The holidays are officially upon us. If you are anything like me, while shopping for others you find multiple things for yourself that you never knew you wanted.
Today, I hope to add one more: I challenge you to seriously consider adding a fitness membership to your wish list.
Now, I am not talking about just any old gym. I want you to commit to the membership that has the components proven to benefit your mind and spirit while also leading you toward health for the rest of your life, not just a flirtation with the next fitness fad.
For me, CrossFit is a powerful teacher for the entrepreneur. I am hard-pressed to find a practice that simultaneously recharges, challenges and grows me as a business owner and a human the way this fitness regimen has.
At this point, some of you may be ready to cast this article aside and chalk me up as a fanatic who has lost all ability to see the value in other ways to pursue fitness. Let me assure you, I am thrilled with anything that gets people moving and a little bit healthier than they were before, and there absolutely are some practices that have multiple elements of what makes functional fitness or CrossFit training so valuable for a person who leads, manages and creates all day long.
As I outline those elements below, it is for you to decide how your favorite exercise measures up, and maybe, if you are bored or not seeing what you had hoped to from your current routine — or don’t have a current routine — consider giving mine a try.
Here are my four reasons you should gift yourself a functional fitness membership this season.
1. Time well-spent
Anyone who has ever started a business will confirm that you work more for yourself, at a higher intensity, than you have ever worked for anyone else. Time is a precious commodity and a diminishing resource. I am willing to bet my fellow business owner, that during the startup phase of your company, taking care of your body fell to the bottom of the priority list.
However, if you have been in business for yourself for a while, you can attest that if you continue that habit, you will not be able to sustain the level of physical stamina and mental clarity required to perform your best.
Your family, your company and your employees all need your best. If you can commit to solid nutrition, getting outside for an hour a week (walk your dog), plus one hour a day, three days a week in the gym, I am confident that your fitness will reach new levels and your performance in all areas of your life will improve. Big claim, right? Read on.
2. Your brain is tired
This is how most people work out: They have no overarching plan and show up at the gym a few (usually different) days per week to train whatever is most enticing/least painful in the moment by doing a number of randomly chosen exercises for a number of randomly chosen sets and reps until they run out of time or get bored, and then they leave.
This may qualify as “exercise,” and, as mentioned above, it’s better than nothing, but it certainly isn’t “training,” which requires logical structure and orderly progression.
I want a fitness plan that is not boring and produces results, but I do NOT want to plan one more thing. I want the gym to be a break from thinking. I want to show up and have someone else do the brainwork for a while. I have zero time or desire to research how to build the best workout program for me.
When you show up to a CrossFit class, the instructor will tell you exactly what to do, how to do it, and when to stop. A good instructor also knows a thing or two about programming; this means every major muscle group in your body will get worked. CrossFit instructors can also customize workouts to fit your abilities and needs. If you have an injury or a limitation of any kind, they will find that out before you start and customize the workout for you.
3. You can measure your ROI in more ways than one
All of us like the gratification when an investment of time, energy and resources pays dividends. Before I found CrossFit, I worked out much as described above — aimless machine weights and some serious elliptical work. I felt like it was good, but other than the scale and if my clothes fit, I really didn’t have any other measure of my fitness.
As a woman who has struggled with body image and caring entirely too much about the scale, these measures were only reinforcing negative messaging that played in my head. For the first time in my life, since probably age 12 (sad, I know), I care more about how much weight I can move with the barbell than what the scale says.
Solid functional fitness programming has you test and retest lifts, row and run times, and a boatload of gymnastics skills you learn over time. Things like pull-ups, box jumps, toes to bar and ring work. When I started this style of working out, I could hardly do any of those movements, and I had a lot of room to grow for cardio. I have a coach who met me where I was at and gave me progressions that started at my skill level and safely worked me toward what I can do today.
Because this training style has you record the results of every workout on a handy dandy digital platform, I can go back and see how I have improved over time. I now focus much more on my fitness gains and much less on the scale. I am mentally healthier and, bonus, I am down 3 pants sizes from where I started four years ago and am literally 100 percent stronger in more than one area.
4. It develops mental toughness and resilience
Most people hate being uncomfortable, and the more uncomfortable they are, the more they want to immediately stop whatever is causing them discomfort.
That mentality doesn’t fly at my gym. I am not talking about injury. Working out through pain is, frankly, stupid, and it’s not the same thing as pushing through discomfort. Fighting back that voice that is screaming at you to stop; picking up the barbell for one more round; coming out on the other side with a new personal best; or perhaps simply the glowing satisfaction that I didn’t stop: This proves to me over and over again that I can do hard things. It also proves that I won’t get far if I let fear of failure or discomfort drive the bus.
You know how you get better? You fail and then get up and adjust your approach and try again. Right now I am chasing an 8-minute 2K row. I am within seconds, but I am not there yet. However, I will keep training and trying and failing and trying again. Why? Because I can do hard things. It is this aspect of my chosen path for fitness that probably benefits me the most. I have taken professional risks and made huge asks this year. Most of them worked. Two years ago, I would have been too afraid to try.
That my friends, is what I think most professionals should want from a fitness program. This methodology serves as personal and professional development for me. I literally categorize it as such in my budget.
As we get ready to march into the new year, I encourage you to consider how you define a successful fitness program. Once you can do that, start. Invest in the membership, whatever it may be. Your family, your health, your business and your employees will thank you.
Layci Nelson owns Nelson Management Strategies and the Iron and Mortar Summit. In addition to lifting weights and making her lungs burn, she enjoys exploring the Yakima Valley with her two young boys, her astoundingly patient husband, and their little dog.