I spent 60p on a diary at the post office last week and had no cash on me so tried to pay by card but the rules are, you have to spend a minimum of £5.
So I bought a scratch card for a fiver.
I’ve now been back 4 times reinvesting my winnings.
Winnings that aren’t enough to change my life, or even my week but it keeps me hanging on!
£5-10 each time.
Enough to keep me excited and waiting for the ‘big one’
Realistically, with “1 win in 3.79 chances” it is likely to be a drawn out affair ending with me losing my original investment.
Kinda like the ‘scratch card’ fitness approach you have.
I mean it.
The majority of people don’t get anywhere.
They have no idea what to expect from the things they do or whether it is ‘working’.
‘Getting results’ gets blurred with ‘working hard’ and a bit of excitement and the social benefits of high-fiving your class mates.
All important stuff but, like gambling, most of the fitness industry preys on your desperation and needs for distraction and distortions of the truth.
I know it’s hard to take, but if you’ve been training three times per week for a few months or years and you’re still looking the same, not able to do push ups on your feet, not moving better and not lifting more weight, what exactly is happening?
You’re essentially just hoping and hoping, like a child who thinks eventually they will be able to fly.
In flashes, the gym or bootcamp seems to be working.
These brutal, intense sessions with no plan behind them are like a drug.
For 3 hours per week, your ‘thinking mind’ which is heavily over-taxed by modern life is shut down by the intensity giving you respite from all your thoughts and problems.
The addictive mechanisms are EXACTLY the same.
Now, to be fair, I’d rather you’re addicted to your bootcamp than snorting cocaine after work.
…outside of that hour, and in the long-term, there are more sinister things going on.
Most people have no awareness of how to disengage with their conscious mind and the incessant stream of information and questions flowing through it.
Because of this, some of us look for physical intensity in the same way we reach for coffee, drugs, wine – anything that ‘turns the volume down’.
The problem is, it’s like these scratch cards that give me enough to stay engaged but not enough to actually make any real difference!
Common signs of exercise intensity addiction and underlying issues are:
- You can’t perform a session that isn’t all out, pain inducing warfare. To you, running or cycling slower than you know you can is like when you knew the cookie jar and all it’s wonderful goodness was in the other room but you’re not ‘allowed’ to have one.
- You only feel good about yourself when you’re wobbling somewhere between working hard and potential collapse. As soon as you walk out the gym, life hits you like a truck again and your brain refills with this and that and problems and that crisis and emails you need to send and kids and…
- You don’t like strength training, because it’s boring. Too much rest is involved for someone as hardcore as you, right? Or is it just too much time in which your mind can flip back to ‘thinking’ about anything and everything and you can’t stay ‘distracted’ like you can in Boxyzumbacamp?
- Training aimed at technical improvement gives you anxiety because you feel like you’re wasting time when you could be ‘going beast mode’.
- Even when you’re knackered, you want to go and do another session. Kind of like wanting to smash another bottle of Grey Goose and get ‘messed up’ when you still have a hangover.
- When your coach gives you a lighter week or a rest week in the gym you find something else you can push yourself at like going for a hard run. You know you’ll be knackered next week when your weight training starts again but…you just ‘need to go for a run’.
- You stop enjoying your exercise but still feel a strong level of dependency on it. It becomes like the ex-girlfriend that you used to enjoy spending every minute with and even though now you don’t want to see them, you just can’t stay away.
In the long-run, you’re setting yourself up for the following problems.
- Improvements come from proper cycling of training intensity and volume (how much you do). The magic doesn’t happen DURING the sessions but in the recovery periods when your body makes the necessary adaptations to your nervous system, energy systems and body composition. Eventually you’ll get frustrated because no matter how hard you try, you don’t get results.
- If your training regime doesn’t have some form of progressive testing and your only ‘acid test’ is how you did compared to the rest of the class, you become very dependent on other people for determining whether your life in general is a success. Not only will you feel a failure if someone fitter joins the ‘rat race’ in your class, but it compounds the problem because the only way you have to judge the effectiveness of your training is how messed up you are at the end rather than whether you actually made any progress.
- Fatigue should never be a judge of an effective training session. I could make you train every single day for a month and you will feel more and more tired as the month goes on but your strength and performances are likely to go down whilst your stress hormones increase which has NEGATIVE effects on your body composition. Your response, because of how you’ve conditioning your brain with all of the above is likely to be that you’re not training hard enough and so the downward spiral continues!
Let’s just stop for a second.
You need to train HARD for results so don’t get it twisted.
