I recently pulled the TRX suspension trainer I’ve had since 2005 out of storage and started using it for workouts again. As I wrapped it around the monkey bars and started adjusting the straps, a flood of memories came back to me.
Setting up the TRX for my client whom I’d met in the park that day for their workout.
Driving to said park ahead of time to get a feel for what sort of playground equipment and benches were there.
Doing all of this because I’d quit my job to put together my own gym (which wasn’t ready yet) and my employer had a non-compete whereby I couldn’t use their gyms, and I couldn’t train clients in any other gyms.
Thus, my only option if I wanted to train my clients was to find parks in random areas and appreciate the hell out of my clients for coming and meeting me there in whatever weather happened to be on tap that day.
I was able to make every single park and every single workout work for my client and their goals. And it was because I started asking high mileage questions.
Now, 15 years later, I’m pulling out those high mileage questions again – which led me to pulling out the TRX suspension trainer the other day.
What Are High Mileage Questions?
A high mileage question is one that gives you more in the answer than can be contained in the question. It also will give you answers you likely wouldn’t have thought of when you were in ‘problem solving’ mode, which is often governed by more linear thinking and less creativity. Anyone who has been stuck on a work problem for days, only to have the most ingenious solution to the problem pop into their head while in the shower the next morning has experienced this.
Here’s an example of a high mileage question and it’s opposite – a crummy gas mileage question – if you will:
High mileage question: What surprised you in your day today?
Crummy gas mileage question: How was your day?
We have all been on one end or the other of that “how was your day question?” Being asked that question tends to make a person think in one word responses. Or, it makes you think about telling about your day like you’re reading a train schedule, “at 9:00 I had a meeting, at 10:00 I had another meeting, then I had lunch at 11:00.” And if you’re on the asking end of the question, hearing ‘fine’ or ‘good’ doesn’t exactly keep the conversation going.
When you ask a high mileage question, you open the responder to a more expansive response. You invite curiosity and creative thinking. And you’ll get a more resourceful answer out of a high mileage question.
Why Should I Ask High Mileage Questions
In My Fitness Practice?
Quite simply, because it will help you find creative solutions in times when life isn’t really stacking up the way you’d most prefer. You know those times…when the demands of life suck up your time and energy such that you no longer have the time and energy you really need to do the things you love.
It might be stacking up for something you’re really happy about (a new baby, for instance), but the reality is still that you now no longer have the time and energy you need to do some of the things you love in the way you prefer to do them.
And look, figuring out how to do healthy habits might seem like a small problem to have. But I think we can all agree that you’re better (for yourself and everyone in your life) when you’re feeling good about your self care. And fitness/movement practice is as much a part of self care as anything else. Carrying on…
For me, this recently looked like having no equipment to strength train or rock climb combined with minimal time to exercise or be active. Yes, even the coach deals with these kinds of things!
I’d moved into a new home but that meant cancelling my gym membership and losing the little apartment gym that was a nice back up to the big gym. We’ll have a home gym eventually but it’s going to cost time and money, so waiting for that isn’t a wise move. And I am working on more work projects than ever, plus am dealing with the chaos that is moving, so thinking I’ll hold myself to my usual 45-75 minute workouts most days of the week isn’t realistic.
By asking a high mileage question when you’re in a scenario that’s not your ideal one, you are more able to think of creative solutions that allow you to keep making forward progress.
Remember, you and your environment are the variables in the equation that no one can account for except for you. Sure, people like myself can show you creative solutions (video of one is at the bottom of this post) but we still can’t say better than you can if that exact creative solution will be the best solution for you at this time.
My Favorite High Mileage Fitness Question
And so, I found myself asking my very favorite high mileage fitness question that I first used all those years ago in the park:
What do I have?
I don’t have any weights and won’t for awhile. I don’t have time to do longer cardio sessions (and am not really interested in such a thing anyways unless it’s hiking). But I still need to stress my system regularly so that I maintain my cardiovascular health. And I need to maintain and build my confidence that my body can pick up heavy things – like the kitchen table I bought off facebook marketplace where the seller wasn’t home and just left the table outside for me to figure out how to lift up and angle into the trunk of my vehicle. I was successful!
By asking myself “what do I have?” I was able to look around my environment to see what I could make work for the outcomes I desired. The question caused me to rummage through my belongings and find my old TRX suspension trainer. It caused me to think about how I could alter the reps, time interval, rest interval, or stacking of exercises, to get an adequate stressor since my own bodyweight is too light for it to be effective with a standard rep range of something like 8-12 reps with a short rest between sets.
“What do I have?” got my creative juices flowing. I was able to take what’s available and make myself a program that meets my current needs and my environmental limitations.
Here’s a few more high mileage questions you can use with your fitness or self-care practices:
What’s the opportunity here?
What could I be missing here?
What’s most important to me right now? In the next 7 days? 15? 30? 90?
What are some more high mileage questions you can think of? Feel free to post them on any of the social platforms and tag me.
And here’s a short video of the variety of things I was able to do once I asked myself, “what do I have?”. Not pictured in the video is the lovely drop set of TRX lunges and TRX rows that I did at a work:rest ratio of 1:1. Fun!