Improving Your Physical Attributes

It’s time to geek out a bit and blend Dungeons and Dragons with physical fitness. These things typically don’t go together, in fact, they’re sort of antithetical to one another, but, if you’re an analytical nerd like me, I think D&D can help you set fitness goals and structure workouts.

DISCLAIMER: This is intended for (nerds) people who struggle to get their fitness game going. If you’re already a regular in your (dungeon) gym, then this is purely for (being overly critical of my ideas) entertainment purposes.

The Attributes

Briefly, there are three physical attributes in D&D. Each edition describes them differently, so I’ll provide my own definitions:

  • Strength measures your physical power and load capacity.
  • Dexterity measures your agility and flexibility.
  • Constitution measures your endurance and hardiness.

Easy, right? If you’re at all familiar with fitness, you might think you could train these by hitting the traditional resistance/cardio/flexibility trifecta, and you’d be correct. But that’s a general overview. What we’re looking at is how to use D&D to structure workouts tailored to our specific attributes.

Determine Your Attributes

I don’t have a complicated point-buy method of determining what your attributes are (sorry). If you are familiar with D&D, then you’re probably freaking out about whether you have a 15 or 16 in Strength (when it’s probably closer to 11 or 12), but try to look past the actual number. Rather than trying to be accurate, give yourself a number that relates to the other attributes, using 10 as a base.

For example, my personal strength is quite higher than my dexterity, and my endurance is far below average right now. So my stats might look like: Str 13, Dex 10, Con 8.

Training According to Our Attributes

If I went to a personal trainer right now, I’d be given a regimen of a few cardio sessions, a few strength sessions, and a recommendation for flexibility at the end of each workout. A trainer worth his salt would go more individualistic, but the above is 90% of workouts given out in gyms because 90% of people who go to gyms only train for aesthetics.

What’s wrong with the above workout? Nothing, truthfully. Whatever gets you working out, right? But for me, it doesn’t consider my advantages and disadvantages.

1st Goal: Balance the Attributes

You may not be seeking balance, but that’s where fitness starts. Get a baseline of physical attributes (trying to get them all near the same level), then you can play with whether you are a fighter or a rogue…whatever that means to you.

Training in this way means that you do enough to maintain your best attribute while focusing on your weaker points. For example, I should be incorporating circuit training during my resistance sessions to maintain my strength while helping with my endurance, and my actual exercises should incorporate some coordination/agility work to compensate for my average dexterity. Some dedicated cardio sessions will help me get my constitution up, as well.

This takes some knowledge of fitness, but not that much. Start with the resistance/flexibility/cardio trifecta and adjust accordingly. As you get started, you’ll start to learn how to further enhance each attribute. As you get closer to balance, you can start to structure your workouts to work on your favorite attributes, using a session or two from the trifecta to maintain the other attributes.

Note: if one of your attributes is far above the others (like, if you run marathons but your strength and dexterity suck), then try to balance the other two at a level that you would think puts you above 10 (average).

Slaying the Nutrition Dragon

Nutrition sucks, not because it’s hard to cut, but because navigating through the hundreds of diet trends will have you lost in a dungeon in no time. Let’s use the attributes to simplify it.

Certain foods help your attributes and hinder others.

  • Strength needs protein to build muscular strength. Carbs also help to push that protein to muscles directly after a workout.
  • Dexterity doesn’t necessarily need anything, but sugar and too many calories will increase body fat, making speed, agility, and flexibility work more difficult.
  • Constitution benefits from fats and slow-burning carbs to keep you going throughout a workout.

That list doesn’t consider supplements, like vitamins or powders. Use them if you like, but, like how alcohol has some benefits in moderate doses, it’s contested whether they’re necessary or not.

Using that list, we can come up with a loose plan for eating.

If strength is an attribute you’re trying to improve, increase your protein intake a bit, and take in some fast-burning carbs (like fruit or white rice) right after your workout.

If you’re going into a “Con” session of cardio, be sure to eat some fats or slow-burning carbs (like oatmeal or brown rice) an hour or two before the session, and replace your glycogen afterward with some more carbs.

If you’re overweight, you’re Dex is going to suffer. So be sure to limit your high-calorie foods (fats) and carbs when you don’t otherwise need them for your training.

I like to think of fruits and vegetables as foods to intake when I’m “eating for dexterity”, chicken and meat when I’m “eating for strength”, and breads and oils when I’m “eating for constitution”. Could that be balanced in one meal? Sure, but it probably shouldn’t very often, unless I’m about to put myself through a grueling workout.

As you get going, you’ll start learning how to adapt and vary this for your needs.

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