Hanging out at the Park Bench



There comes a time during your training where you aren’t really feeling up to the task. Going to the gym and getting in your workout feels more like work than actual enjoyment. This is natural and isn’t something that you should fight. Most of us just want to push through it, go ahead and put the weights on and get it done. After all, that’s what we’ve been taught our whole lives, suck it up and do it. Well, while I wouldn’t suggest laying it down all together, pushing through it and trying to hit all of the same weights as usual isn’t the way to go either. This is when we enter the park bench workout.


This past Monday I woke with an INSANE headache (which I never get) that completely consumed my body. Chalk it up to sinuses or stress or whatever, it was awful and I knew that, odds are, I wouldn’t be hitting any PRs (Personal Records) this week. I also knew that I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing, that would just make me feel lazy and unproductive. So I decided to make this a park bench week. I’ve written about the park bench vs bus bench idea before, which you can find HERE. Basically, when you sit at a bus bench, you’re in a hurry and you’re trying to get where you’re going fast. Conversely,  while you’re sitting at a park bench you are relaxing, people watching and taking it easy. With a park bench workout, then, it is more about maintaining and practicing than it is about huge gains. Here a couple of things that you need to know to help implement your park bench workout next time you’re in a slump:


1) Longer Warm Up


Your body is equipped with an Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which controls your body’s involuntary functions. The ANS is then broken down into two categories, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When you’re recovering from a cold or stressed out, your body is in a sympathetic state, meaning it is on high alert, ready for action at a moments notice. Taking the time to warm up with some good myo-fascial release, dynamic stretching and mobility work will help your body to calm down into its more natural parasympathetic state.


2) Grease the Groove


If you’re trying to building strength, there are generally two ways of doing this: 1) use more weight 2) become more efficient at the movement. I went over this with a friend this past week who was worried about their squat form. If your form is crappy, your body will reach its strength limits very quickly. The more efficient you become, and the less energy leaks that you have, the more weight you will be able to lift. Therefore, greasing the groove involves performing an exercise with very little weight in order to perform the movement better. I imagine you’ve heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”? Well, I think that’s a bit over stated, because, sadly, no one is perfect. A better way to think of it is “practice makes permanent”. You see, when you perform a movement over and over again, your body adapts through a process called myelination. During myelination, your body wraps myelin around nerve cells. Myelin is a fatty substance that enables your nerve cells to transmit information faster. So, the more myelin, the faster the information is transmitted, the more efficient you become at the movement, therefore, the more weight you will be able to move.


3) Steady-State Cardio


I never have been a huge fan of steady-state cardio, especially for those of us trying to put on muscle, get stronger, feel better or lose fat….I think this may include most everybody. This is one exception. Doing HIT training or any other type of metabolic training is not what your body needs when it is trying to recover from a cold. Shoot for 10 minutes of easy cardio to allow your body to heal the way it wants to.


I realize it’s hard to make yourself take it easy. I hate when I’m not using the weights from the week before. But when your body says it’s time to slow down, it’s better to listen then to dig deeper.

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