Lately I've encountered several people who adamantly believe a workout isn't really going to help you achieve physical fitness if it's not at least a little unpleasant.
One person even threw the old, "No pain, no gain" at me when I dared suggest working out really didn't need to be work. In fact, not only do I believe its important to enjoy whatever exercise you choose, but it's critical to achieving your fitness goals. Working out because it brings you joy is much more motivating than just trying to torture yourself down to a specific weight or pant size.
Still, those of us who grew up believing working out was something to be dreaded and dodged sometimes have a hard time believing fitness can be achieved — sometimes more quickly and completely — outside of a traditional gym.
As part of my seemingly endless quest to find ways to get and stay fit outdoors, I signed up for Nikki Gregg's Stand Up Paddling Fitness Boot Camp last week.
I will admit, I have an aversion for any fitness get-together that uses "boot camp" in its name. Not only does that term conjure up visions of mean, name-calling men who spit when they talk, I would never want to compare my workout experiences to those of the men and women preparing to serve our country in the military.
In this case, however, I ignored the name because I knew something about the camp. Gregg, a world champion Stand Up Paddle surfer, has developed a way to reap most of the rewards of a weight workout without ever setting foot in a gym or hoisting a barbell.
I attended the camp for two days last week at Jordanelle Reservoir, just outside Heber City. The first day we worked on paddle techniques and becoming more efficient and proficient at getting around on a surfboard. The second day she put us through a sprint workout that included our newly honed skills, as well as resistance training I wouldn't have believed was possible on a surfboard until I actually tried it.
We did lunges (in between paddling), which really got my heart rate up. Then we stopped and did squats that included a balance exercise that really pushed us in ways a regular squat never would have. Without a break, we did mountain climbers, push-ups, plank and abdominal exercises.
We did four sets, with a lot of paddling to new places in between. After the second set, my legs were shaking, my abs were aching and my triceps were burning. I loved it.
When I do my sprint workout in the gym, which I try to do weekly and often talk myself out of, I stare at the clock. I don't push myself to go farther, deeper and harder because I just want to be done. It is as much a mental struggle for me as it is a physical test.
Out on Jordanelle, I did four sets, including the paddling around (cardio) in between, and the time absolutely flew by. It was the most fun I've ever had working out. I absolutely hate push-ups. But for some reason, on that surfboard, on the glassy water, under the cloudy sky, surrounded by the Wasatch Mountains, I did them with energy and enthusiasm I rarely have for push-ups.
No stinky mat to worry about disinfecting before I lay down to do sit-ups. Just me and the smell of the mountains in the morning.
Maybe it's because my mind had so much to stimulate it, but in those three hours, exercises that seem monotonous and boring in a gym feel like fuel for my soul. I'm not sure why it seemed easier or why I enjoyed the workout so much more on the water. I do know it combined aspects of conditioning that made it overall a better workout than just running, cycling or weightlifting. The requirement to be balanced and aware of your body's movements (or take a swim) brought another level of awareness and focus to the workout, and I am sure an added benefit.
I know when Nikki Gregg comes back at the end of September, I will be signing up for another camp. In fact, it's made me think twice about doing some other types of fitness classes just to see what I might be missing by clinging to my traditional workout regimen.
The camp wasn't just the chance to work out with a world-class athlete. For me it was a chance to test and educate myself. There are so many ways to find fitness. For most of us, it will not be found on the most obvious path.
It might just be something you've never heard of, grossly underestimated or are afraid to try.
If you want a different life, a different look, a different pant size or a different outlook on life, you really have only one option — do something different than you're doing right now.