It may have been a while since you've been to the gym, but if you've made it your goal to get back to regularity, it's important to keep a few things in mind. Honestly, a recreational trainee after health and fitness shouldn't have any reason to make the gym another stressor in life. Sadly, many miss the point and training becomes a different animal than its original intention. To avoid that, remember the following the next time you workout.
You're not as advanced as you think you are
If you're a regular Joe hitting the gym, possibly after a hiatus, you don't need to be following LeBron James' in-season program to optimize your results. The basics will serve you just fine. Digging a little deeper will reveal that even strength coaches to many of the most elite athletes prefer simple programs and hard work using primal patterns.
You're not 19 anymore
A car enthusiast can keep a classic car in great condition, but he'll always respect the fact that it's not new, and push it within its limits.
Like cars, our bodies need to be respected in the same way. If it's been a while since high school or college, throwing down slam dunks on a whim, it's time for a reality check. For most of your year, it's useful to acknowledge that the "beast mode" train is long gone, and it's time to put more emphasis on training smart. That's how you'll last the long haul.
Being strong doesn't mean you're in shape
Intelligent coaches relentlessly preach the value of strength training as the primary form of exercise any sensible person should pursue in the gym. But your 600 pound deadlift won't save you from cardiac arrest due to high body fat percentage or a poor diet.
Training for higher reps, focusing on mobility and flexibility work, attacking your cardio for a healthy heart and lungs, becoming proficient at bodyweight training, and remembering to perform lateral movements, are all ways to take your health seriously from a truly all-encompassing, holistic perspective. Even if it means your precious personal record's have to take the backseat to improve your fitness, you'll be glad you did.
Training through pain doesn't put you ahead
Rule number one: If an exercise causes you pain, stop doing it immediately. There are too many possible explanations for pain during exercise to list in this article, so stick to this simple rule, and tend to injuries or chronic pain by way of a skilled practitioner.
No one's trying to be a hero, and the whole "walk in, crawl out" gym mentality is getting as old and tired as the people who probably came up with the saying. If you can get all the benefits of training without aggravating existing problem spots, that's a win-win, and it's what everyone should strive to do.
The gym helps you move well, but being athletic helps you move excellently
I'll be honest: training using a full range of motion, good form and proper muscular tension is good for a lot. But I'll put it this way: over my career, I've noticed many bodybuilders in my industry have often been mistaken for football players by laymen who don't know any better. But I've rarely, if ever, seen any football players get mistaken for bodybuilders.
My point is, you can never mistake an athlete. It's not only the way they look; it's the way they move. They're coordinated, and they may be muscular, but they're never tight and muscle-bound, and they've gotten that way from getting out and playing their sport, which is something you can't replace in the gym.
It doesn't mean you have to ditch your day job to try out for the NBA D-League as a mature entrant. Try picking up a hobby for a day or two per week that gets you moving. Play some soccer. Join a track club. Take up a martial art. Enroll in dance lessons. It will feel incredible.
Let the weights win to see physical change
It's easy to drink the kool-aid and saunter into the gym thinking you're going to own every lift, and "show those weights who's boss." As great as that may be for one's confidence, it behooves us to remember that if our goals involve any of improving our body composition to look better naked, building muscle, or lowering body fat, we have to make sure the weight we lift is doing its job on us too.
Training for results means the weight should safely "break our muscles down," to fatigue us, spark a metabolic response and give us exposure to time under tension. Everything shouldn't be for three reps, nor should everything feel like a conquest that you always win. Chase some reps. It'll help you get in shape.
Trying to be the best will get you hurt
Instead of trying to outlift, outstretch, outrun, out-clean-and-jerk and out-mobility everyone, all at the same time, focus on one goal at a time, and recognize that with each goal will come a temporary sacrifice to a couple of others along the way. Spend a couple of months at a time making different goals under the umbrella of weight training your priority, and use yourself as your frame of reference for record-setting. Not others.
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Expect performance fluctuations day to day
If members of the elite of the elite athletes who focus on perfect sleep, and have the best resources for rest and recovery on hand, still have off-days and bad matches, it's only logical to expect that Bob from Accounting will have fluctuations in his performance too.
The best way to break out of a negative headspace where this is all concerned is to drop the six week guarantees, and think bigger picture. What do you want to lift, look like, or feel like in one year after training consistently towars those goals? Focus on that end point, and your hiccups will be small speed bumps in your road to success.
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