Your goal, not your injury, should dictate your training program

Your goal, not your injury, should dictate your training program

When you’re dealing with an injury, there’s no need for a watered down rehab program that slows or stops you from reaching your goals.

Yes, we want injuries to improve. But most people also want to increase their strength, fitness and the possibility of fitting into old pants.

The good news? We can do it all at the same time without relegating to a rehab only mode. Even better, we’ll likely recover quicker from the injury by doing it.

With my clients, I plan their programs and workouts based on their goals, equipment, and even on what they enjoy (but we also need to do the stuff that we dislike).

Then I’ll adjust ONLY the exercises that need to be adjusted because of the injury and rehab. We’ll tick both the fitness and rehab boxes by choosing an alternative exercise that is the closest to the original exercise and can be done without aggravating the injury.

A person with a shoulder injury might not be able to do kettlebell swings or push ups. But they might still do a deadlift or an isometric push up variation.

Similarly, a person with a knee problem might not be able to do a full squat. But they might do a squat to a chair / box.

Then we sprinkle in whatever is going to help them get over their injury and/or whatever homework their physio/osteo/chiro gave them.

Voila, progress and rehab bundled in one.

A foundational habit in fat loss and weight control

A foundational habit in fat loss and weight control

Exercise, or a more inclusive term, physical activity. But not because it burns calories. An under appreciated perk of physical activity in fat loss and weight control (or management, you choose) is its effect on our hunger cues.

Physical activity refines our hunger in two ways.

First, it can help us differentiate between a genuine hunger and fake hunger. Have you ever felt hungry, or had a cosmic craving for glazed donuts before a workout, but went ahead with training without eating?

Only to discover that as you started moving, the hunger or craving went away. Ding! A case of fake hunger. In contrast, those times you’ve started a session and felt like passing out or lethargic, it would’ve likely been a sad-face-case of genuine hunger.

Second, engaging in physical activity makes our bodies want real, nourishing, wholefoods. The body wants to replenish whatever it used with the stuff that is healthy for us. Instead of the sweet stuff we typically crave.

As long as we’re not on some super-strict, calorie-restricted diet. But then again, why would we ever?

Here’s a random third point that has nothing to do with hunger cues. Because I like to over-deliver and don’t believe in brevity in my current state of being. Physical activity helps us form our identity as a someone who looks after their health and wellbeing. And damn, whether we do it consciously, us humans like being consistent with our actions.

Meaning that our identity in training will often spill over to the rest of our day-to-day life. We’re more likely to make healthier decisions simply because it matches the narrative of how we see ourselves and how we want others seeing us: a fine individual who’s consistent with their actions.

And yeah, please forgive me for sounding somewhat Victorian food puritan earlier for using words like “nourishing” and “replenish”. But they got the point across. Right? But also, I won’t do it again.

Going public

Going public

A fact: we don’t like to lose face in front of others. Especially if the others are people who’s opinion, we respect a great deal.

How could we use this to our benefit when trying to change a habit or reach a goal?

I’m glad you asked. Here’s how.

Writing a goal on a piece of paper, signing our name under it and making it public is all it takes. We’ve made a promise. And now we’re on the hook.

It’s unlikely that this on its own is enough to keep us going. But it can give our efforts just enough extra juice to not give up during the times of struggle or doubt.

Ripe for a change

Ripe for a change

Hiring someone for motivation is tempting. Paying them to tell you to do the things you wouldn’t do otherwise seems like a shortcut to reaching your goals.

Sure, the enthusiastic and inspirational delivery of a person’s vocabulary can give you a push. But that’s rarely the kind of motivation that leads to a lasting change. There’s too much friction.

The shift towards deep motivation often coincides with a shift in life. When the status quo becomes more painful than the possible change.

It’s not until the pain of the old exceeds that of the new. That’s when the intrinsic motivation kicks in and the friction dissipates.

And that’s when a real change can take place.

There’s no medal for being the world’s greatest exerciser

There’s no medal for being the world’s greatest exerciser

An attempt at defining the pillars of lifelong fitness.

Focus on making progress towards your goal instead of making yourself tired. Walk away from most workouts feeling like you could do more.

Progress can be about turning up. Sometimes it’s progress to not go backwards.

Compare yourself to your previous self. Not to other people.

It’s ok to skip an occasional workout and go do something else. Even if it has nothing to do with exercise.

There’s no single exercise or movement you have to do. If something doesn’t feel right, find an alternative. Also, you’re no longer an eighteen-year-old. Train accordingly.

