Our fitness editor struggles with the age-old lesson that more — even of a good thing — isn’t always the answer.
Yes! More, please. Thank you.
For years, these five words were my mantra and battle cry. Whatever came my way, wonderful or terrible, I made a concerted effort to welcome it with open arms. With the best things, I wanted more. And the worst . . . well, challenges and hard times are opportunities for growth, right? What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, yes? In that case, more of the bad, too. Please, and thank you.
Work, school, relationships, the gym — in every arena, I pushed for more. Every success was a sign that pushing harder was the right tactic. Achieving a 300-pound deadlift: Huzzah! More, please!
Every setback was a growth opportunity. Throwing out my back while getting out of the car less than a week after said deadlift: Drats! But I’ll be fine! More, please!
One area where I strove at all costs was working out. Professionally, as the fitness editor of Experience Life, I felt it was important to grow as much as possible — to keep learning and showing up as my best, strongest, fittest self. On a personal level, it meant so much to have found fitness after decades of being perceived, by myself and others, as weak, clumsy, and unathletic.
But a year ago, my back — the very same one that had begun complaining so loudly nearly four years earlier — started to speak up again. My doctor’s orders were, quite simply, to slow down. I could keep training but at half speed, half strength. Whatever I wanted to do, I’d have to do less of it, at least for a little while.
At first I floundered. That is, until a writer I work with came to me with a pitch: a workout program aptly called Easy Strength. Cocreated by renowned strength coach Dan John, it was -developed to test the minimum effective dose of resistance training to keep building strength.
It was, by design, meant to be easy. The program’s rules strictly forbade doing more than prescribed. Do the work, keep it easy, don’t go the extra mile — and in the process, get stronger. My inner judge rolled her eyes, but I was intrigued. I tested the program, as I do with all the workouts we print. (For the full program, visit “The Easy-Strength Workout.”)
Easy, it turns out, is a struggle. I absolutely detested how little I got to do and how much I had to rest. I felt restless. I regretted committing to two months of this. But I stuck with it, recalling John’s words: “You won’t get pumped. You won’t get sweaty or sore. What you do get, however, is strong.”
He was right.
Fairly quickly, what was already easy became easier. I got stronger — and I progressed to heavier “easy” weights. My body reshaped itself, responding to the work even though I felt like I was barely doing anything. My back pain abated as my doctor had assured me it would.
Mentally and emotionally, I relaxed into the easiness. It became less of a struggle to do less. I’d be lying if I said it was a comfortable place to be. Easy was harder some days than others.
But for once, I didn’t feel like I was begging for more simply for the sake of more. In fact, it felt like a Goldilocks-inspired rebalancing of sorts: Whereas, once upon a time, more had been fine and dandy, in this moment, doing less was good for me. It turns out that meeting myself where I am, in a given moment, can never be too much or too little — it’s simply just right.
This originally appeared as “Just Right” in the April 2018 print issue of Experience Life.