“What do you do to stay in shape?”

This question comes around quite often and is asked in the context of me being one or more of the following things:

– a guy a couple years from 40
– a dad, particularly of 4
– a lifetime/former athlete
– a personal trainer
– obstacle course connoisseur
– ninja warrior trainee
– generally active human
– lover of all things playful and fun

The shortest and simplest answer to how I stay in shape is “be as active as life allows.” The much longer but far more descriptive answer is “I move around a lot, play often, challenge my body in new ways, strive to conquer new things, let my creativity guide me, listen to my body, learn from kids, try new things and try not to hurt myself while generally being as active as time, energy and life allows.”

Part 1 – My Exercise Philosophy

I am a lover of almost all things exercise, sport, play and fitness oriented and incorporate many different things into my weekly, monthly and yearly physical fitness approach. Often the season or different exposures or awarenesses will guide my specific training approach or focus but typically I move in as many different ways as I can. I’m not married to any exercise routine, realm or dogma and I think that variety is the spice of life, particularly when it comes to exercise, fitness and movement.

Before going any further, a few things need to laid out that provide background and foundation to my philosophy:
– I have been active my whole life.
– I have played sports since the age of 5.
– I have a long history with exercise and am an advanced mover.
– I have worked out in gyms and with weights since the age of 20.
– I have tried just about every exercise and movement discipline out there.
– I have never been out of shape.
– I work in an active profession and have a schedule that allows for exercise.
– I have been a personal trainer for almost 15 years.
– I have trained hundreds of people and studied thousands of people move.
– I have had a long time passion for learning about and developing my knowledge of human movement and performance.
– I love the human body and movement.
– I am a big believer in taking cues from nature and our historical human behaviors.

With those things in context, here are some notes on my exercise philosophy…

I don’t have a exercise/fitness program. I live an exercise/fitness life. I exercise when I can and feel like it but most of my staying in shape these days is a result of playing, trying new things and incorporating active things into my life.

I have no set exercise schedule. Some days I exercise for an hour and a half, others it’s for 5 minutes. Some weeks I’m active almost every day, others it’s just a day or two.

I very rarely work out inside a gym or with weights. Almost everything I do involves bodyweight training and is done outdoors. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve worked out inside this year.

I want to move and feel well, this is more important than looking good. I am as vain as the next guy but as I get older and spend more time studying myself and others move the more I value performance and function over aesthetics.

I am a movement jack of all trades, master of none. I appreciate mastery of movements/styles/skills but would rather be good at multiple things. To me, specializing in things is fine for the short term but leads to more risk, despite the reward.

I look at movement like nutrition. Different movements disciplines activities are like vitamins. In order to be healthy you need a well balanced diet that includes many different and nourishing movements.

No two workouts are ever the same. As I mentioned before, variety is key for me. I want to experience something new almost every time I move. I’m always open to trying new things and experimenting with new ways of moving my body.

I try to have fun when I exercise. To me, fun = functional. The best way for me keep movement part of my life is to enjoy it. That means I spend a lot of time at playgrounds and trying to find fitness in all sorts of strange places. I’ve found some of my best workouts are when I’m playing, being creative and generally just goofing around.

Exercise and training are two different things and they’re both different from moving. Some times I exercise, sometimes I train (ninja warrior) and sometimes I move.

I believe in working in as often as working out. Keeping restorative movement that brings energy in (working in) instead of out (working out) is a big part of my life helps me stay balanced and not overtrain.

I very rarely run or do cardio. Unless I get inspired to go for a run I think it’s a waste of time to do so. I don’t have a problem with running/cardio per se but think it’s held on a pedestal and applied very poorly all the time. Running is like bread. Good for some, bad for others. Good if eaten a part of a balanced diet, bad if that’s all you eat. I like my running short and sweet. I like to sprint and run fast. Every once in a while I’ll feel like running low and slow so I do. The rest of the time my “cardio” takes place as a result of my movement.

The biggest problem our society has is not lack of exercise it’s lack of movement. Exercise is a stopgap but doesn’t make up for not moving our bodies regularly and variety. I feel that some exercise makes things even worse, not better. This is a whole issue that I will write on sometime.

Part 2 – My Exercise Program

My exercise philosophy generally dictates a very dynamic, varietal and unstructured exercise program which subsequently makes it very difficult to give concrete examples of how I stay in shape. As an example, last week I “exercised” 3 times. Monday I went to the park and played around on the playground for about 45 minutes with no structure or routine, I just did whatever came to mind. Swung on the swings, climbed things, went down slides, hung from things, crawled around and generally improvised movement. Tuesday I went to the park and did an entire workout with a couple picnic tables where I jumped, pushed, crawled, hung, pulled and played for an hour. Thursday I went to another playground and exercised/played for a while. Add in a quick family hike today and that was a pretty normal week for me.

Since just sharing these general descriptions can’t quite convey specific examples of what I actually do while at the playground, on picnic tables, park benches, etc. I created a couple other avenues of sharing. The first, which I started a couple years ago, is my Bare 5 Fitness blog, where I try to post almost all of my fitness/workout/active/play sessions. What I’ve found over the years is that it used to be really easy to list what I do for exercise but as I move away from structured gym workouts it’s really tough to describe what I do. So lately I’ve moved into the second realm of K2 fitness sharing: creating little video montages of the kinds of exercise that I do. This has quickly become the best way to describe my current exercise program. From playgrounds to open grass, balls to rings, bars to bike racks and park benches to picnic tables, this is what I do to keep in shape…

Thanks for reading, have a great day!

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