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6 Tips How To Stay Motivated When Training Alone

6 Tips How To Stay Motivated When Training Alone

The hum and buzz of last month’s powerlifting meet have worn off and you’re in a slump. Used to training by a strict schedule and alongside a teammate, the quiet filling the space between your bicep curls and weighted squats is deafening and disheartening.

Sure it’s nice sometimes to be able to focus on the workout at hand without listening to the grunts and woes of your workout partner’s latest life drama, but truth be told, having someone around to spot you on a chest and help you grit through the heavy weight can be a huge motivator.

Now that you’re training alone, it’s time to hone in on your body and goals without getting sidetracked. When you find yourself wavering back and forth from wanting to kick ass and bolting out of the gym early for Mexican and a margarita, just remember that you are your biggest competitor. When you feel your motivation begin to wane, embrace some of the tips below to help you refuel your drive.

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1. Make a Plan and Stick to it

When it comes to lifting, if you’re flying by the seat of your pants, you aren’t going to get very far. Every muscle of the body works in unison with another and so should your workouts. Sit down with your calendar and hash out a schedule and workout plan that works for your lifestyle and make sure it’s something you can get excited about.

If you aren’t eager to see what’s next up on your calendar, chances are you aren’t going to hit the weights with much motivation. Read through some of your favourite fitness magazines and draw up a workout plan that keeps things challenging and interesting. By keeping things fresh you’ll be a lot less likely to burn out.

2. Remember Nutrition is Key

Muscles aren’t built in the gym. Yes, you read that right. When you lift, you are literally tearing your muscle fibres and it isn’t until after your gym session that they begin rebuilding themselves. Even more important than adding an extra ten-pound plate to each end of your bench press is your diet. When fueling your body you want to make sure you are putting in good, quality ingredients that will leave your body energised and refreshed, not dragging.

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As tempting as it may be to reach for the Krispy Kreme donuts your coworker brought in this morning, remember that what you put into your body now will either negatively or positively affect your workout this afternoon. Eat a high protein diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean meats and leave the refined sugary carbs sitting in the box where they belong.

3. Get a Coach

Nothing says “I’m in this to win this” like hiring your own personal coach. Whether it be a cheering squad in the weight room or a detailed workout and diet plan you’re looking for, a trainer can hold you accountable and get you where you need to be. Find someone who is strong and knowledgeable in exercise science and talk to them about your short and long term goals.

A coach will not only encourage you through your workouts but will look for your weak spots and design workout sessions aimed at strengthening them. A personal trainer will help you stay focused on your goals and keep you motivated to stick to your routine. It’s a lot harder to blow off a workout session when you know there is going to be someone there waiting for you to show up.

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4. Write It Down

Journaling isn’t just for angsty teenagers and wanna be writers. Keeping track of your day to day and week to week progress can offer a huge amount of motivation. Tracking your progress and setbacks can help you hone in on the exact areas you are excelling and keep you focused on your current goals. Be specific when setting yoar goals, write for example: ‘I want to get a six pack‘ or ‘lose X pounds by the end of the winter’.

Feeling unmotivated about this week’s workouts? Take a look at last Friday’s PR and you’ll feel a rush of pride and accomplishment that will push you through even the most monotonous workout. Look at ways you can tweak last week’s workouts to give you an extra boost of performance this week.

5. Join an Online Community

The inside of the local gym isn’t the only place you’ll find die-hard fitness addicts hanging out these days. Hop on to a fitness or body building forum online and you will see a whole world of people eagerly sharing their goals and accomplishments with like minded people.

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Whether looking for tips and advice on workout form or a place where you can share your accomplishments with cyber gym buddies who can cheer you on with a virtual “thumbs up”, you’re sure to find a community of people as enthusiastic about lifting as you are. Psychologists have studied the effects of tracking workouts and sharing such achievements online and found that it boosts motivation double fold!

Find a site with fitness enthusiasts you feel comfortable sharing with and get ready to cheer and be cheered on from the safe, un-sweaty distance of your computer screen.

6. Reward Yourself

Regardless of what activity humans are doing, there is no doubt that they are going to try to do it better when there is a reward involved. Don’t let working out become a monotonous daily drudgery with no end in sight. Stay focused on the bigger picture of a healthy stronger you and make sure you reward yourself for the effort that you are putting in.

Whether it be indulging in a decadent drink at the end of a good month or a pair of tickets to a favourite concert after a PR is met, keep the incentives flowing and you’re sure to stay motivated in the gym.

We all go through ups and downs in our fitness journeys, but don’t let the fact that you’re working out alone dissuade you from putting in your very best. You have worked hard to get to the point where you are today. Look in the mirror and remind yourself of the journey you’ve taken to get here and get excited about what the future holds. Embrace fitness in every aspect of your life and you’ll be sure to succeed.

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Published on January 3, 2020

The Best Weekly Workout Routine for Beginners

The Best Weekly Workout Routine for Beginners

Whether you’re looking to either lose weight, build strength, or develop muscle, I will be detailing the approach for each objective in the proceeding article.

