Exercise: No Play, No Gain

This is another post based on the speakers I attended at Paleo(fx) in Austin.  There were a few speakers that focused specifically on exercise, and I’ll be touching on the more complex theory behind Mark Sisson’s talk, but for now, this is all about a reality check for trainer, Darryl Edwards.  I really connected with his story because, like most of us, I have fallen out of love with exercise at points in my life.  Most people who are active will get really pumped at some point about a new sport, a new workout routine, a new fitness regime.  They will go all in, 110%, cult-syle.  To be honest, I did this with Crossfit!  I loved the competitive feel of the workouts, the opportunity to push my limits, an entire community of people doing what I was already doing alone (functional movement), and the new-ness of it all.  After a couple years, I fell out of love.  Not because anything had changed.  Nothing had changed but my own pressure around it.  I wanted to keep getting better, I was getting more competitive, I started placing expectation around my performance.  At the same time, I wasn’t focusing enough on fueling and recovery, which meant instead of building, I was breaking down. This environment I created around my workout was forcing me to dread going to the gym! I took a little time off, but never gave it up completely.  I just needed a moment to breathe, to redefine what mattered to me, to be realistic about what I wanted out of it, and to allow it to be fun again.  It could only be fun for me if I dropped my performance expectation and focused on the real goal, which was “funning” with awesome people to maintain my functional abilities.

Darryl also fell out of love with exercise…and he was a trainer.  Ooops.  What now?  As he sat on the couch one day, he wrote a letter to exercise.  His letter mimicked that of a breakup letter to a lover.  He related it to the cycle of a relationship and even though I couldn’t take notes verbatim that quickly, here is the gist:


We started off so strong.  I fell in love with you almost immediately.  I looked forward everyday to spending time with you!  I told everyone I ran into about you, how much fun we were having, how great you were.  As the weeks went on, I started to resent you.  You kept demanding more and more from me.  You were taking all my time.  You were keeping me from things I enjoyed in life.  No matter what I did or how hard I pushed, I was never good enough. I’m sorry to say that it all began to wear on me.  I have strayed.  I have been seduced.  I have fallen out of love with you.  You no longer provide me with those feelings of strength, self-worth, and joy.  I am breaking up with you, and I have found another.  She calls me daily and I have decided to give in to her.  You may know her, for she has stolen many of your other lovers, her name is Couch.

Exercise starts so rewarding, you feel invigorated, you tell everyone about it…until one day it becomes too demanding.  It keeps expecting more from you, it doesn’t feel as good.  You may break up or be seduced by your couch.  How do you fall back in love?  Play.

Having fun is the only way exercise remains enjoyable.  For some people, its engaging in a sport, some love dancing, some love being on a team.  I feel as though in adulthood, groups are great because exercise, activity, and movement are always more fun with you are doing it with other people!  It quickly turns into just another childhood night after school when you ask mom if you can go play.  Create fun in your exercise, and you will be must more apt to continue to move.  That is why I never left Crossfit; I love the people.  It never feels like a chore when I show up to Crossfit Michiana and see the faces of all my peeps.  Some days we are team members working with each other in a workout, other times we are fresh and excited about some friendly competition, and other days we are all “just there.”  Maybe the days we were “just there” weren’t our best performances, but we all left feeling better than before we walked in.  We probably laughed, joked, and for a short moment, forgot about the stresses of the day.  Find your play.  Make it fun.  Exercise for our body is as essential as water.  It’s a daily requirement in some shape or form.  It creates the environment around your genes and encourages healthy genetic expression.  We were meant for movement, and it might as well be called “play.”

Darryl runs a website : primalplay.com

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