The year was 2002, big things were happening. We were safely past Y2K, Kelly Clarkson had won the first season of American Idol, Ben Affleck was the sexiest man alive, and the Spider-Man movie was a box office hit. During all of this a boy was lifting his first pair of dumbbells and leg curling to his heart’s delight in a small gym in Maine.
It was 15 years ago that I started lifting weights and boy, have I learned a lot from trial and error, conferences, mounds of books, and life.
Here are 15 thoughts on working-out and coaching:
1.Gyms Are Intimidating
The more I think about it, the gym is a very intimidating environment, especially the way it is portrayed in the media. Hot, shirtless men doing curls while slapping on baby oil and bronzer and beautiful women with abs wearing spandex short shorts and a sports bra. As a mere mortal, I could not possibly be good enough to workout in the same fitness sanctuary as these gods and goddesses.
The thing is, I have worked out in many a gym and yeah, the gym attracts its fair share of douchebags and self-absorbed egos, but for the most part, it is filled with normal, nice people looking to improve their health and quality of life.
2.Form is King
If you want to get strong, you need good form. If you want to feel good, you need proper form. Want to lose weight? You need proper form. Form should never be sacrificed to lift more. There are some lucky bastards that can get away with awful form and either they are dealing with constant back and shoulder pain and not telling us, or by some miracle from on high, they are actually perfectly fine.
In my experience, letting form slip is a shortcut for only a short bit of time. Eventually, you will stall and have to go back and fix the form; or you will get injured and have to go back and fix the form. I have experienced both of these routes and they ended at the same destination.
So let’s just skip the injuries and stalling and focus on form.
3.Training Isn’t Linear
As much as we want everything in life to be A+B=C, it doesn’t always work that way in training. What got you to where you are now will not take you to where you want to go. Meaning, if I lift the same weights and do the same exercises and eat the same food, I should always expect to get the same results. Right? The answer is both yes and no.
In the beginning, you will see change and then you will plateau and you will continue to get the same results. But if you are trying to get over the plateau you need to change something. The routine, weights, rest, food, something needs to change.
4.Start Proximal to Distal
When working for long term health I now think proximal to distal, or in to out. Look at what’s between the ribs and hips first. If you are having back or shoulder pain, look there first and then work your way out from there. Addressing core weaknesses and postural alignments will go a long way in living a full, healthy life.
5.Master the Plank First
Playing off number 4, the plank is the key position in life. When you’re standing you are planking. When you’re squatting, benching, deadlifting, running, sleeping, ect, you are in a form of a planked position. Mastering this foundational position will help you not only safe and healthy but also help get you stronger.
6.Perfection Should Never be the Goal
Have you ever wondered why diets don’t work? It’s because they make you think that the second you step off the rails you are completely done, you are a failure and should just throw it all in. Perfection is something to strive for, but it should never be what motivates you or be your goal because it will bring you down a road of not feeling good enough, when the goal was never even feasible, to begin with. The goal should be to be better than you were before.
I use to not work out and now I do. Great, that is better than before. I used to drink soda every day but now I just have a few cans a week. Perfect, that is better than you were. I didn’t work out every single day this month. No, that is not better than, who the hell works out all day everyday?!
7.Mobility Work is Not a Waste of Time
There was a smart strength coach who once said, “You should do mobility work for every decade old you are”. This means that if I am twenty I should do mobility work a minimum 2 times a week and if I am fifty a minimum of 5 times a week. As I inch closer to my third decade on this earth I am finding more and more that this is really good advice.
As you age and go through injuries your body can start to lose range of motion at important joints that require mobility for proper function and health (ankles, hips, thoracic spine, shoulders, and wrists). You can quickly and easily hit all these joints in your warm up.
8.Strength is Relative
Strength is different for everyone. The strength of an NFL offensive linemen is different than that of an NBA player which is different than that of a weekend warrior or 50-year-old.
If you find yourself in your 40’s and are thinking, ‘wow, I am weak because I can’t squat 400lbs,’ I would first hope you would take into consideration all that is at play and ask yourself if it is really that important at this stage of your life to be lifting that much?
If that is truly your goal, that is one thing. But have you looked at the risk to reward? If yes, then I would advise you not to, but I don’t want to be the pretty bird that ruins your day with my constant tweeting.
9.Recovery is Just as Important
Sleeping, eating, and relaxing are just as important, if not more important, as the workout itself. Sleeping and eating are the building blocks for a healthy life.
Relaxing and decompressing is just as important. Stress is needed to drive change in the body, but being in a high-stress state for long periods of time leads to health problems like heart disease and stroke.
10.Accountability is Key
Why do AA and Weight Watchers work so well? You have people to hold you accountable to your goal. Finding a workout partner or a spouse or friend to hold you accountable will increase your chances of success tremendously. If you are finding it hard to stick to your goal, then I strongly encourage you to find someone to keep you accountable.
If you are looking for help, I offer accountability through my online coaching click here.
11.Weight Loss Has nothing to do with working out
This may sound blasphemous, but working out has very little to do with weight loss. Now, wait just a second before you cancel your gym membership or cancel that 6-month hiking trip across the Appalachians. Hear me out.
Can you outwork a bad diet? Yes, IF you are relatively young and have great genes, work a moderately physical job, get good sleep, and did I mention have great genes?
If none of that describes you, then you need to focus on making small changes to how you are currently eating. Exercise is crucial for long-term health, but for fat and weight loss, not as important as you want to think.
12.Weight Loss is all about being inefficient
If you do decide to start a weight loss program, inefficiency is the name of the game. That means lots of full body movements (i.e. squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups, sprints), lifting heavy weights (it’s inefficient to lift more than your body is used to), or lifting fast for a short time (power movements), or lifting moderately heavy weights for a longer time (circuit training). What you don’t want to do is lift fast for a long period of time because that leads to injuries, which lead to a sedentary life for a period of time, which leads to comforting your soul by eating ice cream (we have all been there before). But this is not being inefficient, so let’s just skip all that crap and lift smart, OK?
13.Hypertrophy has a lot to do with TUT
I have found the best way to put on true mass and size is to increase your Time Under Tension (TUT). TUT is how long you hold a heavy object in your hand or on your back or how ever you want to put your body under load. That is why using high rep sets with heavy load (example 50 reps at 225lbs) work so well to create size. Or you could do heavy farmers walks for a long distance. Tension creates an adaptive response to hypertrophy the muscle fibers which in turn will help increase mass and strength.
14.Ice Cream and Beer Aren’t Bad For You
This may sound like a shocker, but it’s true. Food is not bad for you. Drinking paint thinner is bad for you (I am sure paint thinner is in some foods so ipso facto, some foods can be bad). Eating and drinking every night is not good for you, but having a few beers on the weekend and having a bowl of ice cream every once in awhile, is perfectly OK. As I’m sure some older person in your life once said, everything in moderation. Except for paint thinner. That shit will kill you.
15.Find What Gets You to Do What You Want to Do
This sounds simple enough, right? Well if I know I need to eat better and I want to eat better than it should be as easy as me just eating better, right?
Well, funny thing, it’s not that easy and I am sure you have already discovered this in almost all areas of your life. My best advice is to find someone to hold you accountable (going back to #10).
Here’s hoping these 15 discoveries of mine can help you become stronger and more confident in the gym.
Your fitness Sherpa,