We’ve all been here before: Our training sessions become lackluster. Results are not happening. Dreams of that super-fast time, the big miles, the great physique – they all take a back seat to a guy/gal who is living the drone life, pounding out otherwise meaningless miles or going through that rotation at the gym just because you’re supposed to.
Don’t get me wrong, just getting into the gym, on the bike or on the trails is a good thing. You’re moving, burning calories, working your body like it’s supposed to be worked. But when it’s not going anywhere, when you feel like a hamster spinning the wheel to no place in particular, your training can start to feel like an obligation – doing your duty for duty’s sake.
That will take the edge off your training. And eventually, it will lead you to a place where you actually start regressing. When that happens, you’ll be satisfied with lesser results. Who wants that?
It got me to thinking about what makes a training program work. I’m not going to get into what programs work, but more of the mental side, because it doesn’t matter what the program is if the person who is doing it has checked out mentally.
This has been an issue with me concerning weight lifting. It’s been awhile since I’ve gone anywhere in the weight room. So I’ve had to retool a few things to start making progress again.
I read a post from Erik Ledin, the guy who runs Lean Bodies Consulting, that made a lot of sense. He talked about lifting slowly, pausing at the muscles’ point of extension, then completing the lift. Now you’re not going to do this in the squat rack or doing a deadlift. But a lot of lifts benefit from this type of lifting technique.
I’ve already seen the results. It’s harder work that’s paying off. The reason? Intent. By concentrating on working all the muscles – slow- and fast-twitch – you’re getting better results. You can work power moves explosively, but remember to work the slow-twitch muscles as well. Slow ab moves, bicep/tricep moves, stretching the pecs, burning those quads and hams – all that will work muscles in new ways that will prompt growth and development. And ultimately, performance.
Form means everything, much more than the numbers represented by what’s loaded on the bar. Any fool can bounce a barbell of his chest, swing their back on a barbell curl or kip every pullup they attempt. The smarter person will use great form, less weight – and then get stronger.
But intent is only part of the battle. Anyone can do a perfect set, wag their tongue for five minutes, get a drink and then go on to the next set. Obviously, that won’t get much done.
What’s lacking in the scenario is intensity.
I just got through reading a great online piece from John Romaniello who describes it all too well, comparing the meathead method of lifting (no real plan, occasional bad form, but lots of effort and energy) to the accountant method (methodical plan, journaling, etc.) and he said that though not ideal, the meathead will get more results.
Why? Because his mindset is intense. He’s already past the point of asking himself if he should try one more rep, or go for a bigger lift. He’s going to do it. So while great form and a solid plan would take this guy much further, he’ll still do better than the meticulous planner who lacks that animal intensity Mr. Meathead has.
Make your plan. But unleash the beast. Shorten those rest periods. Push yourself to get that next rep. Find a way to tack on an extra half mile at the end of that long run. Do another sprint, even though your legs feel like lead. Those sacrifices, those offerings to the lord of pain, will pay off in progress.
As much as all this is beneficial, nothing dials you in more than a goal.
For me, it’s been the mountains. I’ve really worked on my endurance cardio for the purpose of hauling myself to the top of a 14,000-foot peak. But seeing that I live in the Southern Plains (a region devoid of mountains), I need other goals. So fall race season is here, and I’m setting my sights on a few races to push myself harder when I hit the trails and the streets. I can tell you, it’s making a difference as my miles, speed and strength develop.
Being fit for fitness’ sake is good. Having a goal, however, puts a fine point on it. Want to summit that mountain? Train to get yourself in shape for it. Go run, bike and climb to the point where you are confident enough to bag that summit.
Want to strengthen you heart and lungs, and not get winded going up the stairs? Or drop some weight? Start training for a 5K. A 10K. A half marathon. Or even a marathon. And make it public. Tell people you’re doing this so you will be accountable.
You can carry this over into other realms. I have a lot of friends in martial arts, and I can tell you that goals in that realm – getting that higher belt, competing in a tournament, or even diving headlong into MMA – will put an edge on your training like nothing else. It’s one thing to practice forms, techniques or do drill when you’re just there to get fit. But the looming presence of a future black belt test, tournament or full-contact fight will combine the intent, intensity and goal-focus you’ll need to take it to the next level.
You can apply that sort of mindset to so many things. So if there’s something missing from your training, ponder these three points: Intent, intensity and goal-setting.
What are you doing to get to the next level? Share your thoughts here!
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