Starting right

A woman training with a ball.

My Jubilee Hall colleague, Daniel Hern, who is a great guy, is taking part in a boxing match later this month. Beforehand he is training for the match and focusing his training on a combination of boxing skills, cardio’, stability and flexibility exercises, so that he is prepared for when the match date comes around on 27 November.

It is interesting watching Daniel prepare for his match and the challenge it presents him. It has also encouraged me to consider the role that motivation plays in what we do and how we train for the challenges that life throws at us.

As Daniel is no doubt discovering, to make a success of any training programme, whether in or out of the gym, requires the right mindset and psychology starting out. In my experience, a lot of people train because they want to meet specific objectives (to put on muscle, or improve muscle groups, for example). This can sometimes turn into a form of box-ticking (one of the symptoms of our age).

Talking to a client recently about his training and what his objectives were, the conversation quickly turned to the importance for the man in question to add more weight to the bar and to increase the challenge of his training. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do this - challenges are good. But in the context of his broader goals, such a focus also has to be balanced against the outcome of adding more weight to the workout. More weight requires longer recovery time when training, which means each such workout gets longer and takes more focus. When bulking up in this manner the road gets longer and harder, which also increases the pressure on the joints of the body and the risk of injury.

Or, to put it another way, the training gets more difficult. It becomes a battle.

When this happens, technique can become secondary to that battle, which in itself can have consequences. If I have learnt one thing in all my years of fitness training, it is that learning and applying correct techniques takes time to master and also requires focus.

When training, where do you want that focus to go?

The other downside of bulking-up is that fatigue can become a constant in your life as the body is repeatedly exhausted and then pushed further and further. This in turn can affect the quality of life experienced by the person so training, which in turn can lead to a constant question being asked: Why am I doing this to myself? Or, to put it another way: Why am I training?

It is important to understand the drivers of our behaviour and our psychology of training to workout effectively and healthily. I would argue that the purpose of training for the long-term should be to exercise efficiently, for as short periods as possible, to sustain the training, reduce the risk of injury and build flexible strength for life. Aesthetics follow, but they do so on balance against the other benefits that flow from such valuable and sustainable training.

To start on the right path, my advice is to be realistic with the goals that are set early on in the process to ensure they are realistic and attainable. Undertaking a thorough assessment and having a frank conversation with a personal trainer, if one is available, is also recommended, as this will allow a professional and objective conversation to be had on early-stage objectives and the best fit of training to them.

Getting all of these fundamentals right at the beginning will deliver a healthy training programme that can achieve fitness and aesthetics in the long run.


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