How to navigate a new workout plan you’re developing yourself, via my own personal experience:
1. Be Creative.
Decide what kind of energy or trait you’re trying to create.
Is it stamina? Is it speed? Power?
Whatever it is, the type of feeling you’re trying to create will be tied into something you enjoy doing or feeling. You’re either trying to develop power because you want to lift more things more easily, (like your kids? Or your brother or sister’s kids?), or you just love the feeling of feeling powerful. Either way you’ve pegged the thing you’re trying to develop to something that you actually care about and can enjoy the creation of.
You are Zeus on a mountaintop acting as a builder of worlds
Then create a workout with that intention behind it.
Intention over strict construction frees your mind to come up with anything it wants and will keep you engaged in the process. If I intend to go out dancing to build my ability to have fun or I intend to go dance to get a good workout it will change the way I handle things, move, and say yes or no to ideas that may pop up along the way that either support my intentions or distract from them. Your intentions at any given moment will shape the activities you do.
2. Don’t make yourself hate it.
This is the number one thing.
Intention will carry you over into doing activities that aren’t “fun” – like walking up a mountain or doing cardio – because they support how you actually want to feel. But you can still make an intentional experience miserable if you try.
I refuse to make myself hate my workout.
If that means I start a new activity by doing a lower amount than I’m capable of, then great.
Unpleasant activity + submaximal output = look forward to it the next day and the next
My body actually likes to work hard, my brain has other ideas about it. As it should, as an energy conservator. Thanks, Brain.
When I drain myself by doing just the right amount of something that makes my body work hard, BUT I STOP before I actually want to die, guaranteed the next day I feel bouncy and energized. All that electricity I forced around makes me feel available and connected to the meat suit I’m wearing. I built energy rather than lost it.
The message I use is to make sure I QUIT WHILE I’M HAVING FUN. The last flavor in my mouth is fun, and I want to do it again.
We’ve all had some kind of experience as kids where we may have had a good time playing the piano then were forced to play just long enough that we hated it.
As adults we pretty much 100% of the time force ourselves to do something past the point of enjoyment. It’s unlikely someone is actually forcing you to, and if they are, you’re letting them. Say no once in a while, dummy. That will also feel stronger.
3. Warmup and cooldown
In @ruffolous’s post a while ago, she screenshot a text message where somebody realized warmups and cooldowns are really for your central nervous system and sense of safety. Eureka!
You do a hard thing suddenly and the body freaks out.
You do a hard thing and suddenly move to your next activity instead of making sure you are ok in between, body tightens up.
The tightness you might feel after a workout might be more about how you didn’t reassure your system so it retracted rather than you “made your muscles tight”.
A cooldown of stretching, relaxing, checking in, etc, is the self-equivalent of rubbing a child’s shoulders that’s just been through a hard or shocking time instead of saying, “GET IN THE CAR.”
A warmup is like the coach (you) telling your body exactly what it can expect instead of playing a terrifying game of Surprise. It can be done mentally or physically, range of motion or playfulness to create ease. I experiment with this constantly depending on my INTENTION for the work ahead. For example, I used to stretch to warm up for big international Jiu-Jitsu tournaments until I realized I wanted to feel compact and contained so then I started doing isometrics and contractile work. I don’t want my limbs far away from me most of the time when I’m fighting, so why build that into my prep work? Gentle stretching can come in the cooldown when I tell myself, “good job.”
You gotta relax to advance. Yin to the yang. Pretend you care about yourself until you see the benefits enough to actually care. Har har. Ugh.
4. You gotta be nice to yourself.
That means work hard enough that you did have to work hard, but not hard enough that you stopped enjoying it (see #2).
You don’t patronize yourself. And you don’t berate yourself either.
In time you get to be more honest with the way you feel and eventually stop lying to yourself in either direction.
But no matter what you have to be encouraging. Nobody wants to do a job where there’s no appreciation, and same goes for you in your life. Your job is living, after all. Make sure you encourage yourself to want to live, to workout, to do things that are beneficial to the way you feel. Bigger, faster, stronger, makes no difference if you also don’t know how to relax and enjoy it.