_ I don’t train because I enjoy being abused or emasculated. In fact, I don’t enjoy being abused or ridiculed at all, not even ‘in the name of progress’. Maybe this is why I generally train by myself these days. It’s a strange and sad state, when our normal expectation of the personal training experience is to berate or be berated. Any moron can tell someone to do it harder, and just because you’re Drillseargent McYellface doesn’t make you good at progression or athletic advancement. In fact, it probably makes you worse.
If you’re actually in the army, and you need to be combat-ready – there are different processes they take you through. You need to learn about managing stress in a whole different way. Bootcamps aren’t about getting you fit – it’s the army – they assume you’re already fit. Bootcamps are about team building, learning to trust and rely on the other people who will keep you alive when death is on the cards. The modern civilian bootcamp is an abomination.
_ Too judgmental? Maybe I’m wrong, many people seem to enjoy them. But the injury rates aren’t in their favour, and most instructors don’t seem to pay much attention to technique or progression in anything other than a vague cardiovascular fat-loss-seeking sense.
If you can’t inspire someone to develop by any means other than exploiting their fears and yelling verbal abuse, do you really have what it takes to be a <insert whatever you want to be here>? Maybe. Who knows?
Why should we have to push it harder, all the time? In competition, we bust our ass to excel. But training is different from competing – what happens if you bust your ass every time you set foot in the gym? Sooner or later you’ll break. Oh, but you have to work as hard as you can, so you can burn the most calories... Bullshit. The number of calories burned is the least important aspect of fitness. Again, we have it ass-backwards – you don’t train to negate the food you ate, you eat to enable growth and development. Well, actually you eat because you’re alive and you need to eat, but y’know - food is not the enemy. We all have to eat. Food is your friend, and eating is supposed to be a good experience. Why is it normal to look down and wish you were shaped different? Normal should be to look down and think, this is me, I rock. Again – it’s all backwards.
So how do you optimise your training for progression? Do stuff you like (remember if you play a recreational sport, it’s supposed to be fun), that challenges you enough to satisfy, but not so much that you get overwhelmed and you start dreading the gym. If you like structure, you can try periodising your training – one week out of every month, go hard as you can. Next week do next to nothing, and the other two weeks are spent building up to the next badass week. That can work really well. You can build up your enthusiasm, confident in the knowledge that you’re not going to burn yourself out.
It’s probably only a few times a month that I do a max effort, heavy low-rep set of any given exercise, and most of them happen within one half of any given month. I don’t know, I’m not tracking it super closely at the moment. Otherwise my training time is spent doing range of motion stuff, building up to heavy intense work, or just playing around. There’s been a lot of playing around without structure lately, which is why I haven’t been taking notes. Usually I like recording my heavy lifts for future reference. I certainly don’t write down everything I do in the gym, but if I record my main lifts, I find it useful. Again, I’m guided by what I find useful or rewarding.
We have a way of neglecting methods of training that we think won’t help change the shape of our bodies. This does not represent that your training is motivated by a genuine desire to develop your health, but for whatever reason, we’re drawn to what we’re drawn to, and we find other methods and exercises distasteful. Try to keep an open mind, and think about what might be good for your body and mind, even if it won’t make you thin, ripped or more muscular. Pay attention, develop your focus and awareness, bring yourself to it and see what you find satisfying. Give exercise a chance to be fulfilling.
Pain is a sign that something’s wrong, but somehow in fitness, we forget that’s the case. As your strength and conditioning develops, so too will your capacity for hard work. Don’t worry if someone else thinks ‘you should be working harder’. You push it as hard as you want to push it, not as hard as you can, and if efficiency and freedom of movement is important to you, you’ll invest in relaxation as much as you do in tension. Feel your muscles, feel your joints, investigate – how’s your alignment? What’s fatiguing? How do you feel?
Having said all that, you know my prevailing opinion – train what you want to work on, in your own way, whatever that is and don’t take any shit about it from anyone.