Training Without A Gym, The Minimalist Edition

The reason that I’m writing a new series based on how to train effectively without a gym is because there are many reasons why you or me sometimes don’t want to go to that particular environment, but still want to engage in a workout that is at least as beneficial. One of the best reasons I can think of for not wanting to go to a gym is the need for solitude. We all live active lives that at times feel like they border on playing the role of ringmaster in the circus of life, and exercise of any sort is the perfect escape and release valve for all of the pent up pressure that threatens to blow our heads clean off of our shoulders. It’s with that external stimulus that we at times need a break from.

As I’m trying to write this I’m simultaneously attempting to mediate and give attention to my two boys. So why would I always want to head to a gym where the music is too loud and the clanging of weights will prevent me from escaping the insanity of my own existence? I already have way to much over stimulation of many kinds during my days. What we sometimes need is the polar opposite to feel recharged and reinvigorated.

If variety is the spice of life, then any change to your traditional routine will at least make the grind of training more enjoyable. As much as those of us that get up each day excited to train are about the process, the reality is that it’s mentally and physically tiring to do the same thing day in and day out. Our bodies always welcome a new experience, and our excitement as we embark on the road less traveled is proof enough that our soul needs occasional change as well.

On those mornings that I feel overwhelmed and the day hasn’t even started yet, sometimes I head to a place that soon enough will be a hive of activity. At six am however, I’m the only one there. Where is this great escape from those kids that I love, but still need a break from? Ironically it’s to the local school where there’s a track and a playground side by side.

There is nothing in this human made concrete and steel environment known as the city of Toronto that is more effective as an unintentional training facility as a metal playground structure. It makes perfect sense that it would work as such, as it’s designed to be used as a children’s exercise and play facility. Adults are after all just the larger version of the kid. Well physically anyway.

With the combination of monkey bars to do chin ups and pull ups from, slides to climb up as well as various rope ladders. There are regular ladders to do multiple different angles of push up/triceps exercises and really anything you can create while you’re there. I’ll be the first to admit that lifting weights does not lend itself well to being creative and for that reason alone it’s a nice change of pace as well as a way to have a training session completely by yourself, before most of the city has awoken.

As those of you that visit here daily(thank you by the way!) know, I’ve been really into the shorter workouts that incorporate multiple exercises as well as a sprinting element. The circuit of your choice at the playground is limited only by your imagination. This is both the time and place to try new things and see if they work. Ever done a pull up, to a swing to the next bar, then do a chin up and repeat until you’ve swung the length of the monkey bars? I bet you haven’t, and furthermore I challenge you to give it a try. If you can complete that exercise combination one way, then try turning around and making it back.

That is just one example of how you are going to be forced to use your mind in a way that you don’t have to in a gym. In any gym that you frequent the exercises and methods of executing them are likely laid out before you, one way or another. On the playground much like in life, you are going to be forced to be inventive. The more experimentation you subject yourself to, the more you’ll learn about your own physical limits.

That last part has a great carry over effect when or if you return to the gym. All of a sudden some of those straight forward exercises seem easier now that you’ve conquered the monkey bars as and adult. The strength of your body really does stem from the strength of your mind. I’m speaking in relative terms here because there are many factors that determine your potential for strength, but regardless of who you are there’s a good chance you have room to grow.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the sprinting element that I feel belongs in every good circuit. Work the muscles to near exhaustion, then push yourself one further with a sprint. Maybe it’s just me but I find this combination simultaneously draining and invigorating. Remember that track beside the playground? Sprint, skip, or run a full lap to finish off. You’ll be tired, but really all you’ve been doing is what a kid would do for fun.

That is a big reason why we find physical exercise such a necessary part of our lives. It feeds our mind, body and soul. It re awakens our inner child. That part of us that craves the simplicity of pure, unadulterated play. So take back the playground and give your innermost self what it needs most: fun. Until next time,

Happy Lifting.

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