There are two ways you can approach exercise.
A great analogy for them is whether you are sitting on a Park Bench or a Bus Bench.
One is about getting somewhere, one is about enjoying life.
Knowing the difference can help you reach your goals and use fitness to make the most out of your life.
What do you do if you are sitting on a bench and no bus comes?
Like all good questions, the answer is it depends.
If you are at a bus stop waiting for a bus to arrive, you probably get frustrated and upset about the situation. There is somewhere that you need to get to, and the bus is supposed to get you there.
But if you are sitting on a park bench then you aren’t bothered by the bus not coming, and if you think about it then you are grateful for the lack of noise and smoke that accompany buses.
This is a great analogy for the two types of workouts you can be doing. All workouts can be classified into these two categories.
And one of the major reasons that people fail to maintain an exercise program is that they don’t even realize that Park Bench workouts exist. Let's start by defining the two types and then we will go deeper into what they are and what they mean for your life.
Bus Bench Workouts - Workouts where you are expecting results - on time! (Like you’re hoping the bus will be).
Park Bench Workouts - An opportunity to explore and enjoy training and exercise.
*I took these definitions from Dan John(1)
Bus Bench Workouts
When most people think about working out this is what they think about. And this is what the fitness industry as we know it today does the best job of providing and selling.
6 Weeks to 6 Pack Abs
Pack on 10 Pounds of Muscle in a Month
12 Week Fat Loss Challenge
The list goes on and on.
The problem with these workout plans is that they usually work if you can follow them.
And if you can’t then you have added another failed diet and/or workout plan to the list of ways you tried to get fit and you have reinforced the idea that “I just don’t have the self-control” to succeed.
But that is false. The truth is almost no one can do diets and training plans like these for more than 3 months at a time. You have to completely change your lifestyle and make sacrifices such as:
-Time with friends and family
-Other leisure activities
-Enjoying the food you love
And that is just not sustainable. Unless being fit is your job (pro athlete or model), or you have decided to make the gym your entire life, this isn’t a good model.
But if fitness is really important to you and you have a good support network and a reasonable job, then you can do this once or twice a year.
During those times you can achieve amazing results and then during the other 6-10 months a year you can just maintain (or even backslide a little) things.
And if you can do that for even 2 years in a row you will look and perform better than 99% of the population. I promise.
To reiterate, you don’t have more than 1-2 of these workout programs in you in a year. In fact, if you have just one a year you are doing amazing.
In between, you just have to show up, and enjoy yourself.
Park Bench Workouts
The other type of workout is Park Bench– it is like sitting on a park bench and enjoying the fresh air.
Ok, maybe a little more difficult, you should be working out, but you should be able to function and have a life while still doing these workouts.
They should, however, be enjoyable, meaning moderately challenging and the type of workouts that you enjoy. They should also cover the basic human movements.
What are the basic human movements? There is some debate but their are few experts who consider more than 7 movements as fundamental to an exercise training regimen. One of my favorites only consists of two.
That’s correct only two movements, meaning you can get a full-body workout with only 2 exercises: a push (using your upper body) and a pull (using your lower body). If you want an example of this you should check out my article on the two most important exercises you can do with a kettlebell here.
You should also be doing lots of general movement and living an active lifestyle during times like these. Play on the floor with your kids, go for long hikes, take the stairs, bike to work. Whatever activities you enjoy doing.
Some Things to Consider
One of the funny things about Bus Bench workouts is they take so much out of you mentally and physically you sometimes become less active. Also, you get scared of normal things.
What I mean by scared is afraid to use your body and risk hurting yourself. If you are competing in the Olympics tomorrow, and you have to choose between the stairs and the elevator, you might want to take the stairs. It is simply the worst possible time to twist an ankle. When people get close to a meaningful event that has a date that can’t be moved they worry about things like that.
If the event is non-competitive this might not be as big a deal (or a bigger deal depending on how you look at it). Other examples of when we use Bus Bench training are a vacation that you want to look amazing in a bikini for, or a class reunion, or a wedding. Anything that has a date when the “bus” needs to arrive is when we might use Bus Bench workouts.
Bus Bench workouts are mentally easy to get done because the timeframe gives motivation and a sense of urgency. Having worked with a few clients leading up to their weddings, I’ve noticed that brides don’t often skip workouts or mess up on their diets.
But they aren’t sustainable. Also, if you try to use them and there is no motivation it is easy to say, “Screw it.” On the other hand Park Bench workouts are easy to skip because you can do it “later” or “tomorrow” and there is no looming deadline.
But if you want to have a healthy relationship with your fitness (and maintain it) you need to figure out how to get to the park and enjoy it. This is the real secret to being fit.
It is not that there are no goals with Park Bench workouts–there are–but we don’t take them as seriously. Also, we are more willing to modify them when life gets in the way. For a Bus Bench program to work, you need to find 90 minutes to do the workout if it takes that long. Whereas on the Park Bench program if you planned 60 minutes but can only find 10 minutes that is still great.
Anything is better than nothing. Just showing up over the long haul will make a big difference. Maintaining fitness takes much less time than most people think.
In our modern lifestyles we understand how to do things, get to work, get to school, etc.
But we don’t do as good a job enjoying life, moment by moment.
When is the last time you went to the park just to enjoy yourself, take a mental break, and breathe in some fresh air?
And don’t forget that you need to do the same with your exercise program.
1 The original article can be found here: https://www.t-nation.com/training/training-clarity-one-goal-at-a-time