The article in short
Optimized performance and sports go hand in hand. Even the worst couch potato knows that without having a fit body, great performance in any undertaking is much harder to achieve. For a healthy body, a healthy mind and resilience against environmental influences, we have to look into the topic of strength and stamina. Do you want to feel confident, healthy and powerful?
We will achieve this by adopting a new perspective on movement and sports in general. We will also look into the connection between sports and brain activity. The idea behind all this is to keep it simple. You will be able to integrate the approach into YOUR everyday life, without sacrifices, except for some comfort. So read on if you would like to know how to gain more strength and stamina the minimalistic way.
The most important takeaway is to MOVE. Because otherwise, one day, you might not be able to.
The importance of being strong
Strength. Stamina. Power. Those are attributes we identify with strong men and women we look up to. It is the opposite of weakness or a state of fear. Being able to defend ourselves is deeply rooted in our system and directly linked to the nervous system. The fight or flight reflex comes to mind. With higher strength and stamina comes relative safety and a state of confidence. It is directly related to our mental state, as movement patterns form connections in the brain. Now who wants to be weak? Hands up! Anybody?
I guess deep down we all want to be strong, ready to defend ourselves in dangerous situations or to help others when in need. We also want to be healthy and in full control of our physical and mental wellbeing. Nobody wants to be pushed around. But how to get there? How to become physically strong and present, develop skills in multiple areas and with those - gain CONFIDENCE?
In terms of health and longevity, exercise plays a vital role. What isn't used will gradually stop to develop or even degrade. The older you get, the more muscle mass will degenerate. If you want to get old and still be able to move and enjoy freedom of movement, exercise will get you there.
But where to start? What is it that all kinds of sports have in common? The answer is: Movement.
The movement concept
The movement concept is a term coined by a trainer from Israel, called Ido Portal. While practicing disciplines like Capoeira and Dancing, he figured that each discipline stays within narrow boundaries, rules and guidelines. There is almost no interconnection between the different disciplines and athletes become highly specialized. This kind of specialization brings about problems like overuse of patterns, moves and muscles on the one hand and underuse and atrophy of muscles and patterns on the other hand. Specialization in one discipline often leads to faster erosion of the involved body parts (think of football and knee injuries). Ido Portal describes himself as a Generalist and advocates the study of multiple disciplines to enlarge movement capabilities. Doing that will lead to a much higher adaptability towards different requirements and overall strength, also from unusual positions.
My biggest takeaway from studying Ido Portal and his method is, that the human body is capable of extraordinary feats. We have to take care of it and don't let atrophy take place. We need to move in order to stay strong and resilient. If we are not using our bodies and certain patterns and muscles, they will disappear. Never doing a pushup will signal your body that these muscles are not required. Your arms will become weak. If you have to rely on them, you won't be able to. Most of us don't even move nearly as much as our ancestors did, let alone enough to stay healthy.
But it's not only about strength. You also need stamina to sustain periods of high energy expenditure. That is not only true for sports but for the working environment as well. If you are exerting your brain in long meetings or have to travel a lot, you will know the feeling when you just run out of stamina, unable to catch a clear thought. That's why cardiovascular training like running or the hyped High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is equally important.
I want to be well balanced, with a focus on both strength and endurance. Only that way I'm ready to face different challenges and reach the highest levels of performance in sports, business and my personal life. So I'm greatly inspired by the movement concept, mixed martial arts as well as triathlons. Three areas which require skill, strength and endurance in a challenging combination.
Movement-focused practices like yoga, dancing or free movement in general, require a combination of strength, stamina, coordination and flexibility. What looks easy is often very hard to do.
MMA is the combination of different martial art styles. Its fluency requires lots of strength, stamina and technical skills. the fight doesn't end on the ground like in boxing, which makes it harder.
A Triathlon is a combination of swimming, running and cycling. Due to the different requirements of each discipline, athletes need to have a lot of endurance as well as psychological fitness.
Progress in those three disciplines will make sure my physical development is balanced. Flexibility, strength and stamina are equally required and built. No area of physical development will get neglected.
Strength. Stamina. Flexibility.
