Health, wellness, and exercise should enrich our lives, bring excitement, vitality, and a sense of progress. Why, then, is it that when most people think of “getting healthy,” that the images conjured are of hordes of people every January running on a treadmill, eating the same rotation of lettuce, unseasoned chicken, brown rice, and raw broccoli? Often, it’s because people have accepted the things they hear repeated when it comes to health, practicing “convergent thinking.” In this article, I’ll address how in-home exercise is especially suited to work your creative “divergent thinking” muscles, break you out of the mold, and enrich your life!
To grossly oversimplify, there are two kinds of people: those who primarily employ “convergent thinking,” and those who primarily employ “divergent thinking.” The former is associated with seeing a limited number of options or directions, preferring to do things as they’ve always been done, the “it is what is” mindset that constrains many people to a monotonous routine, feeling trapped but resigned to believing there’s no way out. The latter is associated with looking to find the full range of options or directions, especially those not immediately obvious, preferring to find the best way to do things, the “I can change myself and the world around me” mindset that leads people to grow beyond the lot they’ve been given and maximize their life.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with convergent thinking, and we need a fair amount of convergent thinking in the economy and in our lives, from a bus driver taking the same way every day, to adhering to established laws and ethics. However, it’s divergent thinking that most people seem interested in: how to innovate in X industry, how to stretch the dollars in every paycheck a little further, how to make the most out of the time and resources available to us in whatever way we desire.
If you walk into most big box health clubs, it’s a pretty standard experience. No matter how fancy the treadmills or expansive the “functional” zone is, there’s a constant ebb and flow of trends that the entire health and wellness industry rides every few years. Convergent thinking is riding the wave; divergent thinking is riding your own wave or creating a new wave for everyone else to ride.
When most people think of getting fit, they think of going to a gym. However, physical fitness centers for the general public have only proliferated in the last 50-80 years since Jack Lalanne opened up shop in 1936. Exercising at home, outside, or in the course of daily living really isn’t all that countercultural, despite what the marketing campaigns of health clubs may lead you to believe. When people do decide to exercise in-home, the reasons typically include some of:
- Anxious to go into the intimidating gym environment
- Save the time to commute to the gym
- Save on expensive memberships
- Prefer to dictate their experience (music, decor, etc.)
- Hate waiting for crowded equipment
Everyone who starts to workout at home is faced with a dilemma: the fancy machines are gone; the full rack of weights are nowhere to be found; since much of the traditional content around exercise relies on these tools, what do you do? Wait for it… you figure it out! This is where divergent thinking comes in. You can see a set of options not only as they are presented, but in all the ways a solution can be found. You soon realize that a backpack laying in your closet can be filled with water bottles, books, or anything at all, and suddenly you have a versatile and adjustable weight set without spending a dime. That set of stairs? You better believe you can do cardio training running or walking up, down, and laterally, push-ups made easier or harder with elevating your hands or feet, step ups, box jumps, and on and on! Have some buckets in your garage? The range of possibilities is limited only by your imagination and the laws of physics.
What do you do? Wait for it… you figure it out! This is where divergent thinking comes in. You can see a set of options not only as they are presented, but in all the ways a solution can be found.
You may be saying to yourself: “Wow, I never thought of that, I’m not creative enough to come up with all these different possibilities.” Well, this is the fun part! By exposing yourself to activities more divergent in nature, science supports that you will open up your mind to the range of options and actually become a more creative person, employing divergent thinking throughout* your daily life.
*As an aside, the most exciting part is what that last sentence can mean for you: remember the last time you were in a fight with someone, or prematurely judged someone, and you later realized that if you just thought about the issue from a different perspective, there would have never been an issue at all? How much stress and poor judgment could be prevented by opening yourself to the range of possibilities? There are many other factors at play, but it’s fair to say we can all benefit from a little more open-mindedness in our lives.
The benefits here are not limited to MacGyver-style equipment either. Let’s say you have specific goals related to performing particular exercises and need specialized equipment, you just prefer to use the equipment you’re used to and want to build a home-gym setup, or you live in an apartment building or work in an office with a fitness center. You still develop your divergent thinking aptitude because there are inherent restrictions: maybe the weights only go up to an amount that seems too easy, or there is a limited range of equipment pieces. You’ll have to look at what is available in new ways to see how, for example, even with a limited number of weights you can change several other variables such as range of motion, tempo, stability, and more. Working with a coach can help you learn all these different levers you can work with, or you can check out further free content as a guide, such as our eBook listed below.
We have a more complete guide than I can hope to achieve in this article with the first Golden Home Fitness eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Home Workouts (available complimentary to you by filling out the form below). The eBook covers the why, how, and what precisely you can do, with an accompanying exercise library available on our YouTube channel, and supported by our ongoing newsletters and digital content. Hopefully reading this opened up your mind to some possibilities you hadn’t previously considered, and if you’d like to stay in touch, subscribe to the Golden Home Fitness Weekly Newsletter!
Written by Will Hansen, NSCA-CPT, Golden Home Fitness Director of Operations. Originally published on LinkedIn and Medium and republished with permission.