Not everyone has the willpower and determination to tackle each training session with the same passion and rage as Arnold did. And that’s fine. For you, having training motivation might be a constant battle between putting your feet up after a long day in the office versus dragging your ass into the gym. Here are some ways to build training consistency while still having time to do other things.
Be relentless with your time
Block a time in your schedule and treat it as the most important meeting of the week. Don’t take other appointments and don’t double book. Nothing is important enough to justify cancelling your training. The only exception being if you or your partner is about to go into labour. You have permission to shuffle the schedule for that. Check to see if the hospital has a gym nearby. Just kidding. But not really.
Would I sometimes make more money by shuffling my client’s sessions around and eating into my own training time? Sure. But I think of it as a choice between money and health. I’d rather have less money and more health. Besides, a healthier and happier coach means healthier and happier clients. When I become overworked, my clients suffer the consequences. And that’s not fair for anyone.
Quality over quantity
You can make great progress by getting in 20-30 minutes of quality training a few times a week. Ask yourself: what is the most efficient use of my time? If all you can do is a few sets of deadlifts and carries, you are ahead of the game compared to 99.9% of the population (who sit on their butts eating potato chips and watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother). Heck, you are ahead of the folks who spend hours in the gym doing bicep curls, tricep kicks and ab crunches, among other exotic exercises.
In a perfect world, you’d be training 45-60 minutes three or four days a week in a fully equipped gym. Well, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Life’s not always perfect. Amazing things can happen in 20 minutes if you pour your heart and soul into it—even if all you’ve got is one kettlebell at home. For those 20 minutes, all you can do is train—no phones, talking or picking your nose. Just train. Focus on big movements using several muscle groups at the same time. Think swings, goblet squats, carries… Do it properly and you’ll be smoked in 14 and a half minutes.
Again, quality over quantity. Pretty good attitude for a lot of things in life.
Be accountable to someone
Get your wife, best friend or your mum to check in with you each day when you have your training booked. Even better, do it with a friend. They don’t have to train at the same time as you do, but you hold each other accountable.
If you think telling someone won’t cut it for you and they’ll let you slide, pay someone to help you train. And make sure you are paying enough so that, if you miss a session, it hurts to waste the money. The pain of losing money (or face) can be a powerful motivator.
Smarter over harder
The media wants you to think that if you are not training 10 times a week and eating boiled chicken breast wrapped in lettuce and sweet potato, you are not doing enough. The media promotes an all-or-nothing approach. Frankly, going easy or moderately is not sexy enough. It doesn’t sell magazines and it definitely doesn’t make good television.
Imagine this: the next season of Biggest Loser goes on for a year following Big Jim around who’s trying to lose 10 kilograms in 12 months. The first month they’ll show how he focuses on drinking two glasses of water each day. We’d be spying him via hidden cameras to see if he’s making an effort and going for it each day. The cliff-hanger moment happens when he’s about to head to bed and he’s only had a glass and a half, and then, commercial break! Honestly, I would find that fascinating, but I doubt that my opinion reflects that of the typical TV viewer.
The bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with being moderate or going easy on yourself. If you are juggling dozens of responsibilities in your life such as kids, relationships and a high-pressure job, the last thing you need is another “hard” thing to struggle with. If you think you can train twice a week but it might be a stretch, start with one session. If something gives, you can always add a second training session for those weeks. This way, you are always hitting your target and sometimes even exceeding it. How good will that feel compared to deciding to train three times a week but only doing it once? You’d be always underachieving. Not a good way to build momentum. Make your initial training easy and you’ll have a better shot at sticking with it long-term.
Learn to auto-regulate
Auto-regulation means waving your training depending on your schedule or how you feel. Some days or weeks are tougher and some are easier. This comes in later once you have established some of your training habits. On busy weeks, you might get to the gym once. During less-hectic weeks, you may get in three to four times. When you feel like shit your training session will reflect on it, by design. When you feel great you will make up for it. Learn to ease up when all the balls are not in your court.
I got this idea from Alwyn Cosgrove*. Basically, he decides on the number of training sessions he’s going to do within the next 52 weeks. So let’s say you plan on hitting the iron dungeon 100 times within the next 52 weeks. Some weeks you do more, on other weeks you do less, depending on what life throws your way. Write it on a piece of paper and scribble down a line each time you’ve successfully trained.
This does not have to be something you do as a New Year’s resolution. Just think 52 weeks from today, whether it’s January or September. Any time is as good as now. And honestly, now is better than “in the future”.
Auto-regulation doesn’t necessarily work if you don’t have a basic training routine in place already. You might have the tendency to skip-skip-skip with the thought of catching up later. Be honest with yourself here.
Try a different program
If you’ve tried weight training a dozen times and you still hate it with the intensity of a thousand burning suns, find a new approach. Have you always trained in the same way? Is it always a similar program? Do you usually start with the same exercises that you end up loathing? Do you stop because you get injured or don’t know how to do an exercise? Try something completely new. A different plan, a new set of exercises, a different gym. Here’s a simple plan I wrote a while back.
Change your goal setting
Instead of focusing on weight and body fat, work up to a chin-up and a push-up.. Other parts seem to fall into place when the emphasis is on strength. Exercises that involve lifting your own body weight force you to think about your food choices as well; lower body fat leads to an easier chin-up. And I have yet to train anyone whose eyes don’t light up when they achieve their first full push-up or chin-up.
If the ideas above don’t work for you, maybe iron is not your friend and you need to look elsewhere. But please, for the love of god, don’t just go jogging! Don’t give up until you’ve exhausted all of the strength-training options. Being stronger will carry over to every other aspect of your life. And it will make you better prepared to face any health challenges that may lie ahead.
*If someone has a link to his post, please let me know.
Album I listened to while my fingers gently pressed the keys:
Electric Mary – Down To The Bone
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