The best part in my opinion: Almost no equipment needed, depending on where you live in terms of temperature and weather. You don’t have to spend money AND you can go outdoors, which adds more benefits like fresh air, natural light exposure and a stronger immune system. The only material thing you need for a start is decent sports clothing, especially sports shoes. I can only recommend barefoot shoes or something along the lines of Nike free, as they don’t weaken your muscles due to shock absorption and heal striking. Also they can be worn as regular shoes so you don’t need a lot of different pairs (remember Minimalism?). They are also great for traveling.
In terms of outerwear I recommend not to overdress, even in cold weather. You can find my cheat sheet for sports clothing here.
If you’re new to the Movement concept, I recommend checking out the content of Ido Portal. It is inspiring, motivating and at the same time intimidating. Just remember that the progress is the actual goal. You will find joy in the great feeling after an exercise, when your muscles are pumped and your brain is alert and awake. You will find joy in the steps you make and the challenges you overcome. You will find joy in belonging to a tribe of people who do not accept being unable to move properly from their 40s onward. Always try and test what brings you joy. Don’t be afraid to drop a discipline if it doesn’t make you happy.
The minimalistic equipment
You don’t need much to get started. Get yourself some sports clothing as well as a pair of shoes and you’re ready to go. If it’s warm where you live, you might not even need the shoes. For now let’s assume you have a pair of running shoes and are ready to go.
What you can do:
- Go for a run.
- Exercise for strength with a bodyweight workout.
- Go for a walk outdoors.
- Go swimming.
- Do a HIIT training.
- Do some parkour.
There are so many things you can do without a gym membership or fancy equipment. Just type "bodyweight workout" into Google, study the moves and repeat them yourself.
ATTENTION: If you are completely new to bodyweight exercise or exercise in general, it might be best to go to a local gym or get a coach for the first few weeks. Why? There are some basic rules to prevent bad form, which might lead to injury or malposition in the long term. I’m glad for the time I spent in the gym, learning from other guys how to keep my back straight during squats and many more insights. Also for the time I spent with Thai boxing, learning about proper warm up sessions and to get a comparison how hard a training can be.
Each time I spent exercising with a coach, it has helped my game a lot! However, I value one thing over almost anything else and that is FLEXIBILITY. I love when I’m able to work out on the rings at 6.00am in the morning, instead of driving to the class in the evening. I love that I can integrate my exercises into my life, without adhering to a schedule. But in order to learn, it pays huge dividends and offers a high ROI to join a class for the first steps. Later on you can do your own thing.
Once you make some progress, I recommend the following equipment:
Gymnastics Rings are a great tool for developing upper body strength. The instability trains muscles effectively, also the smaller stabilization muscles.
A simple jump rope is powerful tool to develop stamina. Boxers are using it for a reason. They can get you to exhaustion in a short amount of time.
That is a buff scarf. Actually a tube of fabric which can be used as scarf, headband or cap. Small but versatile addition when training outdoors.
At one point, your bodyweight won’t be enough to challenge your muscles. Then you can add instability with the rings. If you are living in a city, a jump rope might be a better option compared to running along the highway for 10K. The buff scarf is something I find extremely useful when working out in nature. If it’s too cold you can wear it as head band, cap or scarf. Because once you're out in the wild, you’re usually away from home and more clothing options. If it gets too cold, it might distract you from your workout.
Apart from those things, don’t let the lack of material things stop you. You don’t NEED anything to get moving. You can get strong in your underwear. A Gorilla doesn’t need a bench-press to get a large chest. Just get moving. Move your body, start learning and never stop to progress. You will feel healthier, more energetic and much more confident.
Following the Movement concept of Ido Portal, it doesn't matter so much what you do in particular. Instead, follow your interest and try as many different things as possible. Don't be afraid to do too little and don't be afraid to drop certain sports or routines if you don't feel the benefits. Keep it simple and minimize resistance when building up the habit of moving and doing sports. That means don't sign up for a gym 30 minutes away from your home. This 30 minutes commute will be a problem for your motivation later on.
Top Minimalistic Sport Options for Strength and Stamina
- Bodyweight training / Gymnastics Rings
- Running / Jump Rope (HIIT)
- Moving / Yoga
- Running Shoes
- Gymnastics Rings
- Jump Rope
And if none of that is for you: 15 minutes walking per day will already have a profound effect on the way you feel. JUST MOVE.
(References for further study: )
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