The point is that if you want to stand out with your performances, abilities or just your physique, you need to learn to manage your mind and body.
Here are ten things you can do to increase your chance of success.
- Find other ways to turn off the relentless barrage of ‘chatter’ in your brain. When you can do this, training becomes a exciting privilege and you start to treat the process with respect, wanting to get the best from it. The way you treat it right now, you’ll always be looking for the cheapest ways to tire yourself out and distract your mind.
- Take a long hard look at your life and where it is headed. If it’s not exciting, you can bet your ass you’re going to keep needing flash mob hits of mind-numbing exercise, stimulants and drugs to distract you. I mean it. You will NEVER get what you want out of your body, until your mind is in a calm place most of the time. This is not about becoming a tree-hugging softie – it will ALLOW you to go ‘beast mode’ harder and more often.
- Invest a little extra in someone who can show you how to manage each month and week with highs and lows of intensity so you work hard, feel challenged AND progress towards whatever you really want out of your body/life/exercise/emotions/happiness. Your body needs stimulation and even though classes make you work hard, they have limits to how far you can go. Let someone build you up through the ‘ranks’ of strength training which largely has no ceiling to your progress or the challenge presented. If you’ve been going to a bootcamp for 6 months and you’re still dealing with 8-12kg kettlebells, you are wasting a lot of time and money that could be invested in much more productive methods.
- Every 4-5 weeks, either take a week away from the gym and go ‘play’ (hiking, climbing, cycling, tennis etc) or take a ‘light’ week where you dramatically reduce the total work you’re doing in the gym. This is out of the scope of this article but generally dropping the total weight you lift in your sessions by 70% will mean you can keep training and ticking over whilst getting the recovery and subsequent acceleration in results when you get back to it properly.
- Use ‘undulating’ cycles in your training. I like to go with…
WEEK 1: Medium
WEEK 2: Hard
WEEK 3: Easy
WEEK 4: Very hard
WEEK 5: Start all over again
This is particularly important if you are training for an event and want to ‘peak’ for it.
- Take a week off training and see what thoughts start to run through your head about getting fat, losing hard earned muscle, falling behind everyone else and so on. This will be a powerful first step in becoming aware of what underlying stories are controlling your actions. From here, you can learn to navigate your own mind and stop being controlled by outside influences.
- Take responsibility. If you pay a small amount of £20-50 a month to a facility for membership, don’t expect them to manage you like a high quality coach. They will provide a timetable of classes that you pick and choose from. If you don’t want to pay more for high quality coaching that will help you do all of this, it’s up to you to take PLANNED rest breaks from classes every 4-5 weeks.
- Understand ‘stress bucket’ theory. You can only tolerate a certain level of stress before you start demonstrating mental and physical symptoms. Everyone has a different sized stress bucket but there is a limit to everyone’s. Each day stress from work, relationships, finances, poor nutrition and training will flow into and out of that bucket. Learning to know when an intense workout is the stress likely to tip the bucket and when it will help switch your mind off is a key skill that only comes with time and awareness. Remember, if workouts become your ‘go to’ mind-number, there are things in your life that need addressing.
- Keep intense training to no more than two days in a row. If you try to go more you will either drive yourself into a hole over time that is VERY hard to get out of, or you are just kidding yourself that it was intense just because you were shattered by the end of it. You can train 6 days a week if you like but you MUST have some light or complete rest days to avoid your training becoming a noose around your neck.
- Have a purpose and objective going into EVERY training session. When you understand what each session is designed to do and what you should expect if things go to plan, you become more aware of whether you’re progressing or simply filling time in a gym without actually getting anywhere which is completely unnecessary!
The moral of the story is that getting in great shape either aesthetically or for an event is a management process whether you’re new to it all or a pro athlete.
Just because you see snapshots of the ‘top guys’ on Instagram doesn’t mean they are always training as hard as they can day in, day out.
Even if they are, you are not a top guy and not taking the things many of them take to speed up recovery and the volume of work their body can tolerate.
Right now I have tough cycling training sessions to get ready for cycling across Australia, I have ‘easy laps’ of the island just to keep my legs turning as they’ll have to when we’re cycling every day, hard gym sessions and easy technical sessions of 15 minutes practising handstands and balancing which I am rubbish at.
I’m ‘training’ anywhere between 1 and 4 hours per day depending what NEEDS to get done – not what I just feel like doing each day.
The intensity varies at each session so everything can keep improving and I keep an eye on my energy levels, sleep quality and nutrition to make sure ‘internally’ I’m in a good place.
Learn to play the game and your progress will be vastly improved over the coming months!