With the new school year starting, I was inspired to share some thoughts about fitness and how we think about it. While working out this morning, I thought of some different ways to approach fitness and how it can be compared to a similar experience most of us had in the classroom. Here are my thoughts on how someones personal journey in fitness can be compared to taking a test in Math class (or really any subject in school).
Preparing for the test
When a test is coming up, students have an opportunity to perform the skills and knowledge they have obtained on the topic being covered. This is done through homework, quizzes, notes, and studying. Each test is an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the subject area. I believe most would agree that a brief review or warm up with some practice problems prior to a test is beneficial to performance on the test. The more time put in preparation the more confident someone will be. Typically when more confident, the ability to perform a task becomes more time effective and this improves the potential to have enough time to review the answers on the test (in Math you always get to check your answers!).
Every workout is like a test. The work you do before the workout plays a massive role in how you perform. Having a proper warmup before will allow your body execute activities safely and effectively. The quality of food you have before will play a huge piece in your energy and bodies response to the stress of a workout. Having a plan of what you intend to accomplish that day will also greatly aid in assuring you hit your goals for that session and will help you be more effective with your time. Getting proper nutrition in your body after a workout also plays a huge role in how your body recovers to ensure you’re getting the most out of your workouts. You took the test and have ten minutes left, check your answers!
Methods for finding solutions
This will be my third year being back in the Bloomington schools with my role as a tutor. It didn’t take very long before I noticed that students do things a little differently than I was taught over a decade ago. With Math, I first noticed this with factoring. I had know idea what a diamond problem was or how it was used, I typically factor things in my head through a different process then the big X they make to start a diamond problem. Both methods get to the same correct solution. That is one of the things I find fascinating about Math, there are so many methods, routes, and order of operations that can be used to come to one answer. Typically on a test, as long as the answer given is correct with some proof of how it was found a student will receive credit for it.
Fitness can be like this in your method of staying active. Some people enjoy classes, some enjoy working out by themselves as their “me time.” You can use yoga, kettlebells, suspension trainers, dumbbells, barbells, bands, or your own bodyweight to just name a few. I typically use a combination of all of them when working with others and in my own personal workouts. As long as you are using some form of resistance training to challenge your muscles; I am a fan. Find what works for you and don’t be afraid to try different things!
Fixing things you got wrong
Typically when a student gets their Math test back the teacher marks what answers were wrong and what step may have had a mistake. This knowledge gives them the opportunity to go back and fix what they got wrong and truly understand the ideas in the problem. Math builds on itself as they get older. The skills that were obtained and found challenging in elementary school are used daily with little to no thinking during high school. The teacher wants to make sure the students fix and truly understand the problems they got wrong early on as it will help them in the long run of learning.
Getting a problem wrong can come in many different ways in the fitness world. It may be an injury, mobility limitation, or poor technique. Whatever it is, it should be your focus on improving before you move on to the next activity or intensity. If you struggle to press things over your head because of your shoulder mobility, don’t avoid shoulders all together. Instead add in some items to focus on improving and strengthening your deficiencies. If you hurt your hamstring playing football with your friends, rehab it properly by focus on strengthening your glutes, groin, and core (reasons why it may have got hurt) and slowly increasing the amount of tension you can place on it in a controlled manner instead of simply resting and not using it. A lot of times this means doing things that you find hard and dislike doing. Just ensure you do this with a safe and intentional plan in place.
Taking new tests
Every time students cover a new chapter in the classroom they take a test on it. In certain scenarios they may even retake a test or have the same question from a previous test on a final. However, in these scenarios something is usually different about the tests. Numbers have been changed, symbols have been swapped, variables adjusted, something different that will allow the process to stay the same, but create a totally different unique answer. This is to ensure they continue to grow in their knowledge and ability to perform more challenging problems. If they were given the exact same test every time it would not take long to catch on and start to remember all the answers. Over time they probably wouldn’t even bother solving the problems any more and simply write the answers based solely on memory.
In this same way you need to progress with your workouts. Every time you workout, your goal should be to do something different. This does not mean you need an entirely different workout each day, but it does mean you should be paying attention to what you have done in the past. The goal is to overload our body with stress coming in the form of physical exertion. This means we have to do more than we did last time. Increase your volume by adding reps, sets or weight to a certain exercise. Track how long it takes you to get through a workout and try to do it faster next time decreasing how much you rest. Add more complex movements that involve your entire body. Do something that is more than last time so your body continues to gain strength and has to continually adapt to new stress.
Show up for the test
I remember taking standardized tests when I was very young and being provided with the information that it was a good choice to guess on a problem if I did not know the answer. I had a 1 out of 4 chance in getting it right and it would not hurt my score if I got it wrong, I only received credit for the problems I got right. The best case scenario is you receive credit for the correct answer. Worst case is awarded 0 points for a wrong answer, which would have happened without guessing. This is not true for all forms of tests, but I do think it is true when comparing to fitness.
Workouts are not always perfect. I wish I could bottle up that feeling I get when leaving the weight room after crushing a workout. Some days I get in the gym and drag in every way. Daily stresses have gotten to me, I spend half the time yawning, and I am crunched for time. However, in my eyes, the only thing worse than a “bad” workout is the workout that didn’t happen. No matter your limitations or feelings, try to make it a priority to at least show up. Positive effects come from getting the blood flowing and your muscles moving. You never know, some of my best days in the weight room come from the days I absolutely dreaded making time for a workout but still did.
I always have enjoyed looking at things in a different way. Maybe this helped something click for you and will help you accomplish your goal of earning the grade you want. Take the time to prepare to do your best each workout, find the best method for working out that both challenges you and you find success with, focus on fixing your deficiencies, make progress in some area with every workout, and most importantly make sure you show up.