This morning I received an email encouraging me to be “relentless” as I tackled my to-do list, to attack each thing with vigor and intent: my laundry, my work, my workouts, my nutrition, my relationships, my everything.
Maybe it’s the fact I’m getting over a nasty bug, but I couldn’t even bring myself to read to the end of the email. I’m done with #beastmode. It’s old news. (What’s beast mode? Basically, besides being a clothing line designed Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch, it’s pushing past mere human effort … kind of like the Incredible Hulk, except maybe without the anger.)
Don’t get me wrong: a little #beastmode in your life is a good thing. I’m all for it — without that extra push you never get better. However, you need to offset it with some #slothmode every once in a while. (I’m done with the hashtags now, no worries.)
We live in a more-harder-faster-bigger-better society, where giving your everything isn’t enough, The thing is, our bodies seek homeostasis — a perfect balance — in order to function optimally. And so when you force it to go harder and more and then even faster, well, stuff starts to break down if you never give it a break.
When I was a kid I was pretty sure I was the family klutz: weak and slow and uncoordinated, basically designed to be a bookworm for my whole life. Maybe I’m overcompensating now, but very little makes me happier than lapping people half my age during workouts, while yelling at (I mean, encouraging) them to try to keep up. I like to watch weird human tricks and odd feats of strength and see if I am capable of them. But I can’t expect to do that every workout. Once a week? Maybe. Maybe once every other week is fine.
Research is now showing that when it comes to stress, our bodies can’t tell the difference between good and bad stress, mental and physical stress, or even actual and perceived stress. To our bodies, it’s all the same. If you’re on big deadlines at work, up all night with kids, caring for ill family members, and you’re also killing it at the gym every day, well, you can end up sending your body into overload.
Overload is bad. Your stress hormones get out of whack and you can’t sleep, you’re exhausted, you can get sick, your hair can fall out, and all kinds of other truly beastly things can happen. You can even push yourself to the point where the organs that regulate those hormones — your thyroid and adrenal glands — become worn down.
A few years ago I was in constant go-go-go mode, both personally and professionally. I had a full book of training clients, was teaching several group ex classes a week and attempting to have a personal life (my personal trainer friends will laugh at the naivete of that!). I ended up with a rotten case of pneumonia. And then my already goofy thyroid became goofier. I backed off, and have been pretty good about pacing myself ever since.
I’ve just finished a magazine piece about all that and it’s making me feel less like a slacker as I grapple with my own mere humanness. And seriously, it’s hard not to feel like a slacker when my social media newsfeeds are lit up with motivational quotes from other personal trainers, coaches and athletes.
All of this being said, if you’re working out three to six times a week, varying your workouts in both intensity and mode (what you actually do for exercise, from yoga to strength to cardio), and you don’t have a whole bunch of crazy going on in your life, you’re probably safe from the beastmode and overload.
However, if you don’t consider it a workout unless you do a HIIT or metcon (if you have to look those up you’re probably safe) and you are constantly striving for PRs, well, maybe it’s time to do some evaluation of your approach.
If you’re a true Type A person — one of those driven “intense” doer kinds of people who might fit into the second type of fitness enthusiast above — it’s hard not to stay in beastmode a good bit of the time. Go for it, it I say. But be a renegade once in a while and buck the trend — go into full-on slothmode. Take a few days off and don’t even go to the gym. Get caught up in a Netflix marathon. Read a couple books.
I was going to turn this into an actual anti-beastmode challenge, but I know how you are, and we need to make sure that couch is available for other members of your household, too.