you’ve got to drive your car properly and do your daily maintenance.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.