How Balanced Are You? - Tucson Personal Training Blog

How Balanced Are You? - Tucson Personal Training Blog

By: Jerry Trubman, Owner and Founder

In our recent post about massage therapy, we spoke about how many of us have a difficult time finding balance between tension/relaxation in our lives as well as our training. In today’s post, I’d like to take a moment to put a finer point on what was brewing in my head on that. My first deep dive into this topic came from a woman who made one of the biggest impacts on our system and training methodology, Bea Bolan.

Among many other things, Bea taught Tai Chi for many years. A number of us at The Protocol got to experience her as an instructor as well as a mentor. Last month marks 3 years since we lost her, but her legacy lives on in subtle (yet very impactful) ways every morning when we unlock our doors.

If you’re one of those type-A personalities who are very driven, but also find yourself burned out, not making progress you’d like, and/or even injured, this post was written for you. Enjoy!

In Chinese culture, yin and yang describes how seemingly opposite or contrary energies (“qi”) may actually be complimentary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. This can be observed in almost anything, but for today’s topic, we will be contextualizing it in terms of the human body.

“Yin” is the softer side of things, and “yang” is the hard. Bea used to tell us not to think about it as one or the other, like say a light switch, but rather more like a volume knob. In other words, not everything is either a zero or a ten. There are some things in life that may require a 3, while others may require a 9. Trouble can arise in our stress levels when we turn our volume knob up to a 9 for a 3 situation. Some of you may need to re-read that last sentence.

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If you’re one of those brainy types and this is too woo-woo and I’m already losing you, think of yin in terms of parasympathetic and yang as sympathetic. Most meatheads only think of sympathetic when going ‘beast mode’ at the gym, but high-level lifters know the truth: If you want your volume to be able to go to a true 10, you’d better have a deep and thorough understanding of true zero.

The trouble is: Modern life makes it very difficult to understand true zero.

We walk around with our volume knobs stuck at a perpetual 3 from being pseudo-stimulated by all of our gadgets. Even those of us who intentionally make it a point to avoid these things (to those wondering, yes, I still don’t use a smartphone), we are still surrounded by screens, florescent lighting, artificially created noises, and other stuff that never lets us ‘shut off’. There’s a reason getting away to a quiet place in the mountains is so calming.

After experiencing all the yang in the form of stress at the office and stressful situations at home, some of us decide to turn to the gym instead of drugs and alcohol (obviously a better choice). But in most ways, the gym is just more yang. People who are very driven can’t just shut that off when they walk in to train.

Our gym culture doesn’t help… many fitness methodologies have a built-in system that makes every workout a little competition between you and your class pals. Don’t get me wrong, a little competition is a good thing… once in a while. However, I’m not of the belief that this needs to exist in every single workout. As a matter of fact, it’s exactly those types of people, who are motivated by this dynamic, that need it the least.

So, if there’s yang at the job, yang at home, yang while stressing out about anything and everything, and yang at the gym… where is the yin?

Most of us don’t have nearly enough.

I’ll be honest, life was a lot simpler when my business was smaller. Of course, cash flow was an issue… which created its own set of stresses. But finding yin was much easier back then. Like many of you, most of my stress is self-created and I suffer from what the cool kids call “adulting” and “first-world problems.” Nonetheless, the imbalance still lives.

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So, what do we do about it? I’m not qualified to help you with your job, finances, or home life (although I do hope this post is giving you good food for thought). I can, however, help you with training.

It’s March so it’s pretty safe to say all the New Year’s resolutioners have cleared out of your gym by now. A vast majority of those who signed up for the ultra-intense-kick-your-lazy-butt-back-into-shape boot camps have either quit, gotten injured, or both by now (congratulations! Better luck next January). For those who took a more sustainable approach, you may have now found yourself in a good groove. For you, this “Congratulations!” is not sarcastic.

For advanced lifters who are scratching the limits of their genetic potential (this is relative to your age, sex, and body type… don’t compare yourself to others), the more yin is needed in their training.

Huh? Yin at the gym? How?

Some of you may not realize this, but it is ACTUALLY possible to go do a workout where you don’t try to get a PR. As a matter of fact, you can come in and train at 40-50% efforts, break a sweat, move your body around, and walk out of the gym feeling better than when you walked in, and no one will throw you out for not going BEAST MODE. If you don’t believe me, you need more yin.

This is especially important if you’re in a season where you are sick, injured, or experiencing an unusual amount of stress. If that last sentence describes your entire life, you need more yin.

Think of the body like a bank account: The deposits must exceed the withdrawals. Some workouts are ‘deposits’ (lighter session, longer rests, moderate loads). Other are ‘withdrawals’ (trying a PR and/or pushing the limit). I hate to sound like Captain Obvious, but an overdrawn bank account is a bad thing.  

My little training secret (and by ‘secret’ I mean ‘not a secret’ since I’ve spoken about it so much on here) is that, unless I’m prepping for a specific competition, 80%-90% of my workouts are performed at 50%-70% levels. Yes, I train 6-7 days per week, but we all know that consistency trumps intensity.

You know what’s wonderful about training at 50%-70%? You never get injured! It also allows you to train much more frequently because you’re not hobbling around sore all the time. You know what else is wonderful about training 6-7 days per week? It becomes a habit, like brushing your teeth, so you don’t need to rely on motivation to drag yourself to a training session when you don’t want to go. If attaining consistent long-term results by training this way sounds boring to you, and you feel like your training life needs more excitement, you need more yin.

If that last paragraph has you questioning the effectiveness of this type of training, please remember something: This is how the strongest humans on the planet have trained for decades (seriously, go look it up). If you think you can outsmart them with your BEAST MODE training, history has proven you wrong over and over again. And yes, you probably need more yin.  

This video is some of the best 9 minutes I’ve had so far this year. It’s called “The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You” and it’s just brilliant. If you’re ‘too busy’ to go watch it, you need more yin. Still not gonna click on it, huh? Ok, fine. I’ll tell you what the skill is: It’s sitting alone quietly for extended periods of time with nothing but your own thoughts. Other than meditation, this is one of the best ways to train your volume knob to understand true zero. If that sounds lame and you can’t imagine going that long without your smartphone, you guessed it…  

Until next time,

Jerry Trubman is a coach, clinician, author, blogger, and powerlifting state champion. With over two decades of lifting experience, he has devoted himself to seeking out better answers, and distilling them into practical programs that produce great results. Jerry has coached "Team Protocol" to 4 National Powerlifting Championships in the 100% Raw federation. He writes the internationally-read blog, “The Healthy Addiction” and lives in Tucson, Arizona with his wife Marie and dog Sadie. To subscribe to his blog, click here.

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