Workout of the Day

The Difference Between Exercise and Sitting in Traffic


Perhaps this is news, but your body doesn’t entirely know the difference between the stress of your 20 minute commute taking an hour and a half because of traffic and the stress of exercise. To a large degree, stress is stress is stress.

Of course it’s not actually that simple. Medical papers don’t exactly sing high praises of the health benefits of your daily crawl home from work along the I-405, whereas there’s quite a bit of evidence for the far-reaching benefits of exercise.

For one, exercise is acute. It’s a concentrated dose of stress, which means that when followed by a time of lower stress (recovery), your body is going to adapt to the stress and get better. This is the instruction manual for fitness summed up in a sentence. Physical stress, then chill, equals adaptation.

Exercise differs also in that it is a stress over which you have control. While we’re condensing complex ideas in a handful of words, this is the aim of the whole field of exercise science -- how to dial in stress (and recovery) just right to yield health and performance.

What this all spells out is the importance of a) how you recover from your training, and b) how you approach your training.

Traffic happens to you (only your response is under your control). Exercise on the other hand is a process that you consciously engage with: stimulus and response are both in your hands. Done right, this looks like intention and awareness in training.

If you’ve spent the last week, for example, missing out on sleep, chasing impossible deadlines, sitting in traffic, and eating like a five year old left to his own devices, how much good are you really doing if you show up at the gym with the aim of thrashing yourself into health and performance? This pervasive “exercise as punishment” mentality is, at best, unsustainable and disorderly.

Compare this to the deliberate practice of showing up at the gym to move with intention, listen to your body, and meet yourself where you are (mentally and physically) on that day, and you have two completely different stimuli (and responses).

In addition, let this “stress is stress is stress” idea act as a reminder that your practice extends beyond the 60-minute class. Compiling chronic stress (traffic, taxes, boss, family, etc.) onto an acute stressor doesn’t fit into the equation for how adaptation happens. Create space for recovery, mental and physical. This is not optional.

The difference between a medicine and a toxin is dose. Stress is much the same: it’s not good or bad, it’s a tool. Dose appropriately.

- PS


  • Ring muscle-up transition skill work

  • Max unbroken ring muscle-ups


  • 3 rounds for quality:

    • 10 false grip ring rows

    • 10 strict ring dips

    • 30s ring support hold