It dawned on me the other day that the end of this year will mark the 5th anniversary of the very first day I started exercising.
And it was one of them eureka moments where you have to keep checking with yourself as to whether it’s actually accurate or not. FIVE years…….how can it possibly be?!
But my thinking was compounded with the question: What’s my training age?
It’s one thing to track overall time spent simply moving your body, but how much of that time was spent actually making progress and seeing a return for your efforts?
Ask yourself. If you’re honest and modest, the number will probably be considerably lower than the true timespan since you first set foot in a gym or done that first workout off YouTube. I lose 2 years if I subtract wasted training time from my overall training career. Time spent working out everyday, doing random workouts, not tracking progress, not following a structured plan, pushing too hard, not resting, using sh*t technique, not having goals and many many more.
Even though I’ve done it better for the last 3, there’s ALWAYS things you can do better, whether it’s simply refining technique or managing fatigue in the case of more advanced trainees, there’s always room for improvement.
Accordingly, I’d like to share 6 lessons from my errors – and these aren’t just from my errors; keep in mind I’ve worked in a gym for 2.5 years now and have been a personal trainer for a year too, while working with a broad spectrum of clients en route. These are the ten things I’d drum into myself if I could go back in time and these are the things that my clients today don’t have to fall into the trap of doing.
Also, for those of you who wasn’t following me many moons ago when I was posting my random mutterings, you may have missed a golden oldie post from back in the day: Things You Really Shouldn’t Do In The Gym If Results Are Your Thing – at the very least it should make you smile and you’ll have no doubt seen one, or all, of the mistakes listed.
1) Mr/Miss No goals
Let’s start with a classic cliché, how can you get what you want if you don’t know what it is? Obviously when you’re new to exercise it’s hard to have very specific goals like adding 10 kg to your bench press in 8 weeks. But, try to specify as best possible. For example: I want to lose 3 inches off my waist within the next 3 months.
Get specific, get results.
2) Having no idea of your current level
Quantify something: if you have no idea where you were when you started how can you ever hope to display genuine progress? You don’t have to measure everything, just pick a few general markers relative to your targets. This ties nicely into the issue above: You want to lose inches off the waist. Well, what does your waist measure now?
Even if the goal is more fitness orientated, there’s a plethora of tests you can use such as an all out plank hold, wall sit, max push up/pull up count or even your 400 metre run time.
Test something and keep retesting it every so often. This keeps you moving and improving.
3) “But we only have today!”
Sorry folks, doing a 3 hour ‘workout’ today instead of 1 hour doesn’t get you where you want to be 3 x faster. If only! I used to workout every single day, literally. And I felt like I was cheating myself if I ever dared to take a day off. So many people think rest days are for pussies but they’re essential really – even if you’re only having one or 2 per week.
The bottom line is: Long standing progress isn’t made in 5 minutes, 5 weeks or even 5 months. It takes longer than that for anything longstanding. Training all day, everyday just leads you to a position where your efforts outweigh your results. Sensible training puts you in a place where your results outweigh your efforts. Remember that.
4) “WTF does a ‘balanced program’ mean?!”
Have you ever had a fanatical phase of only really doing one movement because it’s the only thing you knew at the time? For me it was good old push ups. I used to train the push up each and every day. I did one all out set and tried to beat my max rep number each day. I saw an increase for about a week or 2 and then spent many more weeks just hitting the same number (plateauing) and beyond that, began losing reps.
There are 2 lessons here: First, you cannot only use one training method and expect it to work forever. Second, and even more importantly, there’s the structural issue to address.
Mathematically, 50 push ups per day, 7 days per week equals 350 reps per week of pushing, which is a lot even if you were balancing it with 350 reps of pulling. But you know what’s coming…….I wasn’t. I didn’t do a single rep of pulling for MONTHS.
This is postural suicide and a recipe for rounded shoulders, a hunchback and shoulder pain. The fix for this is to do at least as much pulling as pushing, if not more.
(For more info on this Read: Fixing ‘Gorilla Posture’ – The DEFINITIVE Guide)
We all hear about how important it is to stick to a program and not be the infamous ‘program hopper’ that fitness gurus and experts keep bashing. But what happens when this is taken to far in the other direction?
Some people end up married to their program. They do all they can to be the one that sticks it out. They put up with the mental boredom that comes with doing the same routine for more than 4 months. They put their lack of progress down to not being able to ‘tough it out’.
I have ran the same program for up to and over 6 months before, and believe me I was bored by the 3rd or 4th month. I trudged forward however, believing I wasn’t advanced enough to switch programs so soon or hadn’t milked my current one for all it’s worth.
Looking back, I now believe changing up your routine is a GOOD THING. And in fact, it’s more important the longer you’ve been in the game. You adapt faster with more experience and tend to bore a little easier as progress isn’t linear; you’re not just adding reps every workout or slapping 5-10 lbs on the bar.
6) I set records everyday, baby!
I cannot do the same exact sets, reps and weight as last workout. Not even once! I must be better. I must do better. I will be better.
We’re bombarded with how important progressive overload is in achieving results and success that we begin to think anytime we can’t achieve it in any fashion, if only for one workout, then we’re a failure. Progressive overload is my number one tip to every client and anyone new to exercise, but it doesn’t need to happen every single time on every single move – especially as you get more experienced, moving up becomes harder and more arduous.
In some senses I guess this is a form of self-forgiveness. I spent so many of my younger years being hard on myself for everything I didn’t have or didn’t achieve, that I never really appreciated what I did have. Evolution doesn’t take place in such short time spans. Anything good in this world takes time and sometimes that time is spent grinding it out at the same level for a while until the breakthrough comes.
A real life example of this is a pushing workout I did the other day where I was projected to move up to a new rep range but didn’t. I instantly started thinking what I would change and how I’d make it even harder for the next workout…….but what business do I have doing it? None. I’ll simply repeat the exact same parameters next time and aim for domination. It’s Ok, I’m older and wiser now, I know I can’t keep setting personal records all over the place.
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it with anyone you feel it would help. I could have wrote more lessons but thought I’d cap it at 6 for now. Any questions you have, either drop me an email or leave a comment.
Thanks for reading!
The 'brains' behind StraightTalkingFitness, a site all about discovery that leads to strength in all formats; fitness, mental, emotional and spiritual. Everything starts from within and projects outwards. Master the body, master anything and everything.