The older you get, the more emphasis you need to put on rest and recovery.

Include movement into your days without labelling it exercise.

Take part in physical activities you enjoy, even better, love. Then sprinkle in other activities which enhance and complement what you love.

Find others who love what you love.

Eat healthy and nutritious meals most of the time. And sometimes don’t.

Learn to cook healthy and delicious food. Or marry someone who knows how to cook and is willing to cook for you. Failing that, hire a chef.

Putting in the time to manage stress and fatigue is never a bad idea.

Spend as much time outdoors as you can.

Sleep. A lot.

And yes, this is a cliché, but listen to your body.

Zooming out

Zooming out

It’s tempting to base our actions on what the relatively short-term consequences will be. The next few minutes, perhaps tomorrow, maybe in a week’s time, or in about a month or two.

But the focus of our zoom leaves out more than it allows in. It makes us vulnerable to instant, or at least semi-instant gratification.

How would our actions change if we’d promise ourselves to frequently zoom out? How differently would we behave if we’d be thinking five, 10 or 20 years from now? Instead of what gives us pleasure now.

There is nothing inherently wrong with zooming in. Doing it and living in the moment is a beautiful thing. When we do it in tiny bursts.

The danger of using too much zoom too often is that we completely miss the wider picture. It stops us from making the most informed decisions for our individual and collective, long-term health and wellbeing.

Getting to 500 push ups

Getting to 500 push ups

Somewhat unintentionally continuing on yesterday’s “girl push up” topic. One of the ladies I train sent me this today. One of her goals was to do a ONE push up.

A simple way to get strong with push ups (or anything, really) is to do a set of them daily. Do one rep (elevated if on the ground is too difficult), and keep at it until you can do two. Two turns to three, three to four, and so on. Never fail a rep, always leave a bit “in the tank”.

One rep might not seem much, but it all adds up. Then one day you realise you’ve done 500 over the last few months. That’s something.

A fact: Of the 500, all were real, gender neutral push ups. Drip by drip.

No such thing as “girl push ups”

No such thing as “girl push ups”

There are certain people who never fail to stir a cascade of negative emotions somewhere deep in my being. On top of my head: Nazis and people who don’t like mustard. But even more so, individuals who use the term “girl push ups”.

Push up is a push up regardless of the sex.

Women’s training isn’t that different compared to men’s. Sure, my female clients often like to put extra focus on different areas of the body vs men. Which then affects how the program looks. But that has nothing to do with gender. It has all to do with the training goal.

And yes, there is some science behind modifying training based on your cycle. But a simple “train based on how you feel” is as complicated as it needs to get for most.

The same big rocks matter regardless of the sex: train with consistency, pick a challenging weight and/or version of the exercise, get enough sleep, manage stress and fatigue, eat a healthy diet (and mustard), laugh often and never hold a fart for over three minutes.

Base your training around your goals and what you want, not your sex. And if you hear “girl push ups”, run in the opposite direction as fast as you can.

Four Buckets

Four Buckets

We need to keep filling all our training buckets. While ideally trying to keep them somewhat even.

Strength – for the majority we’ll do just fine by focusing mostly around the 8-12 rep range. Ideally, 2-3 times a week.

Cardio fitness – short high-intensity efforts with a full recovery in between bouts. Once, max twice a week. Moderate intensity “traditional” cardio at a conversational pace as often as possible. Parrot sticker for those who do this daily. I don’t.

Mobility – do whatever it takes to achieve and maintain a deep squat, toe touch and connecting your fingers behind your upper back (shoulder scratch test). At least.

Power – the bucket most people ignore. Which is a real bummer. As we age, we lose power faster than we lose strength. Training power could be kettlebell swings, or various jumps. But it could be as simple as performing some strength exercises faster. Or even taking a quick step. Depending on the person.

Maybe that’s not the right tool

Maybe that’s not the right tool

The answer is not always exercise and vegetables. Sometimes the best place to start is to find better ways to manage stress, anxiety and fatigue. It could be as simple as setting firmer boundaries with work, going to bed earlier, or learning to disconnect.

But it could also mean seeing a mental health professional, ending a draining relationship, or completely changing how one lives their life.

These are all bold, tough actions. And far from easy. Which is why we often try to fix our stress, anxiety and fatigue problems with exercise and diet. It’s like bringing in a chisel when what we really need is an industrial jackhammer.

When stress, anxiety and fatigue get the attention and tools they deserve, there is often significant progress with one’s physical health and fitness. And the exercise and vegetable habits are more likely to stick too.