Famous Prussian philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt once said:
“True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united.”
Honoring that statement, for the last few years, I’ve been — in addition to letting the creative juices flow and indulging in mental activities — trying to find the right movement and exercise for my body. I’ve never been a fitness junkie, far from it. I had my time in the gym, working out with weights consistently. I also tried running. I was never able to establish a habit with both of these.
Lately, I have found three exercises that seem to come far more naturally. Exercises that improve three core aspects of physical activity: Strength, flexibility, and endurance.
The poetry of movement
The first type of workout — and one that came pretty unexpectedly to me — is yoga. While my wife was pregnant with our third baby, her midwife showed her multiple yoga exercises. One evening, my wife said: “Let’s do these together!” I kind of laughed it off… because I was not pregnant, right? Silly me.
Amit Ray said in “Meditation: Insights and Inspirations”:
“Exercises are like prose, whereas yoga is the poetry of movements. Once you understand the grammar of yoga; you can write your poetry of movements.”
Now that I’ve tried yoga, I couldn’t agree more. The movements flow like poetry. I have also never felt so inflexible in my entire life. It’s sad how much flexibility the body has lost after years of working behind a desk all day.
During pregnancy, my wife and I tried to get 5 yoga sessions a week done. While we didn’t manage to accomplish that every week, we were pretty consistent. Sadly, after the baby was born, we neglected that habit. We’re in the process of picking it up again now. In a short period of time, yoga has improved my flexibility and posture immensely. It’s still not great but better. We also include a short round of meditation during a few sessions.
Workout number 2 and by far one of my favorite exercises of all time — since my gym days — is rowing. Specifically indoor rowing. A few years back, I bought a wooden rowing machine. That thing is a treasure. Not only does it look gorgeous, but it’s also the most amazing full-body machine.
In the beginning, I wasn’t able to row for more than 10 minutes, using proper form and speed. I slowly but surely built that up to 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and more. Again, as with yoga, after birth, I neglected this habit a bit. Being a father of 4, working full-time, and side-hustling does take its toll on time and zest. It’s no excuse though.
Rowing is pure power. Strengthening core body parts like the upper and lower back, but also the legs, arms, and delts. The only real shortcoming is the chest. This is why I follow the rowing workout with a few sets of good old push-ups to further activate the chest muscles, abs, arms, and delts.
Rowing also radically improves endurance. Especially a long session with less resistance but a higher pace. Furthermore, rowing is great because basically every gym in the world has a rowing machine. If your home allows space for one, they’re also not too expensive.
The “damn, I had no idea” exercise
The third exercise is… just nuts. Not the workout itself, but what I thought about it beforehand. I mean, in my eyes this was a kid's game, not a workout tool. Boy, was I wrong! Not with the kids thing — my kids actually love it. The workout aspect is no joke though. I wasn’t able to do that exercise for one minute straight in the beginning. I firmly believe that it is — when done correctly — the most demanding one for beginners. It was for me and my wife at least. I’m talking about hula hoop.
Have you tried that lately? Man, it’s hard. What looks so easy, is an incredible feat of balance, tension, and control. I sucked at this one for so long. I still do. Kind of.
Hula hoop strengthens the abs, the core body, the hips, upper legs, and glutes. It gets easier day by day. 15 minutes is still my max though. It’s exhausting. Be prepared for a few bruises along your belly and hips initially. It will get better after a week. If you haven’t tried hula hoop, give it a go. You’ll be surprised!
To recap: My favorite three exercises at the moment are
- Indoor rowing
- Hula hoop
Both yoga and hula hoop, are great activities to do with your partner. Rowing is more of a single-person job. Unless you have two rowing machines.
These three types of workouts combined give me the perfect combination of strength, flexibility, and endurance. They’re also not the most time-consuming. 15 minutes of yoga one day, 30 minutes of rowing, and 10 minutes of hula hoop the next, is very doable. Time shouldn’t be an excuse here.
“We become what we repeatedly do.” — Sean Covey
I want to be healthy, fit, and full of energy. I hope to accomplish this with these three exercises and a lot of consistency.