Before we get into it, let me preface by saying that you will be asked to perform cardio if wanting to lose weight, and for each objective, I HIGHLY suggest adopting Intermittent Fasting for at least 2 days of the week, if not all days, if you want amazing results for either weight loss, muscle development, strength gains, mental clarity, and overall health.

I have written many previous articles on Intermittent Fasting, and if you are unfamiliar, I encourage you to pause for a moment to have a read.

Identifying Your Goals and Objectives

I often get a tad philosophical in these articles, and you can expect the same here. One of the best ways you can get started into exercising is by identifying your goals, objectives, and intentions.

Simply put, what do you want to achieve and why? Do you want to lose weight, get stronger, or build muscle?

You may be thinking ‘well those all sound great!’, but the best approach is to identify a single primary objective. The reason being is because different styles of training will affect your body differently. For example, when I was losing weight to shed body fat, my approach heavily focused on that and utilized caloric restriction, macro nutrient calculations, and intermittent fasting.

One of the main reasons I suggest identifying goals for yourself is because now, you can start to support those goals with visualization, and then begin to develop a plan of action or strategy to reach your goal.

Your goals will always be changing, and using myself as an example, after I lost the weight and reached my initial goal of 8% body fat, my new goal became to develop more muscle with a focus on getting stronger. My training shifted from high repetition body building with lots of cardio, to low repetition strength training (on strict programming) and practically no cardio. I also increased my carbohydrate intake to support the muscle building and strength gains.

Muscle Mass vs Strength

Many get these two mixed up or convoluted; thinking that with one comes the other, which is not always true.

I’ve personally witnessed a small/skinny 155lbs adult male squat twice as much weight than a muscular 200lb+ male. How? Because the smaller person had trained their strength, which heavily revolves around the central nervous system (“CNS”) and the method of training.

The style of training is vastly different if one wants to focus on muscle building vs strength. If one is interested in building muscle, the training modality would be of a higher repetition range and more volume. More volume means doing more sets and reps overall. There is a simple way to calculate total weekly volume, and that is to take the total sets and reps for all exercises of that week, and multiply it by the weight lifted during that same week. The equation looks like this:

Training Volume (V) = Sets (S) x Reps (R) x Weight (W)

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or simplified: V = S x R x W

For example, if I worked out 3 days of the week and performed 5 sets of 5 squats with 315lbs then my total weekly volume is 3 x 5 (S) x 5 (R) x 315lbs (W) = 23,625lbs of total volume.

Powerlifters and strength athletes are generally more focused on volume as it develops the working capacity for how much one can lift and how strong one can be. There is periodization involved with this process for a powerlifter as strength tends to come in waves – we can’t be lifting heavy all the time, it simply won’t work.

Bodybuilders are generally more concerned with lots of sets and reps, but keeping the weight much lower. The objective of a bodybuilder is to establish a ‘pump’, which in essence means “damaging” the muscles of the body during exercise and in the process driving blood to the muscles to encourage regeneration, repair, and growth.

Bodybuilders tend to tear down the muscle, in order to build it back up stronger. This of course needs to be supported by a protein and carbohydrate rich diet. Likewise, powerlifters also need high protein/cab intake to support training.

The difference between the two is that bodybuilders are more likely to count the macro nutrients and calories when compared with strength athletes. This is because bodybuilders have set an objective of reduced body fat and more muscle, whereas powerlifters are simply looking to get stronger.

Creating a Plan or Strategy

So now that you’ve identified your goal, let’s dive into the recommended strategy for each. I will keep this organized under the heading of each objective so it’s easy to follow along.

Exercising to Lose Weight

If you’re new to exercising, I honestly suggest you workout every single day, or 6 days with 1 off, and the reason is simply that you get such amazing results in the early stages – capitalise on it!

When you’re looking to lose weight, be prepared to do some cardio. If you don’t like cardio, too bad, suck it up and do it anyways. You can start with 3-4 walks a day of 15min (up to 60min total walking time), or you can reduce this to only doing cardio for your workouts.

If you opt to only perform cardio during your workouts, that works fine, and I’ve covered it in the below approach:

Simple Breakdown

Perform these movements in a pyramid where you start with light weight and work your way up to heavier.

Example: 2 x 15 light weight, 2 x 12 moderate weight, 1 x 10 slightly heavier weight but not where you’re struggling to perform the last rep – you should be able to theoretically perform up to 2 more reps but stop at 10

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  • Warmup cardio 15min (moderate pace first 10min, faster pace last 5min)
  • Superset Bicep Curls with Tricep Extensions, this can be done with dumbbell or cable machine
  • Superset Bench Press with Bent Over Rows, or Pushups with Pullups, this again can be performed with a barbell or dumbbell
  • Superset Front Squats with Still Leg Deadlifts or Standard Deadlift, and keep these light
  • Overhead Press with Dumbbells or Barbell

You may also opt for standard Barbell Squats on some days of the week, and the difference between the two is that you are training anterior chain a bit more so in the front squats.

