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Thoughts on consistency and intensity in training.

September 22, 2013

Sometimes my expectations in regards to the way I feel about exercising are too high. I want to get hit with a burning desire to exercise before I train, and when I don’t feel excited about training, I feel disappointed.

The truth of the matter is that we’re not always going to be “pumped” to train. Making training a habit, an integral part of our lifestyle, is better than basing our decision to train or whether or not we feel in the mood or “pumped”. I think a lot of times the reason why people struggle with consistency in their training is because they think every single session has to be a big, PB-setting, mountain-conquering, long and drawn out session.

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Thinking that every session has to be this “massive” life-changing event has its downsides. For starters, just the dread, the nerves and the fear takes a lot of energy out you--energy that you could be putting into your actual training! Consistent practice is what makes you better, regardless of whether you are always “feeling it” or not.

We often don’t want to train, because we don’t train enough. We haven’t made training a habit, a normal part of our lives, rather than making a big hoopla about it or thinking of it as some massive accomplishment every time or expecting a big high from it.

To use a personal example, when I don’t row for awhile, I get scared of the rower and the pain of rowing. When I row regularly I realise it’s not that bad at all. I don’t mind doing 500 metre intervals. It’s the same with anything. Are you scared of heavy squats? Well more than likely it’s because you’re not squatting heavy often enough.

I’m not a fan of the “minimalist” approach (in the way that it’s often interpreted, i.e. do less training and somehow get better???) and quite frankly, I never have been. Since when did not doing squats more than once a week make you better at squats? Practicing your pull ups every other day will most certainly make you better at pull ups instead of thinking you should only practice them once a week (because you're scared of "overtraining"...or *cough cough* you're actually just feeling lazy and excessively fragile).

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful in becoming more consistent in training:  

--Make training a ritual, like brushing your teeth or cooking dinner. Train at the same time every day. Pack your training gear and bring it to work with you every day if you have to, so that you will go straight to training after work instead of going home first. Do what you need to do to “force” yourself to train even on the days that you don’t feel like it. Making a habit out of it will help you make your training session even on the days you don’t feel like it.

-- For me personally, posting too much on Facebook or Twitter and wanting all this attention about my training takes away from the real day-to-day grind of training, which isn’t often as “glamorous” as we make it out to be. It becomes more about how many likes I get on my latest gym check-in, versus how much effort I am actually put in. We all like to look good to others, but I think sometimes that pretentiousness can get the better of us. I mean we don’t post on Facebook every time we brush our teeth; why do we feel the need to post on Facebook about how often we’re training and about our latest exercise routine. Of course I’m not saying posting on Facebook is bad; I love posting my PBs!! But do you kind of see what I’m trying to get at? :)

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--Stop thinking that you have to push yourself to your breaking point every single day. Training consistently doesn’t mean exhausting yourself every day. Shorter, more regular training sessions trump the one-off long ass-busting training sessions. The more you practice a movement, the better you get at that particular movement and the easier/less scary it becomes. The more you lift heavy things, you better you will get at lifting heavy things. Consistency = doing it often, not breaking yourself every once in awhile.

--One way I apply the above tip, is by doing a few shorter sessions a day (seeing as I work at gyms this is convenient for me), rather than feeling like I have to devote myself to two hours of non-stop training. Sometimes I like to do a strength session in the morning, then come back later and do a conditioning session. Then focus on a skill session later in the day. That's what I mean by not having to make every session so long and drawn-out. Remember it all adds up. Consistent practice is what makes you better, not yelling and screaming and going crazy with a one off session every week.

--Create realistic expectations from workout to workout. Stop thinking you need to hit a PB every session. Focus on something positive that you can take away from each session, even if it’s something small, and let go of the things that are out of your control such as how you are feeling or how everyone else is performing.

--Focus on getting the little things right before trying to get the big things right.  Work on your efficiency of movement. When you get the fundamentals right everything becomes so much easier. So many things in life benefit from this principle of taking time to be precise, and practiced in the little things if you want the big things to develop, too.

Now I’m not saying intensity doesn’t matter. Far from it. I love high-intensity training. But what we need is the right kind of intensity. When it’s time to give it everything, don’t hold back; stand up and lay it all on the line.  When it’s time to intimidate and dominate, do just that. Get after it!! But save your energy for those times. Don’t waste your energy being nervous about your workouts before you even start training.  This is something I am still learning, but I’ll tell you, it’s a HUGE aspect of successful training and competing.  

The thing that will make you better at those BIG moments, those PBs, that glory in competition, are all the small moments in your training when you were consistent, the days you went and trained even when you didn’t feel like it, the days when you just plugged along following your program whether or not you made gains, the days you did all those squat sets even though you felt so tired before you started.

Get excited about your training, but channel that excitement. Don’t let your nerves and excitement come between you and your training.  

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