Hindsight is beautiful, isn’t it?
I’ve been in the fitness game for over 10 years now, training myself under some of the best coaches in the world, and working with hundreds of clients as a personal trainer.
I’ve learnt a fair bit about training in that time, and there is a lot of things I wish I had known back when I started.
Lucky for you, I can tell you what you need to know, to save you finding out the hard way like I did.
Use Your Muscles, Don’t Lift Weights
Stop focusing on how much weight you have on the bar, and on getting it from A to B. Instead focus on the strength of contraction and how hard you can feel the muscles working.
Tension drives muscular growth. You will have more tension on the muscle when you focus on using the muscle, rather than bringing in other muscles to cheat the movement and lift more weight.
Supplements Are Supposed to…SUPPLEMENT
Back when I first started training I wouldn’t work out if I didn’t have a protein shake. I genuinely thought it would hurt my gains. Seriously!
Don’t believe the hype supplement companies tell you. Food is the bread and butter of your nutrition. Supplements are there to help fill in any gaps and make your life easier. They’re not a requirement.
Nothing You Do In The Short Term Is Life Or Death
Don’t worry about having a couple of weeks off, or trying to work yourself to death for 3 weeks because you have a holiday coming up.
Consistency over the long term is what builds your body. What you do over months and years is going to determine how you look. What you can do in a couple of weeks will have very little impact comparatively. Focus on long term progression.
Getting Really Lean Will Change You
I believe everyone should diet down to very low body fat levels at least once. You don’t need to try and be a bodybuilder or anything, but the process of dieting changes your relationship with food and your body.
You learn that hunger is not going to kill you, and become adept at shutting it out. You learn how to forgo things you’re craving, and find enjoyment in discipline.
You will be tired, but train anyway, and that changes your mindset about what your body is capable of.
When I got very lean and was in a large calorie deficit, I continued to get stronger! The body is a very adaptive machine and can take a lot more than you probably think.
Habits Always Beat Motivation
Want to make serious changes to your body?
You’ve got to create new habits. No matter how motivated you are right now, it will not possibly last. You simply need it to last long enough to create new habits which make the necessary processes happen, without the need for motivation.
Things like getting up and going to the gym first thing in the morning, without thinking about it. Doing your grocery shopping and food prep at the weekend, or spending 20 minutes working on mobility before a training session.
None of these things are sexy or fun, but they’re important. If you want to make sure they happen, you need to build them into a habit.
Less Is Often More
People tend to try and do too much. Too much training, too much weight, too much food. Too many changes in one go, too many expectations and too much pressure.
Focus instead on incremental progress. Doing just a tiny little bit more or better than you have done previously. It will seem slower to begin with, but it is sustainable and the changes compound quickly when you look over a period of months or years.
Mindset Is The Key
There’s going to be times when things are hard. You don’t feel like training, your body is sore, or you’re short of time.
If you embrace the suck and do it anyway, you will succeed. You must have a never say die attitude and commit yourself to doing the work. This is what will lead to success.
Effort Beats The Perfect Program
Give two people the same timeframe to meet the same goal. One gets the ‘perfect’ program designed by the best people and implements it at an average intensity. The other gets any random old program that is relevant for the goal, and gives it absolutely 100% effort.
The second person will always get better results.
Focusing too much on the best program or diet is just perfectionism getting in the way of your results. You’re better off choosing a starting point and then giving it everything you have got. Intensity is the key to success in the gym.
Drink More Water!
It’s amazing how many people are chronically dehydrated. Water is essential for human life, but so many of us fail to drink enough of it.
It affects us in an incredible number of ways – every cell needs water – make sure you’re hydrated. No, other drinks don’t count, drink water. Add citrus juice to flavour it if you’re not keen on plain water.
What’s even more important than water?
Oxygen. Oxygen is life. Yet most people cannot breathe properly. Poor posture, sitting down too much, high stress and a lack of genuine relaxation lead to poor breathing mechanics. This leads to insufficient oxygen, and only use a small percentage of our lungs capacity.
Lack of oxygen means lack of energy getting to all our cells. If you feel tired, you might just need to breathe better. Try lying flat on your back, place your hand gently on top of your stomach and breathe deeply in through your nose for a count of ten. Hold it for ten and then breathe out for ten. Your stomach – not your chest – should rise up and down.