So, how does one relate chess to fitness and formulate these thoughts into a readable blog post? Well, right off the bat we can start by talking about the importance of mental focus in relation to your workouts and how a game like chess can help with this. That's easy enough to do and it makes a lot of sense.
But I want to shed light on this in a different way, how the game of chess is played as a whole in relation to working out. Before we get into things, I must confess that I'm purely a chess hobbyist. I don't know the names of all the opening moves and haven't practice any chess notation. I just enjoy playing the game.
However, I do know that there are three main parts to playing a game of chess. Every game consists of your opening moves, your middle game, and your end game. Much the same, your workouts consist of three parts as a whole: your warm up, your workout, and your cool down.
So, if chess is like a workout then your opening moves constitute your warm up; your middle game is your workout; and your end game becomes your cool down. Simple, right? Okay, with that said, let's expand by connecting these three together some more:
THE OPENING MOVES
This is where you lay the foundation for your plan of attack against your opponent. Your opening moves in chess are absolutely crucial as they set you up for the best possible chance of success. Your opening goal should be to position yourself well enough that you can control the middle of the board allowing you to make better moves.
Your opening move is essentially your warm up, which is absolutely crucial to execute correctly. By warming up properly you're preparing your body and mind in a way that leads to an optimal workout. Your warm up should be performed to activate the mind-body connection, to increase range of motion, to avoid injury. This all improves the quality of movement within your upcoming workout.
THE MIDDLE GAME
Usually, the player who controls the middle of the board during the middle of the game, ends up being the winner. This all depends of how well the opening moves were made. If they were made well enough, the middle game is much more fluid and the execution of your moves become much more powerful.
In the same way, when you hit the middle of your workout, exercise execution dictates the success of a workout. This involves sets, reps, speed of reps, proper breathing, rest between sets, and mental focus. All of which, will be in a heightened state if the mind-body connection has been activated properly during the warm up phase.
THE END GAME
The most difficult part of chess, and the most important, is finishing your opponent in a tactical and timely manner. For me at least, this was the hardest to learn. Most likely because when you first start playing a lot of chess, you don't get many chances to practice finishing your opponent because you're too busy being losing! But the more you play, the better you get, and results improve.
Similarly, when you finish the main part of your workout, it's time to cool down. But who wants to take the time to do that!? Yes, it's not the most exciting part of getting in shape and staying in shape, but it should be high on the priority list. I mean, what's the point of breaking down the body if you don't take the time to recover properly. When you discipline yourself to do your cool down cardio and static stretches (for muscle groups used) following exercise, you'll recover more speedily and see results much faster. Let's just call it CHECK MATE!
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
When I thought of writing on this subject, I also had the thought of correlating the middle game of chess to the core of the body, which is the most important part of your workout NOT to neglect (in my opinion). I say this because every movement involves the core of your body, much like the middle game of chess being linked to the opening and end game. Thus, it's vital that you practice these "middle moves."
Nonetheless, let's stay on track. Chess and fitness go hand-in-hand. To play an effective game of chess you need to hone each part of the game: the opening, the middle, the end. To have an effective workout you need to hone each part of it as well: the warm up, the workout, the cool down.
At this point in my life my focus is more geared towards workouts that translate to a healthy lifestyle. One where I'm not waking up so sore from last night's squats that it makes the entire day a hassle! Thus, I workout with patience, proper form and execution, discipline, I warm up properly, I workout efficiently within a heightened state as a result of my warm up, and I gradually cool down and recover.
By doing this I see results faster and sustain them longer. It's my hope that this inspires you to do the same, to workout smarter not harder, and perhaps play a game of chess if you've never done so before. Who knows, at this point working out has become so routine for me that maybe the next step is to play chess between sets! Anyone else up for it?
Individual & Group Personal Training offered within the Downtown Vancouver and North Shore areas. If you have a gym in your building or space in your home to workout, make training easy and I'll come to you!
Get Fit, Stay Fit, Enjoy Life
Stephen C. Langhjelm
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
Health & Wellness Advocate