If you’re new to Man Flow Yoga, I may need to preface this by saying I was a typical college athlete when I found yoga on total accident. This blog explains my first experience with another female-dominated form of fitness, but also talks about why it’s actually a really good thing I wasn’t very good at it. [I sucked.]
Earlier this week I went to my first Pilates reformer class. This has been my girlfriend’s preferred form of fitness since I met her, but we’ve never had the chance to go together. I figured that it would be difficult. After all, I wasn’t going to make the same mistake I did with yoga before and assume that a form of female-dominated fitness was easy.
I’ve done a Pilates class on the floor before, but that wasn’t very difficult. It was similar to what I’ve seen with yoga, with a few variations and the added pulsing (which is a great way to get your muscles to burn).
But… I thought that I would at least be able to get through all of it without stopping. Wrong. I didn’t look up from what I was doing to see how well the girls in the class were doing (I was the only guy), but I’m hoping that I wasn’t the only one who took breaks. The particular class I attended had a surprising amount of lunges and core work, similar and yet quite different from what I do in yoga, but my legs were totally exhausted halfway through the class.
The instructor came over multiple times throughout the workout to correct me, repeating the same cue 4-5 times until I finally realized what she meant. This was only made more difficult as I tend to be a very visual learner. Speaking to me when I’m trying to learn something new is like getting me to understand a foreign language (one that I don’t speak, of course).
At one point, I nearly threw myself off the carriage when we started to do arm exercises, switching it from the 90% of the class focused on legs and abs. Fortunately I did not fall, and I hope that everyone in the class got to experience a good laugh!
All in all, I’d give myself a 5/10 on my first visit. Most of the time I didn’t know what I was doing. I looked around at the other participants and did my best to imitate them. I probably only completed 50% of the exercises. My form wasn’t great, and I’m sure that I cheated in a lot of exercises, because I was tired and my body couldn’t do any more.
The bottom line is I wasn’t that great at it. But you know what? I WAS REALLY EXCITED ABOUT THAT. And here’s why.
The more unfamiliar the exercise, the more potential benefit your body has to gain.
Doing new exercises makes you stronger than repeating exercises you are already familiar with over and over.
(This is the same experience I had when I started doing yoga in 2011. I was able to significantly improve strength, mobility, and balance within just a couple of months of attending yoga classes. Had I continued the traditional exercise program I was following (weights, sport-specific conditioning, running, and cross training) and not continued with yoga beyond my first class, there’s no WAY I would have increased my overall fitness to the degree that I did in just a couple of months.)
When you find something you’re not good at, KEEP DOING IT. Particularly when it comes to fitness, focusing on your WEAKNESSES has the most potential to increase your overall strength. If you have a really great downdog, but your squat is terrible, focus on your squat! You already have the strength and mobility for downdog – what you lack is the hip mobility and core strength for a good squat. You can practice what you already know and see modest gains, OR you could work on your weaknesses and get WAY stronger!
Does this mean that you should give up your entire fitness routine and start something you don’t know? Not at all! There are certain fitness movements that we need to be performing on a regular basis, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, ab exercises, mobility exercises for the spine, hips, shoulders, ankles, and restorative stretching to keep your body healthy. BUT, if you try out something new and discover some exercises you aren’t good at, avoiding them is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.
If you have a real desire to get stronger, you do the things you’re not good at. You push your comfort zones by adding on more weight, pushing yourself deeper than you did the day before, trying out new forms of fitness, and putting your body through new types of movement. Growth comes from moving outside of what you no – not staying within it.
If your only goal is to appear to be strong and in good shape, you do the exercises you know you can do in front of a mirror where other people can see you, drinking from a 1-gallon water jug, blasting music into your ears, and posting photos of yourself on Instagram. Those of you reading this now in your 40s and 50s who wish they had done more yoga and less lifting when you were younger – you know what I’m talking about.
Let’s talk a teeny bit more about comfort zones, and then I’ll finish up this blog with a one-liner to inspire you to get stronger and push yourself in new ways.
Last week JP Sears was in Austin for a book talk to promote his new book, and even though he’s an extremely funny guy on YouTube that specializes in spiritual parodies, he said something that really got me thinking. What he said also happens to be extremely relevant to our discussion here now. I’m paraphrasing, but he said:
“Growth, fulfillment, and meaning come from outside of our comfort zones. Comfort zones, on the other hand, contain comfort.”
Let’s apply this to fitness. If you have a sincere interest in growth, you must do what makes you uncomfortable! For me, this was a fitness class full of women doing exercises I’ve never done in my life. (Come to think of it, this is exactly what happened when I started yoga a few years ago!) For you, it could be starting yoga – ESPECIALLY if you aren’t that flexible, haven’t tried it before, or aren’t very good at it.
The point of this blog is to tell you that when you find a form of fitness or a particular exercise you aren’t good at, look at it as an opportunity for growth, rather than something to avoid doing. Growth comes from going outside your comfort zone – not staying in it!
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed!