Sunday, June 14, 2015

Gym Home Court Advantage

Last Saturday I returned to my old stomping grounds, Swarthmore College, for an alumni reunion. Because I’m a huge weirdo, first things first I hit the library –– third floor, south side.

I sat down at my usual desk, and bam! The hunger struck -- just as it always would when I’d visit this study spot over the years I spent hitting my head against the wall studying physics at Swarthmore.

Fortunately, I’d come prepared. I downed my soft pretzel. Then my peanut butter and banana sandwich. Then the backup peanut butter crackers that I’d been planning to save for the car ride home. Hey, don’t judge! That place makes me hungry.

Anyway, after my little snack, I was immediately inspired to work. I busted out my trusty notebook and began scribbling feverishly:

Turn it on and off. 
Environment is everything. 
Home court advantage.

What exactly was on my mind (besides food)? Well, I realized why I was suddenly so inspired to work.

It was because that’s precisely what I’d done in that exact spot during my time at Swarthmore. When I needed to get serious about an assignment, I trekked up to my third floor library spot -- my home court.

You see, I was accustomed to my home court. The sites, the smells, the feelings it evoked. To get in the zone, I would go through my usual pre-homework routine (bathroom, snack, shoe removal, etc.). There was very little human contact up there. Few distractions. All business.

Whether it’s sports, academics, or exercise routines, familiar surroundings undoubtedly lead to improved performance. And that why it’s crucial to establish home court advantage in your own personal game of fitness.

If you work out in a gym, the work is already done for you. The gym is for training. It's decked out with all the accoutrements. Your routine likely consists of the drive over, flirting with the front desk staff, and shoving large personal items into a tiny locker. Then it's show time.

If you exercise at home, however, there are a few things you definitely want to do in order to gain home court, like creating a single-purpose space and picking up some equipment (on the cheap).

Just as libraries are for studying, the most important thing is having an exercise space that’s singularly purposed for exercise and exercise alone -- be it the garage, the basement, or a spare bedroom.

Our home gym, filled with all the amenities.

That's right: the gym-office combo platter is a no-no! Our brains just don’t deal well with that kind of duality. We get confused. We think ‘work’ when we should be thinking ‘workout’ and vice versa.

Now, not everyone has an entire room to devote to exercise. And that’s okay. All you have to do is get rid of your bed, and get a good sturdy exercise mat for sleeping. Kettlebells make excellent pillows, you know.

Kidding aside, when space is tight, simply devote a specific corner of a room to your exercise stuff, and establish a “trigger,” like a workout playlist, that tells your brain and body to ‘Go!’ (Give my workout playlist a spin, if you’d like.)

Kate and I love working out in our home gym, which has all our favorite things for a total of about $335 (less than the annual cost of most decent gym memberships, and easily acquired over the span of a few months/years):
  • adjustable kettlebell ($150)
  • jump rope ($15)
  • adjustable dumbbells ($50)
  • resistance bands ($20)
  • exercise mat ($20)
  • doorframe pull-up bar ($25)
  • gymnastics rings ($35)
  • foam roller ($20)
  • little white cat (priceless)

In your spot, with your equipment and your music, you have home court advantage. At least 3 days per week, at your designated time of the day -- be it when you wake up, when you get home from work, whenever -- bust out your workout gear, crank up the volume, and hit play.

As long the music's going, your brain knows to turn it on as well, and you get a great workout every time.

Gym/tanning salon is the only exception to the single-purpose rule.

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