Working out in the Integrity Zone

You hear about “the zone” a lot in the gym, box, or wherever you do your daily exercises. What this means and what some people practice are seriously at odds with each other. Instead of  sounding like we don’t understand what we’re practicing, let’s call it something else, something genuine, something bordering on the actual. Let’s call our mindset approach to our workouts the Integrity Zone.

Having an arsenal knowledge of exercises, and what muscles they inspire, is key to working out in the Integrity Zone. Our mindset should remain focused on the work we intend to do, but not get caught up in a narrow stream of methods. This is especially beneficial if we are at the gym during peak hours, which seem to be in abundance just after New Years, just before Spring, and just before Summer. Everyone being in the gym probably means that your favorite bench or your favorite station is occupied. In some cases, your preferred dumbbells may be hiding in some obscure nook of the gym.

What are you gonna do? Aw, Chest & Back day and people are floundering all over the benches. We can walk away in muscle-wilting frustration, or we can keep in mind that we’re here to work, and it does not, should not, can not matter that our plan is no one else’s concern.

This is not just a problem for bodybuilders or others who follow more traditional methods of weight lifting. Plenty of CrossFitters hate “globo-gyms” for this same reason. Someone’s curling in the squat rack. Someone’s using my medicine ball chamber as a racquetball court. Crunches on my Turkish Get Up mat, are ya kiddin’ me?

One advantage CrossFitters have, even in globo-gyms, is a more open approach to what we now call the Integrity Zone. Yes, there are countless exercises, weights, and machines that will work those same muscles we covet and caress. Sometimes something as simple as mixing up our plan like a jigsaw puzzle with a missing piece is all we need to break through training plateaus and discover previously unknown weaknesses.

If you always begin gym time with a nice round of pushing exercises, try saving those for the middle of your workout, or for last. Start with some pulling movements, or some hinge movements. Maybe even some floor work, or calisthenics. Tabata on the treadmill, sprints on the stationary, wall shots in the racquetball courts. Even if you insist on starting with some cardio work, there’s a lot available that will serve your needs, maybe even better than what you were expecting.

Finding or discovering a new weakness is probably the most beneficial thing you can do for yourself in the gym. Uncover it and attack it. Move it around. Maybe your military press is significantly weaker after a few rounds of squats than when you start with them. What might that be telling you?

Our fitness is all about being ready for whatever happens, within reason. I still haven’t started training for the Apocalypse, but in the event that it does happen, and I had to back carry 50 lbs of worried flesh the distance of a 5K, I’m comfortable that I could manage. Just keeping my fingers crossed I don’t have to anytime soon.

The Integrity Zone is a mindset where we prioritize our need to exercise first and foremost, and the specifics second. Many exercises will do the job, you just have to know what you have available (your arsenal) and remember that you’re there to work.

Peace be with you.

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