Most of my clients are Chads and Selmas who want to move, feel and look better. Folks who have jobs and run businesses that keeps them busy and limits how much time they have for exercise and movement each week. To say that most of them are training for the sport of life wouldn’t be too far out of line.
There might be some sort of “beer league” sporting events here and there but rarely is there high level sports included. More along the lines of paddle boarding with Chad, instead of trialing for the Olympics in canoeing.
These following rules are in no particular order but since the Internet loves numbered lists, that’s what I’ve created.
Besides the additional individual goals of the person (Thick Arnold Arms or Round Xena Glutes) and the obvious “do no harm”, here’s what guides my training philosophy for the non-athlete, adult client.
Also worth noting, I pretty much include anyone who’s over 20 and doesn’t train for high level of sports in this category. Including myself.
1. MOVE WITH INTEGRITY BEFORE ADDING LOAD
This might be the rule that gets violated most often in a gym. As a matter of fact, someone, somewhere in the world at this very moment is committing this. And it is especially true with men who are trying to impress ze ladiez (or other men, for than matter) with magnificent feats of strength. Newsflash: the ladies don’t care, or so I’ve been told. Hey, I used to do it too!
Pick an exercise and I’ll show you a guy who’s made it way too hard for him just because he’s seen others do it (or, see the part about ze ladiez above). But you are about to be hit by some messed up truth: you ain’t there yet, brother.
There’s wisdom (and safety, and pending future awesomeness) in mastering the basics first. Yet, it is rarely seen. Be the change.
2. YOU DON’T HAVE TO PROGRESS THE LOAD, SETS OR REPS IN EVERY SESSION
This could even say, “every month”. If the same weight feels lighter today than it did two weeks ago, you just got stronger.
Getting better for tomorrow is all about reasonable and slow approach, there’s no rush.
Things such as isometric holds and offset loading will do wonders for joint health compared to adding more load. Always, always, always think risk vs reward. Is this goal worth it? Rather do too little than too much today and come back fresh tomorrow.
I know, I have a magical way of making training sound sexy. Just waiting for the truckload of hundred dollar bills to roll in so I can put my feet up and start spitting on the ceiling.
3. BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR TRAINING PLAN
Depending on the specificity of your goal, have a plan on what you are going to do today but be willing to abandon or modify it if required. If you come in tired, sore, in pain or stressed, doing the 45 minutes of super high intensity workout is not going to help. It will make you worse. And possibly injured.
Speaking of abandoning, if you’ve ever seen the The Armageddon you know what I mean.
4. FOCUS ON REASONABLE AND CONSISTENCY OVER SPORATIC EXTREMES
You want the magic solution to reach unbelievable results in the gym and learn to keep them for life? Here goes, sharpen the pencil and open a new page in the notebook:
Show up, do the work. Sometimes go hard, other times go easy and most times about medium is right. Once done, move on. Then come back the next time and do it again. Repeat this over your lifetime. And as people much wiser than I am have said, don’t judge things based on one workout.
That’s your silver bullet solution.
5. DO MORE THAN SQUATS AND DEADLIFTS
Life doesn’t always have in forward and reverse motion and neither does it happen with feet always parallel on the ground. You need to move sideways, across the body as well as backwards and forward. Do lateral lunges, pull the prowler sideways throw med balls in weird ways, and so on. Add split stance, single leg, single arm and ground work with different rolls and crawls, your options are endless.
Squatting and deadlifting are awesome and being strong is too, but there’s more to it than that.
6. LEAN MUSCLE MASS, MOBILITY AND POWER ARE YOUR BIGGEST GOALS
All of those three are the things that we’ll lose as we get older. Besides, it’s awesome to be lean, powerful and mobile, no matter what your age.
By focusing on lean muscle mass you’ll also reduce the chance of osteoporosis and other lifestyle diseases. Your bones would give you a warm hug if they could.
7. MASTER BODYWEIGHT MOVEMENTS TO GAIN AND MAINTAIN INDEPENDENCE
I didn’t include it in the above link, but thinking of it now, mastering different crawling patterns are an essential part of building independence.
Not only because of the coordination, balance and strength that the crawling requires but also because of what it does to your brain. Crawling gets your right and left side of the brain talking to each other. And you want that. You really do.
8. EAT MEAT AND POTATOES BEFORE DESSERT
Once you’re done with the “main course” of training do whatever you want to do. It’s like eating your steak and broccoli before dominating the chocolate brownie. If you want to do isolated work on your already jacked arms, go for it. Pump those bad boys up! That’s your dessert and you’ve earned it.
I used to be all “this is the only way to do things and everything else is a waste of time!” I was a what you’d call, um, a jackass. But then I had a Yoda-moment: It’s place everything has.
I came to understand that everything has it’s place, especially if it’s what makes the training enjoyable for you and keeps you coming back for more.
So, go ahead, do another drop set of barbell curls in the squat rack. You know you want to. Then, go and eat some potatoes.
9. TAKE SOME TIME OFF FROM TRAINING
Once or twice a year put your gym membership on hold for few weeks or even a month and do something else. Keep moving and don’t lose the mobility that you’ve gained through persistent work but at the same time, just forget the gym for a little while.
Do something else. Go for long bike rides or climb the highest mountain you can find. Hell, play darts while doing push ups, if that’s what you enjoy.
If you’re grinding twelve months a year, at some point the excitement and fun will fade out. It all becomes, well, a grind. And your body will probably flip you a center. But when you allow yourself to have a break, the training will be something that you’ll look forward to again.
By the way, this is the rule that I struggle with the most. But every single time I’ve taken a step back my body has thanked me for it. Do what I do and plan these breaks around holidays to make things convenient.
10. TREAT FITNESS AS A TOOL, NOT AS AN END GOAL
I mean, if you are a beast at the gym benching 300 kilos for reps of ten, sport a six pack 365 days a year and carry a fake tan that makes Fabio look as if he just spend a year stuck in a cave, good for you. #respect.
But if at the same time your wife hates your guts and friends think you’re as much fun as watching a Tupperware container rotating in the microwave, you’ve got to ask yourself what’s important. But each to their own I guess.
Use your training in fitness to be better at other things in life that matter to you. It could be keeping up with your kids, going for hikes with your partner or playing Tennis with Chad.
If you are a competitive bodybuilder (I doubt you’d be reading my blog) the training is for that. If you are a high level athlete, same thing applies.
The goal of the training is to get it done, get better and then move on to the task that you trained for.
To quote Dan John (once again), who shifted my thinking on training and fitness: “Fitness is an ability to do a task. Nothing else.”
If you’re keen to get your free copy of the Training Plan for The Time Poor, click here.