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Are You Following the Wrong Exercise Program?

Are You Following the Wrong Exercise Program?

Why do some of us invest so much time and energy into our exercise program for so little in the way of results. Yep it’s true; some of us spend a lot of time achieving not too much. Heaps of sweat, commitment and even dollars, for a less than desirable return.

I’m constantly getting letters, emails and phone calls from frustrated exercisers, so I figure it is time to take a look at why time spent exercising doesn’t always equate to desirable results.

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    Let’s get under way with some basic exercise physiology…

    Our body recognises exercise as a form of stress (mostly good stress) and when we stress our body the right way for long enough, it adapts. Simple enough. We see those physiological adaptations as improvements in aerobic fitness, strength, muscular endurance, speed, power, flexibility, along with decreases in body-fat levels and increases in lean mass (muscle). From a purely scientific and academic perspective, changing a body is a relatively straight forward process. In reality, we know that once we throw human emotions and a few other practical issues into the mix, that simplicity can become a lot more complex!

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    Bodies don’t think, they simply adapt.

    If we put too many calories into a body it will ‘adapt’ by storing that excess energy in the form of body-fat. If we lift progressively heavier weights, we will see adaptations in the form of bigger and/or stronger muscles. If we begin a program of aerobic exercise, within the first few weeks we will see physiological changes; lower blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, lower working heart rate, less post-exercise soreness, decreased recovery time, increased metabolic rate and changes in body composition just to mention a few – all of these being adaptations to the ‘stress’ of cardiovascular exercise. If you train yourself like a distance runner, you ain’t gonna wind up looking like a bodybuilder. Neither will training like Mr (or Miss) Universe turn you into that slender, waif-like running machine.

    When a body changes, there’s a reason. When a body doesn’t change, there’s a reason. And as I’ve said before, we need to learn how to ‘drive’ our body and to discover what works for us (personally). Individual bodies respond differently to the same stimulus, so we need to learn how to maximise our own genetics. Quite often, by being less emotional and more practical and methodical about our approach to exercise, we will achieve far better results in much less time.

    Here’s a few things to consider as you work through the exercise thing…

    1. What works (in terms of creating significant physical change) and what we enjoy doing, are often two different things.

    Yes we want to make exercise fun when possible, but sometimes we need to stop looking for easy and starting doing effective. I don’t particularly enjoy stretching but I can’t improve my terrible flexibility by bench pressing small cars. Heavy sigh. So stretching it shall be for the human ceramic tile. The piece of chalk with hair on top. I might not always love the process, but I really love the results. You might not enjoy lifting weights but you won’t build your upper body strength or achieve that athletic shape you’re after by going for a gentle walk with your neighbor each morning.

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    Mountain bike
      2. Your body will only adapt when it needs to.

      If you constantly stimulate your body the same way day in, day out (same workout, same exercises, same format, same intensity, same weights, same distance, same machines, same duration) it ain’t gonna change ’cause it doesn’t need to. You are following a maintenance program. Give your body a reason to change and it will. Some people have been following the same program for years, all the while wondering why nothing changes. It’s true in life and in the gym; if nothing changes, nothing changes. Progression is good. Variety is good. Change is good.

      3. Over-training.

      Many people simply train so much that their body is in a constant state of disrepair. When you stress an already stressed (over-trained, injured, exhausted) body (via more exercise) you’re setting yourself up for long term problems and frustration.

      Don’t confuse volume with quality. Don’t make emotional decisions about your exercise program. It’s good to train hard (sometimes) and smart. I only lift weights three times per week for forty five minutes, but I’m stronger than most of the twenty three year-old meat-heads who inhabit the weight room seven days per week. Not because I have better genetics or more testosterone (I wish) but because I know what works most effectively for my body (in terms of creating the right balance between training, nutrition and recovery) and I stimulate my physiology the right way. I train optimally for me. Don’t forget… the adaptation takes place when you’re not training. The workout is for the stimulation, the recovery time is for the adaptation.

      4.Going-though-the-motions-itis.

      A little-known scientific term which is Latin for “looks like a workout but isn’t”. It’s a condition where people go to the gym and fluff around for an hour or so without actually doing much. A few chats, a little self-admiration in the mirror, a cappuccino or two and a strategically-placed towel over the shoulder – they’re hard to miss. Every gym has a least ten of them. They are known colloquially in Australia as… wankers. There is also another group of well-meaning people who work out often but simply don’t train hard enough to create the results they’re seeking.

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      Of course we need to train safely and intelligently, and yes we need to develop a training base before we get anywhere near the intense zone, but sometimes we simply need to force our body to adapt. If what you’re doing in your workouts is easy for you, then don’t expect to see much in the way of physiological change. Easy might be fun but it ain’t really productive when it comes to changing a body. If you wanna see some change, get uncomfortable. Often. Don’t kill yourself but don’t avoid the tough stuff either.

      5. All the other stuff.

      Of course there are plenty of variables in the creating-your-best-body process and exercise is just one of them. If you’ve nailed your exercise but your diet is a nightmare (over-eating, under-eating, sporadic eating, poor quality food) your results will be average at best. Other factors which might sabotage or inhibit what you’re doing with your exercise program are: alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep, stress and medications. No use training like an Olympian if you’re living a lifestyle which is at odds with your exercise goals.

      If (for example) you’re expending more calories than you’re consuming, you ain’t gonna grow muscle ’cause their ain’t no gas in the tank. Conversely, if you’re consuming more than you’re expending each day, you ain’t gonna get leaner no matter how well you train or how much cardio you do. You’ll be fitter but you’ll still be fat.

      Adult female with personal trainer at gym
        6.The Wrong Program.

        For a wide range of reasons thousands and thousands of people are currently following a program which is less than ideal, if not completely inappropriate for them.

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        Go into virtually any gym and you’ll see dozens of people (with different bodies, goals and needs) all following essentially the same ‘generic’ program. This is called laziness, ignorance, lack of professionalism and I-don’t-really-care, on the part of the instructors who set those programs. If your program wasn’t designed specifically for you (by someone who knows their stuff), then it’s not the best strategy for you.

        That’s not to say that your program is not of any value but why settle for okay, when you can have ideal. Your program should be designed specific to your age, goals, body type, current level of fitness, training history, medical conditions and injuries. If you found your current training program on page seventy two of Buffed and Ripped, then you ain’t doing yourself any favours. Same goes if you got your program from your cousin Guido the panel beater who came second in that bodybuilding show in 1992. The same one who worked in a gym for three months when he was nineteen.

        So… maybe it’s time for some change.

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        Craig Harper

        Leading presenter, writer and educator in the areas of high-performance, self-management, personal transformation and more

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        Last Updated on July 23, 2019

        5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

        5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

        In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

        Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

        How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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        • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
        • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
        • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
        • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
        • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
        • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

        When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

        1. Realize You’re Not Alone

        Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

        2. Find What Inspires You

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        Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

        On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

        3. Give Yourself a Break

        When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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        Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

        4. Shake up Your Routines

        Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

        Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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        When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

        5. Start with a Small Step

        Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

        Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

        More to Help You Stay Motivated

        Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

        Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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