Training is about becoming good at something; that’s why we call it training. It’s not just calorie burning, or random intensity in a bubble, though that can feel satisfying.
You can use any word you like, that’s really okay – I don’t often talk about ‘working-out’, because there’s nothing implied about a process of development in the term.
But that’s okay too, because it’s fine to just exercise for the sake of exercise, for movement, for fun or to be satisfied. It’s all good for you. And if it’s just working-out that you’re doing, there’s no pressure to perform or to grow, or prove yourself to anyone.
But the thing that gets me is this – you don’t need to confuse your muscles, to keep them guessing, or any of that garbage. Your muscles aren’t trying to work against you, you don’t need to distract them. You only need to train them – to work them, to stretch them, to stimulate them. It is easy to over-complicate the process. Sometimes lifting weights fast is good, sometimes slow is appropriate, it all comes down to time under tension. Your muscles are stimulated to develop if you work them enough, but you don’t burn them out.
Variety is important, but so is consistency. You don’t need to constantly mix it up, doing something completely different every time, trying to keep your muscles confused – when did confusion ever lead to progress? Instead, if you give yourself a chance to practice something, you give yourself a chance to become really good at something. To have a real experience of a given movement pattern, and develop some skills. You can make it a study, rather than a pass-time, a distraction, or even exercise. Then whether something is boring or not – the whole notion of it has been transformed.
The weird irony is this: if you change it up all the time, that becomes the new norm. It becomes predictable, you have a random circuit, always on then off, and it becomes muddy. You might be working hard, but it’s always the same kind of unpredictable intensity, and in the end, you don’t have a firm sense of having worked on anything. Variety becomes stale.
Much of your progress in training is actually because of improved coordination. Brain-body connection. That means practice, but not necessarily fatigue. It might mean dedication, but not the kind of unrelenting hard work you might think. Hard work by itself does not lead to much progress, only fatigue. People talk about the brain-body connection sometimes, but often only in vague terms. We don’t seem to value it much, because how does your brain help you get into a smaller pair of pants?
Classes often pander to people’s expectation of what intense exercise is supposed to feel like, but when you scratch the surface, a lot of coaches don’t really have a reason for you to be doing the exercise in question. It’s just the four minute shoulder track or whatever, we’re just ‘working the buttocks’ or ‘burning the calories’.
But why? What in me, will this actually improve?
Will it actually make me stronger, or just fatigue me? Will it improve my stability, range of motion, body awareness, or capacity for endurance? Maybe it will, but maybe it’s all a bit too vague. Will this exercise, or this session, this program – will it help me get better at moving?