Unexpected Lessons on Training and Happiness – From Wine

Exercise and health isn’t just about what you do, it’s about what’s behind your motivation. Do what works.

Well, it is official – meat makes you die again, and now, so does wine. At least I can anticipate the cause of my demise as opposed to worrying about being eaten by a shark or losing in the Hunger Games.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I started attending a wine class. We talk about viticulture and regional differences between wines, along with tasting a bunch of awesome stuff. In the middle of one of our lectures, I started to drift off and compare wine and training in my head while blind tasting an American chenin blanc. Here is what I came up with:

Wine and training are:

  1. As serious as you want it to be.
  2. Based on some key foundational concepts, but ultimately driven by personal preference.
  3. Ultimately meant to bring happiness and enjoyment to our lives.

So how can my thoughts benefit you and your own routine? As our sommelier, Tim, always says before we dive in to our discussions – let’s taste.

It Ain’t That Serious

I haven’t always been fit. In fact, I was unhealthy and overweight for a long time. As an “exercise scientist,” I could sit here and write a pretty thorough article on why the elliptical machine is not an ideal way to spend your time in the gym. What my personal experience tells me, though, is that listening to the Pussycat Dolls while jamming on the Precor three times a week empowered me to make significant changes in my life. So yeah, you can definitely lose fat on the elliptical machine. Lots of people have.

wine, exercise, perspective, before and after

Me: Before and After Precor and Pussycat Dolls

Similarly, I haven’t always cared about the specifics of wine. Sometimes, I still don’t. For example, my favorite wines are from the Chatâeuneuf-du-Pape in France. They are bold, scratchy, and leathery, especially depending on the vintage. You want to know something, though? I love cheap wine, too. Sometimes I just care to taste some warm grapes and don’t care about the nuances. If it is a beautiful night, and you have a bottle of something, then yes – I would love a glass, thank you.

A Story From the Gym

The concept of personal preference is becoming lost in our “here today, gone tomorrow” Internet meme culture, especially in fitness. Trainers are prone to “writing it for the likes” and our information is getting further and further away from practical application. Does Zumba build strength or stimulate the hormones and metabolic pathways that are most conducive to fat loss? No, not exactly. Here is a story, though:

I worked with a wonderful woman who was enthusiastic about getting started in the gym, but also nervous. She was middle-aged and in an obese condition, and it was her first time participating in traditional exercise. After brainstorming a plan to help her feel more comfortable, I said, “Let’s take the Tuesday Zumba class together.” Considering that I dance like Elaine in Seinfeld, I was hoping that our mutual struggle would put her at ease.

“Seeing someone motivate herself to let go of fear, be in the moment, and simply enjoy moving – it still makes me emotional as I type this.”

What did I find in that class? Support and community. Despite the punch in, punch out vibe at our commercial gym, the people who attended that class all seemed to know each other. The instructor was positive and enthusiastic, and I actually found the continual dancing to be challenging. Even though I was in good enough shape to be rowing some solid 500m splits at the time, I was covered in sweat by the end of the class.

In the last few minutes, the instructor rounded everyone up in a dance circle. There was no way in hell I was getting in the middle of that thing, because it would have looked like this:

But my client? She Zumba-ed right into that damn circle. It was one of the coolest things ever. Seeing someone motivate herself to let go of fear, be in the moment, and simply enjoy moving – it still makes me emotional as I type this.

The Best Education Is Experience

At the end of the day, things don’t always have to be so serious all the time. An article doesn’t have to link to thirteen scientific studies for it to be meaningful. In fact, the last time I clicked through to the citations in an article, almost all of them were either unrelated to the content or (even better) had conclusions that refuted the author’s claims.

Just like wine, there are basic facts that can elevate one concept over another. A Chatâeuneuf-du-Pape will always be more complex and nuanced than what you find on the shelf at a grocery store. Heavy volume squats will always be a more effective mode of body recomposition than a Spin class.

“Let’s take the Tuesday Zumba class together.” Considering that I dance like Elaine in Seinfeld, I was hoping that our mutual struggle would put her at ease.”

But the true meaning in these things is up to you. I know how it felt to finish my first 5K, so I will never, regardless of what I read, convince someone not to run. I have people ask me all the time where they can find the white zinfandel on our wine list, and even though I might laugh in my head, I try to help them find something they will love.

Why? Because a couple weeks ago, we were blind tasting some rosés, and here are my tasting notes for the two wines:

wine, wine chart, food pairings

The whole class was pretty much in agreement on these wines – both good. The first wine was missing a little balance, but still delicious. I guessed it to be a rosé of pinot noir, possibly from California or Oregon, especially after wine number two turned out to be a rosé of gamay from France.

But when Tim took the foil off, what was it?

Beringer white zinfandel.

I guess I’m not so fancy after all.

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Photo 1 courtesy of Shutterstock.

Photo 2 courtesy of Shannon Khoury.

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