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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.

Lifestyle

    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.

        More by this author

        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 January 21, 2020

        The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

        The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

        Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

        your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

          Why You Need a Vision

          Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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          How to Create Your Life Vision

          Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

          What Do You Want?

          The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

          It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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          Some tips to guide you:

          • Remember to ask why you want certain things
          • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
          • Give yourself permission to dream.
          • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
          • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

          Some questions to start your exploration:

          • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
          • What would you like to have more of in your life?
          • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
          • What are your secret passions and dreams?
          • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
          • What do you want your relationships to be like?
          • What qualities would you like to develop?
          • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
          • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
          • What would you most like to accomplish?
          • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

          It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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          What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

          Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

          A few prompts to get you started:

          • What will you have accomplished already?
          • How will you feel about yourself?
          • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
          • What does your ideal day look like?
          • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
          • What would you be doing?
          • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
          • How are you dressed?
          • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
          • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
          • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

          It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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          Plan Backwards

          It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

          • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
          • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
          • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
          • What important actions would you have had to take?
          • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
          • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
          • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
          • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
          • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

          Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

          It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

          Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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