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Quick confession – a couple of years ago I was an absolute new year resolutions cynic.
Every January I’d see the gym fill up, new faces everywhere (usually turning a shade of beetroot).
Experience said that most of those of those face wouldn’t still be there at the end of the month. I’d join the regular gym goers in muttering under my breath about all these folks hogging the kit.
I’m pleased to say that I’ve seen the error of my ways.
I love the energy of new years resolutions now. The feeling of a fresh start.
I’ve made enough cock ups and false starts in areas of my life, that I can appreciate much better the hopes of someone who steps up in January to make something better for themselves.
The fact that so many people drop away from the gym is often down to improper advice given by the fitness industry.
We promise you sweat, high 5’s and mega results all in exchange for a direct debit.
And you want results.
It’s understandable that we feel impatient for the results. I start tutting if my wifi takes longer than 3 seconds to load a page. I don’t marvel at the wealth of information I have at my finger tips….I tutt, cos we want everything now.
And there lies the problem and the reason why many people will drop out of their training routine by the end of January.
There is a belief that we have to end every session covered in sweat, wondering if our heart is about to leap out of our ribcage and walking like Bambi.
Then spend the next few days so sore that we walk like John Wayne.
Let’s bust a myth
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SORE AFTER A WORKOUT
I know it feels kinda nice in a weird way….you know you’ve done something, it’s like you can feel your body getting fitter and stronger.
But soreness can actually limit your results and here’s why.
The real key to improved fitness and performance is CONSISTENCY and VOLUME.
Consistency basically comes down to keeping on keeping on.
For most of us, our long-term goals won’t be achieved in a month. That’s usually what makes them so worthwhile to achieve is that take some time and effort.
Any kind of dramatic weight loss in that time frame is usually done in an unsustainable way, which will often mean that when it comes time to stroll the beach in summer, you’ll be back to square one.
This is not ideal.
Achieving a long-term goal means that there will always be bumps in the road and unforeseen challenges.
We need to be consistent rather than perfect.
A quiet evening out turns into a marathon of shots, empty bottles and karaoke domination? Cool, make sure you had fun, then get back into the swing of things the next day.
Work gets chaotic, the kids need extra help with their homework and you have no idea how to fit in an hour at the gym? Then figure out what you do have time for…maybe a workout at home is the most viable option….just keep being consistent.
Volume – this is essentially how much training you do each week and is a key variable in developing performance and getting results.
When it comes to weight training it is how many reps you perform each week.
In running it is how many miles you run each week.
For someone wanting to develop their muscle mass, the total amount of reps performed per body part each week is one of the most important variables.
For a distance runner, the number of miles ran each week is key to how fast they can expect to go in competition.
So how does this affect our New Year resolutions.
We want all the results now.
So we push hard in our first few workouts.
If we go to the gym with a pal there’ll likely be some rivalry and competition.
In the short term this can often lead to a lot of soreness.
When we’re really sore the idea of training is a lot less enticing.
Over a period of a few weeks this can also result in not getting enough recovery. This leads to feeling like you’ve been hit by a speeding steam roller (if such a thing can exist), alongside other less than fun symptoms such as low libido and feeling like a miserable bastard.
It’s pretty clear to see that this can have an affect on our consistency as well as getting adequate weekly volume.
So what’s the solution
I’ve become a big fan of sub maximal training.
Especially for folks over 30 and/or with busy life commitments such as building a career and looking after a family.
Essentially it means not training to failure in the majority of your workouts.
Training is a stimulus for the body.
We do some exercise that is outside the scope of the body to do comfortably, it then adapts to be able to cope with the given stimulus.
The stimulus does not need to be maximal in order to adapt.
Imagine you did 10 reps of squat, for 3 sets as hard as you can manage. To keep the maths simple for me we’ll imagine the weight was 100kg.
So you’ve performed 30 reps and lifted a total of 3,000kg.
But tomorrow you’re unbelievably sore and just sitting on the toilet feels a herculean effort. You sure won’t be training your legs again this week, not with any appreciable stress at any rate.
What if you did those 3 sets at 75% of your effort (75kg).
You’ve performed 30 reps and lifted a total of 2,250kg.
But you feel ok the day after and a few days later you can repeat this workout.
Now for the week you have performed 6 sets, 60 reps and lifted 5,500kg. That’s 2,500kg more lifted for the whole week.
Extrapolate that over the period of a year, who do you think will end the year stronger and happier?
In the case of running.
Imagine you go out to run feeling fresh and excited. You do 5 miles and are bushed.
Or, you do 2 miles, but repeat this workout another two times that week for a total of six miles.
You have greater consistency and greater weekly mileage.
This is not about being easy or soft on yourself. Rather it’s about setting yourself up to be able to consistently build and develop yourself over the year.
So come next January you ca focus on other targets in resolutions rather than trying to get fit….again.
None of this is to say that we should never have an all out session, it’s simply that those types of sessions should be planned to allow for adequate recovery and for a time when you are in good condition and can perform well.
Going all out in the weeks following a month long sugar and/or alcohol marathon isn’t the best of moves.
If you’re new to training or returning after a long break, it would be a better use of your time to spend January developing your exercise techniques and building a base level of endurance before fully unleashing yourself on your workouts.