Switch It Up

Being consistent is the key to making progress over time. But it’s hard to be consistent. There’s a never ending stream of distractions. Even if you manage to mostly ignore them and stay on plan, eventually boredom sets in.

You’ve been sticking to your training and food regimen and it’s getting you results. But it’s becoming harder and harder mentally. You feel a little bit like a drone. What should you do? You can focus and grind harder.

Or you can switch it up.

There are certain fundamentals that you’ll still need to adhere to in order to keep making progress. Working to get stronger over time is one. Energy balance, or eating in a way that supports your goals, is another.

The good news is there are countless ways to work within these parameters.

The past few weeks I’ve definitely been in a low point in terms of motivation to train. I’ve been trying to buckle down and just do it anyway. The truth is, I know myself, and I’m not very good at doing things I don’t feel like doing. I grit my teeth for a while but eventually I get to a point where I think, “screw it”.

That tells me it’s time for me to switch up my workouts. I’m not saying you should do exactly what I’m doing. Your situation is your situation. Maybe you just need a week off from your routine and then you’ll be re-energized.

Instead of lifting three days per week, I’ll be switching to five days. The weekly volume (sets and reps of exercise) will be about the same. I’m trading three longer sessions for five shorter ones. Without flooding you with every little detail, it’s essentially alternating upper body and lower body workouts.

It’s not magic or a trick, just a little tweak to keep you more engaged mentally. You don’t want to change up your regimen constantly. If you’re always doing a totally new workout you’re always learning a new workout, not improving at a workout. Pick one and stick with it for several weeks or a few months. Squeeze all you can from the one you’re on now. Then make some changes to maintain your interest and enthusiasm.

 

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Training vs. Exercise

Is there a difference between exercise and training?

Often they’re used interchangeably but there’s a subtle and important distinction.

Exercise is a means to its own end. Training is a means to a different end. In other words, you exercise for its own sake. Whether it’s running, swimming, biking, dancing, lifting weights or any other physical activity, you’re doing it because you enjoy it.

When you’re training, it’s for another purpose. It may still be enjoyable, of course. But you’re following a plan with a specific goal. For example, your bike workouts are to prepare you for a specific race.

Neither is better than the other.

 The reasons I have my clients train rather than exercise is because having a specific goal is really motivating. The goals are theirs, not mine. You’re not going to be motivated for my goals. At least I hope you won’t.

 When you have a goal in mind that you really want, a lot of awesome things happen. You have a deadline. It’s not “some day”, it’s a particular time. Maybe it’s 12 weeks, 6 months, or a year. In fact, it’s a great idea to have a mix of shorter-term goals on the road to your longer-term goals.

You can think of the deadline as a finish line, if that’s more appealing to you. Either way, it means that you don’t have time to mess around. Each of your training sessions is a step closer. If you skip a session, you lose a step. Sticking to the plan matters.

It helps you build your mental toughness. You learn to set aside your feelings and do the work. There will be days when you absolutely will not feel like working out. You may even hear a little voice in your head suggesting, “it’s only one day”. You learn to drown that out and push through any resistance.

You use your toughness and the knowledge of an upcoming finish line as fuel to keep you going through even the toughest workouts.

When you learn this, you can apply it to any aspect of your life. Do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, regardless of how you feel at the moment.

Let me say again, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with exercising. It sure beats the hell out of sitting on the couch all day. It’s a great way to be physically active. It’s a great flipside to training.

Training is really taxing mentally and physically, so sometimes it’s nice to just exercise. You still get in your workouts but it’s not quite such a grind. Taking some time off to just exercise without a particular end goal can be recharge your batteries. But exercising all the time without a goal can become boring. It’s a good idea to use both phases in cycles. Alternating a few months of training with a few weeks of just exercise can keep you motivated and progressing without wearing you down for a long, long time.

Thanks for reading. Hope this helps. Any questions or comments, leave ‘em below.