Around this time last year, I was preparing to travel to San Jose / Los Gatos for an RKC Workshop with Dr. Chris Holder. Grateful to have not only made that trip, but that I had gotten so much out of it. At that time I thought we might have to endure a short shut down, but I had no idea that life as we know it would be radically altered for the next year (and probably beyond.) With that in mind, I’ve noticed some patterns lately and felt the need to share some ideas here — as well as some workouts!
The small number of people I train on an individual basis have a few things in common: they’re resilient, extremely intelligent, self-motivated high-achievers. I could spend the next 2,000 words bragging about how awesome they are. But I mention this mainly just to underscore the fact that we are all enduring complex times right now and even people who are used to being at their best are up against some unique challenges. Normally, these folks are fantastic at managing stress, insane workloads, etc. But after a year, I’ve observed that a few things have started to happen – and that there’s a new type of fatigue to manage.
Here’s what I’ve been observing more, or that they’ve been mentioning:
- Slight changes in metabolism
- +5/10lbs but not in the “usual” places that fat might collect from general overeating… but without the overeating in some cases!
- Decision fatigue
- Stress eating
- Disrupted sleep cycles
- Lowered HRV (heart rate variability) if tracking it
- Requiring longer workout recovery times
A lot of this points to increased cortisol*, the stress hormone. Normally these folks are able to push through and not experience these ill effects – so the fact that they ARE is a sort of huge “canary in the coal mine” alert. Some of you all may be saying “Well duh, I’ve been feeling like garbage all year, that’s just lovely that your ‘high achievers’ are finally catching up.” Definitely do not judge yourself too harshly about all this – I really have to believe we’re doing our best with odd circumstances. I keep coming back to the idea of the “Stress Cup” as mentioned in Strong Medicine from Dragon Door – the book is currently not available in print form, but it is as a PDF eBook or for Kindle. You can also get the basic overview of the stress cup from the (sadly defunct, but still live and maintained) Strong Medicine blog posts on the subject. You’ll also find a lot of info about HRV and practical ways to use it to inform your training.
*I’m not a doctor! These are just my observations and personal conclusions! YMMV. Check with your medical folks, etc.
This is a long-winded way to say, that even my incredible star clients are needing to simplify. Normally, a lot of them really like choices in their workouts, but right now that’s just registering as “Oh no! Another decision I have to make?!!!?” So, I’ve taken that right out. Highly technical complexes, combos, and complexity in general? Those are out – at least for 2 out of 3 serious training days each week. We’ve been looking at their schedule and more importantly the pattern of when stress cranks up (mid-week in many cases), and when mental exhaustion is more of a factor, but yet there’s a great desire to “take it out on the workout” (towards the end of the week, usually). After a weekend or time off for a day or two they’ll still have a day where they want to have a more technical, focused session. Across the board (and even in my own training) I’ve been limiting these kinds of sessions to one day a week.
Again, your mileage may vary, but it’s worthwhile to look at your patterns for the past 3 months and see about making adjustments if you’re not getting the results you’d like from your training. Small changes can have great benefits too – adding a little more mobility work, and a little less “all out effort” on the days that intrinsically seem to require an all-out effort of the mind.
It’s also important to consider how you may or may not be processing stress. This will be individual, and we all know that someone just telling us to “relax” or “calm down” or “manage your stress better” is ineffective at best, and insulting. Some alternatives to the usual boilerplate advice about meditation, yoga, etc. may simply be to set times when the phone is OFF, limiting the number of video conferencing meetings per week/day, or putting limits/boundaries around the work activities which seem to crank up the stress. Hopefully you are in a position to make these changes, if not, it’s important enough to your continued health and performance that you may wish to have a chat with your doctor, employer, etc.
Back to the fun stuff: Here are some sample workouts we’ve been enjoying:
Please note that before any of these circuits, we’ve been going through a simple mobility sequence and/or the Cal Poly Hip Flow. Actually, if you’re working from home in sufficiently stretchy pants, you may want to take time to run through a mobility sequence between long sessions at your desk. Here’s a link to a follow along video as well as just the audio cues.
- Set a timer for 10-15 minutes. Do alternating get-ups (with or without weight) for the entirety of the time. Beginners may need to start with a shorter period of time, or allow for rests between get-ups. This idea can also be used to cycle through practicing parts of the get-up.
- Do a set of 10 kettlebell swings, do a short set of something else (one thing: pushups, goblet squats, bodyweight squats, lunges) Repeat.
- Most if not all of Dan John’s awesome “one kettlebell workouts” are great for a less technical day.
- Row, Press, Squat…
- A twisted ladder of swings and burpees (write it up on a whiteboard and take great satisfaction in crossing out each round)
- Fan Bike or Rower Intervals (Tabata, 30/30, etc.)
Even more simple workout ideas:
- Less Thinking More Doing Kettlebell Workout
- EMOM Workouts In General, but especially simple ones like this…
- Do The Work – A Simple Kettlebell Workout
Hope I’ve given you some ideas on how to optimize your training for these bizarro crazytimes. Have some ideas to share? Please put them in the comments! Let me know what you’ve tried 🙂
SPOILER: I’m writing up a collection of “Simple Circuits for Complex Times” 🙂