To explain how I learned about suspension training as exercise, you should first know that my commitment to fitness is inconsistent at best. I know why it's good for my health, and I know how good it feels to get it over with. And yet, the process of getting myself to the gym is like an uphill battle, on a pogo stick, every time. I'm just not a natural-born gym fanatic — which is fine — but unfortunate considering how inspired and mentally alert I feel after a good sweat sesh.
Though most fitness gurus frown upon questions like this, I reached out to the fitness expert and athletic trainer Brad Lloyd and asked, "How can I get my fitness on without going to a gym and without doing anything that's too impact-heavy?" To be honest, I assumed I was asking an answerless question. It seemed obvious that in order to get a workout, in order to get your blood moving enough to affect your mental state, you needed to do some form of standard cardio. To my delight, Brad had a suggestion: try suspension training. It's a type of exercise that was actually originally used by the Navy SEALs and is most commonly known and marketed as TRX — Total Body Resistance. It's a fitness experience that uses gravity and your own body weight to complete a handful of different exercises targeting different parts of the body, all at once.
Technicalities aside, it's a pair of portable, swinging handles that you use to lift yourself up, hang upside-down and basically turn your living room into a monkey's jungle gym, and it has completely changed the way I think about fitness. I'm not the kind of girl who enjoys the harsh impact of running or the repetitive motion of cycling, so getting to get my heart rate up and my blood flowing by basically hanging around from a handle attached to my door is a fitness dream come true. Here's what it looks like if you haven't been able to craft a mental picture:
And this is how it's changed not only my perception of fitness, but my mental state and work flow:
It Eliminates A Trip To The Gym
Finding the time in my work day to hit the gym always proves difficult. There never seems to be a good time to go, and when I'm there, I'm consistently worried about missing important calls or emails and I can't enjoy my workout. TRX suspension training can go anywhere. It simply anchors itself on a closed door or can be fastened on a beam or branch, so you can use it in the office or on a tree outside. You don't need to uproot your work flow to get a work out in.
It Frees Up Brainstorming Space
I used to bite my nails when I was thinking. If I was stumped at work, I'd chew on my fingers or a pen cap or snacks that I wasn't even hungry for. Now that I've brought suspension training into my wheelhouse, I use it to alleviate the need for physical stimulation to free up mental space. I'll do a few chest presses when I'm feeling stuck, and the mix of the motion and the multi-joint stimulation totally eliminates the need to engage in anxious unhealthy habits.
It Allows Me To Work Longer
My job, like many, requires me to hunch over my computer all day. By the end of the work day, my neck aches, my back is sore, and my arms are heavy. Suspension training offers tons of positions that put your neck and back in line and dramatically reduces end-of-day aches. In the mid-afternoon, I'll shorten the handles so they're high in the air like monkey bars. Then I'll just hang for a few minutes, allowing my back to stretch out. If I stop to do this at some point in the day, I'll be able to work longer and not feel like I was hit by a truck at the end of the day.
It Gives Me Energy
Suspension training is the most unsuspecting form of cardio. You have no idea you're doing it, which for me is a dream come true. Because you're using your body and gravity as a weight, every thing you do, whether it's a chest press, or a leg lift, involves way more muscles and joints than it would if you were doing it on the floor. You can feel your muscular system lit up like a Lite Brite. The difference between eight floor push ups and eight suspended chest presses with the TRX handles is huge. Push ups activate your arms. Chest presses activate our whole body. When I'm done with a simple TRX activity, I'm just as amped and pumped as I would be after a 20 minute run. It helps me find energy quicker and in less time. Which, for someone who hates the gym but loves the gym high, is very ideal.
Images: Giphy, Courtesy of TRX