This morning, I read an article on the running workout called The Michigan.
Who says I don’t post running-related content anymore?
It got me thinking about the most important/most grueling workouts I’ve done in my life. The immediate criteria was an obscene amount of sweat, but that wasn’t really the right criteria.
A good workout will leave you covered in sweat. But in thinking about THE workouts, I wanted to pull the ones that forced me to leave it all on the table.
I had to draw a boundary for post-high school life. Because I played football in high school (and also did track and powerlifting to get better at football), it would have been easy to include the workouts we did right after the season. They were a glorious pain in the ass.
The started with something called speed weights, which I’ve neither seen or heard of since then. We would rotate about 5 weight stations, and then do 3 or 4 rounds for something like 30 to 60 seconds lifting AS FAST AS YOU CAN. This would then be chased by a bunch of speed/agility/conditioning drills outside that you were to do AS FAST AS YOU CAN.
I get the speed/agility/conditioning part. I still have no clue what the point of speed weights were. You’re obviously not focusing on form at that point. And we’d just finished a season that included lifting on non-game days.
As far as I can tell, the point was psychological.
That’s an example of the hard work required for THE workout, but I don’t want to include it for one reason: I don’t think it was terribly effective for actually improving performance. For something to be THE workout, I need to believe it has real effects beyond psychological torture.
The first workout out I did as an adult that I think of as THE workout was what I was doing in grad school when I moved to Florida.
For a while, I’d been doing a decent job of lifting consistently and running. Usually these things didn’t happen on the same day, but sometimes they did.
Running for me is torture (re: the name of this blog).
There was a 2.5-mile loop around the lake on the University of Florida’s campus. All in all, it’s a nice little loop. You get some climbs but not so many as to be obscene. Aside from parking lots, you’re never really in danger of getting hit by a car. And occasionally you’ll see a gator.
I’ve only run the full loop without walking once, but I’ve hit 2 miles a few more times. Brutal.
But that’s still not THE workout.
No, to be THE workout, there needed to be a little extra.
That’s where the weights came in.
On an ideal day, my weight days then would consist of squats, lunges, leg extensions, leg curls, calf raises, bench, rows, bicep curls, tricep extensions, and shrugs. There were some variations to sub in, but that was generally the workout.
That was a good workout. Add it to a trip around the lake, and we have THE workout.
It actually wasn’t too bad on planning. You don’t want to run in the Florida heat midday. The gym opened at 10 on the weekend. That meant I could start my loop around 9:30, and then I’d be getting to the gym as it opened to do the second part of the workout.
I was drenched with sweat, and pretty much every part of my body was shot by the end (we’re going to ignore the complete absence of core work).
But it’s not the only THE workout. The other is one I’ve shared with y’all before: ashtanga yoga.
It all started in early 2016, as noted in the smart-ass post that gets entirely too many sincere clicks from people hoping for help in writing a thank you letter to their yoga teachers.
I started doing yoga in 2009 as an attempt to mitigate back pain. It worked swimmingly. I still have some issues, but it’s not as ever-present when I do what I know I should do.
And from the beginning, there were workouts that could leave me exhausted and dripping in sweat.
Try holding lunges until the sun goes down and you’ll understand how you can get wore out.
But we needed a little bit of extra. Enter ashtanga.
Ashtanga’s little bit of extra are the vinyasas. Jump back, chaturanga, up dog, down dog, jump forward. 58 of them.
I’ve never done them all, but that’s what you’re shooting for.
I’ve taken child’s pose three times in my yoga life: the first time I was in a heated class and was in terrible shape, the first time I did an ashtanga class, and this week after wiping myself out with a lifting workout, though I’m not in terrible shape, just bad shape.
I wasn’t in great shape for that ashtanga workout, but I didn’t think I would need to do that after more than a year of consistent class attendance. But ashtanga was something else. It was THE workout.
And that’s the goal. Not every day, but at least some days. And then eventually THE workout might get replaced by something even more trying.