I would love to simply write out one sentence and leave it at that, kind of like Michael Pollen and his book "In Defense Of Food". Train smart, every movement should have a purpose, eat, rest/sleep. Now I'm not about to write a book on this (although I kind of want to at some point), but I do want to touch on each point here a little. So I will.
This is the tough one as most people don't really know what's good or bad in the gym. Sometimes squats are good, other times bad. Sometimes it's not smart to go overhead with a weight load. Sometimes you shouldn't jump. It all depends on what you've done in the past days and weeks, what you plan on doing in the coming days and weeks, how you've fueled and so on. If you are training with a coach, or in a group with a coach, talk to your coach and see of he/she is factoring all this in for you. If they are not, uh, not sure what to tell you except your coach isn't that good, simple as that. If you train by yourself and are not taking the time to make sure you're progressing in a safe, efficient, and incredibly effective way, you need to reasses your program. This means perhaps think about if the 2 hour session is actually doing anything for you. What are you training for? If it's CrossFit, is your program designed to make you a better CrossFitter? Is it general health and prolonged life? Then is your program designed to protect you from injury no matter what, and get you healthier and add good, positive years to your life? You see where I'm going here? Ask questions about what you want out of your program and if your program is 100% set up for what you want. If it is 99.9% or less, you are not training very smart. Most programs, especially group classes, are probably about 50% or less in terms of complete effectiveness for you. That is still better than nothing. But if you really want the most out of training, you need to learn more about this stuff and either get someone to modify and program for you, or understand how to do it better yourself.
Every Movement Should Have a Purpose:
This is very closely related to the above point. I fell in love with this concept when training for baseball, and I would give this credit for getting me to the level I got to in the sport. I learned that the less time I wasted doing pointless reps, the more time I spent performing effective ones, the better I got. Makes sense doesn't it? But now sit back and think about your week of training. Was every single rep, and I mean EVERY single movement of your body that you performed with the purpose of getting in better shape, perfectly performed? How were your warm up squats? How was your warm up jog? Were they flawless? Were you thinking about the mechanics of the movement you learned each and every time, or are you just aimlessly moving and chatting, or thinking about something else? You will be amazed at how quickly you progress when every single movement you make in the gym has a specific purpose. Also, I must admit to something here: it's really freaking hard! Focusing that much is tough to do and takes a lot of work. So it's really up to you to make the choice to take your training seriously. Or you coiuld just be ok with showing up and going through the motions. Sure you'll have some gains just moving in general, and if that's all you want, fine. All I'm saying is that everyone has a TON more potential in them, and it's not that hard to get it out of yourself. If you're having a hard time focusing, just ask yourself before every rep "why am I doing this rep?". Notice I said rep, not exercise, or workout, or anything like that. Be specific, it will make a world of difference.
Food is fuel. Literally. Cars need gas to run, people and other animals need food. You can survive for a good long time with very little fuel, but it will come at a huge cost. And the negative effects will usually creep up on you without you realizing it. Higher stress levels, bad skin, weight gain, the inability to lose weight thanks to skewed hormone levels, crap metabolism, mood swings, getting sick, and on and on. You body reacts negatively when it's not taken care of. You need to put enough fuel, and high quality fuel in your body based on your energy output. This means if you burn this fuel quickly, you need more. If you are very inactive, you need very little. All these points I'm writing about are the most commonly abused things I see in athletes and clients all over, but the food point is one that gets the most confusing for people. I have found that the vast majority of people actually know what to do here, but it's their damn brains that get in the way. Emotional connections to food, psychological tricks the brain plays on you all the time about what is good and what is bad, access to crap food and crap information, there are just all sorts of distractions here. Again, as always with these points, just be honest with yourself and try to remember these:
- Less food does not mean weight loss. It usually means the opposite actually (can anyone who is not a health/fitness professional tell me why?).
- Balance in your meals is NUMBER ONE. Whether you are vegan, paleo, or anything else. Just focus on balancing your meals and better things will happen.
- Eat little to no processed food. Don't know what processed food is? Get your head out of your ass, it's the most obvious thing in the world. This is hands down the most important fact. If people just stopped eating processed food, this world would be so insanely better it would be scary. If you have even a quarter of a brain you should know what the difference between processed and natural is. Am I being harsh? Yep. But it bugs me to no end when people play stupid here and create excuses as to why they eat shit food.
"I'll sleep when I'm dead". You've all heard that before, and the funny thing is, being dead will come WAY sooner if you live by that mentality. Sleep is hands down the most important part of recovery from everything. Everything resets when you sleep. Every aspect of the inner workings of your body regenerates and balances out during sleep. It's kind a big deal! I personally have trouble here, and I know it's because my mind just runs wild at night and that keeps me awake. A while back I learned that the restlessness I experienced in bed was coming from a glycogen depletion (meaning I had so little glycogen in my system my muscles were freaking out because they had nothing to use as fuel as they began their recovery process. I upped my carbohydrate intake throughout the day and the restlessness has chilled out a LOT. My point of telling this little story is that so many people turn to sleeping pills and things like that to get to sleep. Then wake up and turn to caffein and things liken that to stay awake. People, stop relying on stimulants and downers to do the most basic things your body should be able to do! Train smart, move with a purpose, eat well, and everything will come together. There are so many things to do to help with sleep: yoga, meditation, reading, using better lighting throughout the day, spending less time in front of a TV and computer screen, working out properly, eating properly, etc. You get the point. Sleeping is NEEDED! Everyone knows what a solid 8 hours of deep sleep does, you've all woken up form a night like that and just felt great all day. So again, don't make excuses as to why you should be up so late, and that sleeping is stupid, be honest with yourself and how much your life would benefit from better sleep. Then make the healthy efforts to do so.
All these points I touch on could be discussed at length for hours on end. But what I've found is that if you just take a moment to think about what you truly want in life, then think about how to go about doing it; things get a good bit clearer. The second you start to come up with excuses, and tell yourself that things are too difficult and what's the point and all that, you become like most people in this world. You just end up functioning below your potential at all times, complaining to family and friends about how hard your life is, and spending most of your life unsatisfied with the way things are. It's actually not that hard to understand how to live an amazing life, the tough part is the execution. It takes actually work, focus, and dedication to see things through. But the best part is: once you've begun, it becomes habit. Then all those stupid excuses you keep making for yourself just don't exist anymore. Then all of a sudden you just, are healthier. And happier. And better.
This post turned into a little more than talking about training, but so goes life. I sort of think of training as a metaphor for life anyway. And I also really like the idea of having more and more people understanding training to be an inevitable part of their lives, rather than something they "need to get to". Every single person in the world makes a choice to be healthy or unhealthy each and every day. It's just a matter of setting your priorities straight.
Never Stop, GET FIT.
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