Today is the day after. The day after my first complete High Intensity Interval Training (= HIIT) at EcoGym. A workout to remember, I can assure you:
HIIT is a training idea in which low to moderate intensity intervals are alternated with high intensity intervals.
HIIT can be applied to exercises such as running or squatting. HIIT is considered to be much more effective than normal cardio because the intensity is higher and you are able to increase both your aerobic and anaerobic endurance while burning more fat than ever before.
That sounds very promising doesn’t it? Whoever wrote this fails to mention how you feel after your first session. Well, let me describe it to you: every muscle hurts and your flexibility temporarily drops to the level of a 80-year-old.
During the workout I wasn’t exactly “killing it” either. Apart from sweating like an eskimo climbing the great pyramid in Egypt, I was way too slow (“work on my explosivity? say what?”). As usual my leg- and abdominal muscles were painfully absent too. EcoGym takes pride in a personal approach and therefore keeps groups relatively small. This means there’s no hiding in the back during your least favorite exercise. Even worse, for this particular session there were only two participants: me and a girl who effectively wiped the floor with me.
At several times my choice was quite simple: skip the next rep or faint. I wisely chose to skip the rep, to which coach Annelies said (a bit concerned): “Are you OK Kenny? Take a breather and go at it again! Come on! Don’t drop your back…”
Why? I hear you ask. Why would anyone in his right mind put himself through such torture after a hectic 11-hour day working day? Why humiliate yourself in plain sight?
I’d be lying if I said that very question did not cross my mind once or twice. In fact, there are dozens of reasons why I should dislike it, but in reality I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot! Not because I get some kind of masochistic kick out of a woman bossing me around, no… because it’s good, no, it’s ESSENTIAL to be bad at things in life. It’s the most efficient way to become better, stronger, healthier. It’s the only way to grow, both physically and mentally.
It’s good to be bad
In life, the things that make us feel most uncomfortable are really the things that we need to practice the most. Terrible as I may be at HIIT now, I know for sure that by keeping this up, I will push a boundary.
I would even dare say that allowing yourself to fail in public is the most important achievement you can ever obtain. I cannot stress enough how important this is. This insight can be life-changing. If you never allow yourself to be bad at something or make a fool out of yourself in public, you will never be truly free. If you never “put yourself out there”, you will never reach your goals.
It took me a very long time to get these insights:
Allow yourself to fail!
It’s important to make mistakes.
It’s good to be bad at something!
An ex-colleague of mine put it slightly different:
In life there are times when you just have to take off your pants and go stand in a pool of sh*t.
No matter which version you prefer, remember this: no matter what age you are, it is never too late to allow yourself to be bad at something new. Give yourself that chance and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you get better.
Nearly all my life I refused doing anything I was not good at from the start. Doing something like HIIT would have been unthinkable for me. My biggest fear was always what people would say (or think) if they saw me struggle. Be aware that I pick up routines very slowly. The whole mirror-image thing doesn’t help my chaotic brain either. What my mind tells my body to do and what my body actually does can be two surprisingly different things.
There were times when I went to the gym before, but I always played it safe. I stuck to solo cardio workouts and weights. I never really enjoyed it. About 4 years ago a trainer in my previous gym convinced me to try out my first Les Mills workout. I participated and my heartbeat raised to about 140. Bear in mind, that was before we even started!
Not only did I survive that first session, I saw that there was a lot to like: the workout was efficient, fun and extremely well choreographed. A small work of art really. Still I felt uncomfortable. I counted about 30 people in that group and I was unsure about my technique. Every squat or lunge was a nightmare. Noticing that most girls took the same (or more!) weights than me and still not being able to keep up… well it wasn’t exactly boosting my self-confidence either.
It was not until I joined EcoGym that I started to really enjoy and look forward to these trainings. The groups were smaller and the wonderful EcoGym team succeeded in creating a local community vibe in just one year. Truly remarkable. This changed everything for me.
Hats off also to the amazing Isha, EcoGym’s main Les Mills trainer. Thanks to her enthusiasm, eye for detail, unparalleled teaching skills and above all: her contagious passion for these workouts, I am hooked. I dropped my regular workout routine and started doing Bodypump, CX worx (core muscles) and now EcoGym’s own HIIT routine every chance I got. Given the opportunity, I would love starting every day with a Les Mills workout. No kidding! (I have to be careful with what I say here, because the EcoGym team might read this and point out that on some days they open at 6:30. Truth is, I’m not really a morning person… Catching my train at 8:00 is already quite a challenge!)
Let’s get one thing straight though: I am not a bodybuilder and I never will be. Even after one year of training I’m not particularly strong and I am still unable to run more than 5 kilometers. That being said, at 35, I am in better shape than I have ever been before. More importantly after a hectic or mind-numbing day at work, completing a Les Mills workout with some good music and a shower afterwards makes me feel relaxed. At this point I even cannot recall why I once preferred watching movies or playing videogames over having fun while moving and taking care of my body (and mind!).
Willpower & Courage
All it takes to get here is two things: (1) willpower to take better care of yourself and (2) courage to make mistakes in public. If you lack only one of those, you will always end up on that couch at home. If you are like me and you struggle mainly with that making mistakes part, don’t hesitate any longer! Go for it! Trust me. For once (or twice) take the risk of making a fool of yourself… You’ll see that there is no reason to be afraid. Before you know it, you might even become hooked like me!
Occasionally, I still fumble. You know what happens? Isha and everyone else who notices smile, I roll my eyes and we carry on… The world does not end. No one laughs at you and no one will tell you to curl up in a corner and cry.
Always remember, you’re not competing with anyone but yourself. Will we ever be the best at this? No. Will we ever be even good at this? Possibly not. Will we become stronger and healthier than we are now… we sure will. Is it healthy, effective and fun? You bet!
So yes, broken as I might be from that HIIT session right now, I am also happy. I am happy because I found something new where I am completely out of my comfort zone. And that’s exactly where you need to be! That’s where the biggest rewards are just for the taking.
What about you?
Do you often think about hitting the gym to lose weight, become stronger or even just to take your mind off things? What’s keeping you from it? Is it the willpower to take better care of yourself or the courage to make a fool of yourself in public? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
For those still wondering what HIIT looks like, this video shows the Les Mills version. Not quite the one I did at the gym, but close enough. Don’t let this one scare you though, check out the training schedules at your local gym for group sessions that fit your needs. There’s one for everyone and for every age!