Overall, however, the High or Low Bar back squat could be argued as a superior movement, but I won’t get into that. The above exercises give you a very basic template to build off.

Now let’s get into the more detailed explanation below.

Detailed Explanation

Warm up each workout with 15min cardio at a moderate pace (jogging, or a very fast pace walk). The goal here is to increase your heart rate beats per minute (“BPM”).

Now that you’ve warmed up, you can get into your workout. The great thing about being a beginner to working-out is that you can get massive results very quickly! You can perform your workouts targeting the total body, whereas a seasoned athlete often needs to split workouts by various muscle groups, also known as a “workout split”.

An example of a workout split would be Monday – Chest, Tuesday – Back, Wed – Legs, Thurs – Arms..etc.

Another example of a split would be training the anterior chain on one day, and posterior chain on the next. Anterior chain would cover chest, abs, arms.. whereas posterior would be hamstrings, glutes, back..etc.

I highly suggest as a beginner, you ignore this stuff and focus on performing full body workouts for at least the first few months into training. Full body workouts could include, for example, a bench press workout, and immediately after the set going over to a machine or equipment for back-training.

By going from one exercise to the next, you are ensuring an elevated heart rate, which is great for burning fat and losing weight. This is also known as a ‘superset’, and I have made several videos on Superset Training. Here’s one of them:

When you’re done with weight lifting for the workout, it’s time for cool-down cardio — 10min at a less than moderate pace (quick walk) – this promotes circulation.

Generally speaking, your workout can be kept to 1-hour if you follow the above approach, and it would look something like this:

15min Warm-up Cardio, 30-40min training, and 10min cool-down cardio

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Because you are utilizing supersets during the 40min training, your heart rate is kept elevated and you are burning maximum fat for the workout.

Now you can top it off by training in a fasted state to really shed the weight.

Exercising to Build Muscle

Building muscle will not require as much cardio as weight loss training, however, it will require more weight lifting with higher volume. Your warm up can be limited to under 10min, and cool-down to 5min, leaving more time for weight lifting in between.

As a new lifter, you can still perform full body workouts and achieve amazing results; simply rotate through the muscle groups during your training each day.

After a few months of full body training, you may need to switch over to a training split, which I covered earlier in this article.

If you are interested in a detailed breakdown of a bodybuilding training split, hit me up on social media (comment, or DM) and let me know! I’ll be happy to accommodate if the interest in bodybuilding training is there.

Exercising to Get Stronger

Training to get stronger doesn’t totally require cardio, however, for general health purposes, I still recommend cardio to the extent of that mentioned above for ‘exercising to build muscle’.

Cardio aside, the training approach for getting stronger should be supported by proven programs. Some great examples of strength programs, and I encourage you to research each one specifically to determine which is best for you!

I personally have ‘run’ a few different programs, including Conjugate training, and the Texas Method Powerlifting program, which I created a YouTube video series/log detailing.

It looks like this…

Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1

Each training cycle lasts four weeks and the rep schemes for each week (and each exercise) look like:

  • Week 1: 3 x 5
  • Week 2: 3 x 3
  • Week 3: 3 x 5, 3, 1 (get it?)
  • Week 4: deloading

This is how the percentages for each set are broken down:

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    Reg Park’s 5×5

    Phase One

    • 45-degree back extension 3×10
    • Back squat 5×5
    • Bench press 5×5
    • Deadlift 5×5
    • Rest 3-5 minutes between the last 3 sets of each exercise.

    Train three days per week for three months.

    The first two sets of 5 are meant to be heavier warm-up sets before moving into 3 sets at the same weight. Once you can do the last three sets of five reps, you move all weights up approx 5-10 lbs.

    Louie Simmons’ Westside Barbell Conjugate

    The basic breakdown of the week:

    • Monday – Max Effort Squat/Deadlift
    • Wednesday – Max Effort Bench
    • Friday – Dynamic Effort Squat/Deadlift
    • Saturday – Dynamic Effort Bench

    Executing

    Don’t just read this article.. DO!

    Get up and do, make it happen, take action, what ever goal you have identified. Especially in the early stages of exercising, you need to begin to allow that rolling snowball to turn into an avalanche of success.

    Look deep within yourself and ask what it is you want to achieve, now execute!

    Tracking Results

    I always speak about keeping yourself accountable and supporting your own journey in the process byway of tracking results! There are so many great mobile apps, wearable devices and fitness trackers including heart rate monitors, and more.

    Personally I’ve had great experience with MyFitnessPal for tracking calories and macro nutrients while losing weight, and StrongLifts for tracking training. There are again many more apps you can explore and the take away, here is that you should be keeping track of your results because that in itself is motivation to keep crushing it.

    Get at it fitfam!

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    Featured photo credit: Jonathan Borba via unsplash.com

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