Weight Training: Habits And Mindsets For Sustained Success
Each of us have our own set of reasons as to what really ignites our fire towards betterment. Whether it be from looking to attract a mate, find a sense of community, or to pose a challenge physically to opponents at a higher competitive level of sport. Whatever the reason you made to follow through with this great decision, we can agree on two things for certain:
- You have got to start somewhere.
- In any learning process, mistakes are inevitable.
For most of life’s new ventures, my belief is to jump right in. There may never be a “perfect time” to start. The real perfect time is when you realize a shift must happen in how you go about prioritizing what you want in the mix of life, and how to turn the dial down when need be. Can’t get in a 90 minute workout? That’s fine, you could probably get more in a 30 minute timetable by getting rid of the texting, gym talk and other hoo ha if you focus on the task at hand. Some is far better than none.
This writing is part one of a two part series on habits and mindsets to develop a sustainable program, where part two will delve deeper into the necessary movements, their breakdown and functions, cues to help you make sure you are moving correctly, and ultimately how to incorporate them into a push towards an actionable and realistic plan. In this article I will provide you in what are my opinion the three biggest things to get out of your head, and the three biggest things to get into your head that will have the most drastic effects on the results you will yield when entering a weight training program.
What you should shift away from before starting
1. That you need to push very challenging weight in order to get real results
More often than not, this will lead to sloppy movement. Chances are if you have not had much experience thus far, you are not moving quite as well as you think you are. Instead, try starting out with a more moderate weight that you can confidently move for 10-12 times, and CONTROL through full ranges. Time under tension is a great friend of muscular gain, so move slow with great intention.
2. That you need to lift every day
The best workout is one you can efficiently recover from. If you are not able to perform better than your previous effort, chances are you are not fully recovered, and your nervous system is still adjusting to the new demand you’ve been putting the body through. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing as gratifying than those beginner gains, but if you find yourself still walking like a butt pirate from last weeks workout, you should probably hold your horses on the intensity. Progress into it and make sure you are utilizing the proper regeneration methods to perform 5% better than your previous effort.
Women, keep in mind that your cycles have a major physiological effect on your ability to recover, sensitivity to foods, as well as the best and worst times to make progress in your lifts and strength, dependent on where you are at in your cycle. Learning your body and how to respond to its natural demands are imperative for those of you looking to achieve your peak performance in life and in health.
Off days or days between your weight lifting may consist of relative strength (bodyweight), sub threshold intensity cardio, high intensity cardio, or other activities such as sports and hobbies. Your body will now have the environment most conducive to adding quality muscle and size with adequate rest and nourishment.
3. Eliminate the comparisons
Sorry to break it to you, but you are not going to look like Dwayne Johnson or Jen Selter after 3 months of adherence. Comparisons have the awful tendency to set you up for discouragement, so do yourself a favor and don’t get in that habit. If you already find yourself in it, get out of it quickly. Realize that each of us have a different body type that responds differently to certain movements, and the ability to build depends greatly on our body’s ability to metabolize food, oxygen, and waste product. As you start to learn your body, you will start to understand what exercise incite more favorable responses for your physique! This is the fun part. As you set yourself up for the small wins, like realizing that the barbell squat may not be right for your back at the moment and making great use of the goblet squat, you are able to keep the fulfillment meter high, and yield the results you never thought possible. Take pictures, measurements, or body composition scans to compare YOURSELF to YOURSELF on a bi-weekly or monthly basis if you are a visual person.
What you should shift your mind towards prior to starting
1. Create a realistic schedule and set it in stone
By creating a window of time for yourself, you are able to consciously avoid any disruptions and have started the early phase of habit formation. Keep in mind that it will take at least 66 days of discipline for a habit to become automatic.
Start by picking a realistic time. Take into account what your school or work days are like, and the amount of energy you feel like you would be able to bring at that certain time. If you feel as if your energy is going to be a 5/10 if you were to go after a long work day, try getting up prior to work and see if you’re now higher on energy scale! Moving in the morning can have profound effects on the remainder of your day. Even if I cannot get in my workout in its entirety, I find it extremely valuable to get moving for the first 15-20 minutes of my day. It promotes for heightened awareness, energy, and a barrage of other great things, but most importantly the feeling that you put yourself first and accomplished a goal early on for your betterment. This sense of achievement early in your day will lead to more subsequent wins, compiling a large ball of momentum that will completely obliterate any excuses or justifications!
2. Find an Accountability Partner
A friend or a coach can go a long way in helping you learn. Find a friend with similar goals, or if you are really looking to better yourself, look specifically for someone with a little more experience. Be tactful with who you choose, just because Big Jim is jacked doesn’t mean that he would be the best coach for you. Some of the best players in the world have had their run at coaching and have failed. Being able to understand what works for you, and being able to proficiently communicate how to teach someone that same task are two entirely different skills. For my basketball fans, you can look at Isaiah Thomas, Larry Bird, or Michael Jordan and realize that despite these guys being some of the best players of all time, they have found it difficult to lead their organizations to success from a managerial or head coach position. Remain curious, gather information from various sources, apply and test, and form your own opinion on what works for you. Most gym members are not professional coaches, but may have a few valuable pointers for you.
On the other end of the spectrum, a professional coach will provide you with the service of accountability, along with valuable education and lifelong skills to carry on. Some of the most important qualities I look for when determining the value of a coach is:
- Empathy: You have got to have a coach that can meet you where you are at. They must be willing to learn as much about you as you are them, and if a given movement doesn’t feel right for you at the moment, they should be empathetic enough to come up with another great alternative. Question the purpose of your movement and programming to better educate yourself.
- Being a great communicator: The purpose of each drill should be clearly defined and its place towards reaching your desirable outcome. Listen and pay attention to a coaches ability to cue, as this is in my opinion, is the most important trait of being a great coach. Question any movements you don’t understand, they should be able to clearly demonstrate how its done, or in a questionable scenario ask them how they can break down the move into a simpler one.
- Attention to detail: Find someone who is on time. Someone who is paying very close to the little details of your body, current mind state, proficiency with your body weight and other tools. A great teacher will ask you many questions, and go even further to making sure your program is malleable to any unexpected occurrences life throws at you.
3. Move with Intention
Starting anything new, you are exponentially more inclined to run into mistakes. They are inevitable. What they will do is serve the purpose of being a learning experience, and what not to do in the future. While we cannot control the fact that they are bound to and will happen in life, we can control the magnitude and frequency at which they occur. Making sure you are adequately prepared for your exercises by:
- Warming up well and promoting sufficient circulation throughout the entire body
- Preparing your tissues that you will be loading or utilizing for extended periods of time
- Choosing weights you can move well through your entire range of motion with precision and control
- Analyzing tactful increases in adding weight to certain movements (25 to 30 pounds is a 20% increase)
- Asking a trustworthy spotter when challenging your limits
- Properly cooling down and stretching
- The means by which you nourish and recover
All of the aforementioned should be taken into great consideration to ensure not only your safety, but getting the most out of your time spent in bettering yourself. Move with greater intention and you will find yourself accumulating the small steps that lead to great leaps over the long term. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to have fun while doing it.