The Contrast

The Contrast
Lift Big, Sing Big, Look Great Doing It.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Power of Group Activity

I attribute a great deal of my weight loss success and the speed I accomplished it to 1 thing: Additional High Intensity Cardio in the form of Basketball with friends.

If you want a good workout, go play a pick up game of basketball with a bunch of people younger, faster and more skilled than you at basketball. You'll end up running up and down the court 1000 times. That's better than any program you can get on an elliptical. You will sweat, and you will burn probably 1000 calories or more within an hour.

I lost a great deal of weight while I was at a program called Des Moines Metro Opera. I would lift weights and run during the day (on top of 12 hours of rehearsal *braggin*), and for several weeks, me and a large group of apprentice artists would play basketball at night. This was great, and I made a lot of progress because of it. Then when I returned home, I started a regular game with my friends. We used to have a regular Wednesday night meet up where we would go to a bar and have cheeseburgers and beer, but we replaced that with sometimes 2 hours of basketball during the summer (thats called lifestyle changes, everybody.) We played at least once a week for several months, and I continued to lose weight aggressively. Since then I've played in a mens league and continue to play two or three games a month. (Sometimes 2 a week!)

There is about 3 months difference between these two pictures. Both taken after extra cardio activity.

You're probably thinking: "You just like basketball because you're tall."

You obviously don't know me very well (other than the fact that I'm tall. 6'4", baby!) I'm terrible at basketball. I have no ball handling skills, I can't dunk, my defense is weak sauce, and when I get the ball, I usually spaz out. But, I love to play. I love the competitive spirit, I love the bond it creates between people (sometimes complete strangers), and I love getting an incredible workout whenever the activity is fun. Running on a treadmill is boring, stairs are boring, ellipticals are boring. Running down the court in attempts to have a moment of glory where you sink a basket is exciting. Maybe even grabbing a rebound, or getting in someones space so they can't score. Each possession contains its own challenge and its own potential for success or failure.

And I don't just recommend this for guys. I've played with dozens of girls that are so much better than me at basketball that its not even funny. It's fun, it's tough, it's a damn good time. People are usually fun and polite when it comes to group sports, and if they aren't, don't play with that group again. Simple as that. Don't let individuals ruin fun activities for you.

Even if you're in the shape you want to be in, play a game of hard basketball, then treat yourself to an awesome meal, because you've earned those maintenance calories after that.

Don't limit this advice to just basketball, but keep the sport high intensity cardio based. Soccer, flag or touch football,  or my other personal favorite, ultimate Frisbee. One night at Des Moines we played capture the flag. That was so much fun (although a lot of us looked like they were gonna lose their lunch.) I wouldn't do anything especially physical, there is no need to get tackled or injured in the name of fun, especially when a broken bone can keep you out of the gym for months.

DMMO young artists after an intense game of Capture the flag.

I know that engaging in frequent pick up games helped me reach my goals, and it helped me think of myself as more than just a person trying to lose weight. I consider myself an athlete now because I can play basketball games and give 100% the whole time, sometimes out running guys younger than me. If you're going to lose weight, you might as well do it with friends, develop a skill and have fun.

Me at my less athletic pursuits.

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