Why you shouldn't "Workout"
A personal trainer and fitness coach saying you shouldn’t workout? Please read on to let me explain!
It was the sport of powerlifting that got me into fitness. In my early 20's my training philosophy was quite simple. Lift heavy and lift hard. If my eyes weren’t popping out I wasn’t training hard enough.
When I made the switch to Olympic Weightlifting under the guidance of Tony Kasper I was a little disappointed at first by the lack of intensity that I was used to. I was training for a competition and wanted to do the best I could. Sure the training was hard work but because of the long rest periods, increased repetitions and lower intensity it was more like a practice session than the working out I was used to. However it paid off as I got first place in my 62kg weight division with a personal best in each of the two lifts.
I also practice Chen style Tai Chi. This is the perfect martial art for me as the softness and grace it requires balances out my love of heavy lifting. I had competed in form demonstrations a few times with success so thought I would practice extra hard for the next one to keep my standard up. I trained for at least 2 hours a day for months before the event. Despite all of the extra training it was my worst performance to date.
The man who lead my Strong First SFG certification “Iron Tamer” Dave Whitley sums up what went right with my “O” lifting and wrong with my Tai Chi.
“Practice doesn’t make perfect. If you practice poorly you get better at poor practice. When you get sloppy stop”.
I was coached correctly with the Olympic lifting but my over enthusiasm in my Tai Chi hindered my progress as I developed and ingrained bad habits.
So what has this got to do with you and your fitness goals?
We have all heard it referred to as “working out”. This is where people go into the gym and workout with an intense ferocity believing they can punish themselves into fitness.
I'm sure you've seen it at your local gym. People draped over the cross trainer battling away covered in sweat or running on the treadmill as if being chased by angry bear. All this effort!! for what? mindless, ineffective attempt to burn of the food they shouldn’t have eaten. Most of us have enough stress in our lives without creating more. You can’t knock the enthusiasm, dedication or effort. It’s just a shame its miss directed effort.
I believe we need to address our attitude and approach to exercise.
The west has been catching up and learning from the Russians for years when it comes to strength, conditioning and training; yet the Russians don’t have a word for “working out” in their vocabulary. Russian strength coaches see our idea of “working out” as destructive, “he worked himself out”.
We need to approach our exercise sessions as training or practice and see them as a chance to improve our abilities and skills.
Top strength coaches Dan John and Steve Maxwell have trained all of their lives and are now in their 60’s. They both continually emphasis the point that training shouldn’t hurt and pushing too hard will cause damage. People in this age bracket only regret the over the top working out they went through in younger years. They now promote exercise as a way to teach the body to move and feel better. As a welcome side effect it will start to look better.
Although we need to give our bodies a certain amount of stress so that it will adapt and get stronger too many people go way over board on this idea. If you are following a routine that NFL players or Royal Marine commandos use you must remember this is their job! They don't have to go to the office after, or work a 12 hour day.
Exercise should be used as a way to nourish and take care of your body. Not punishment for bad food habits.
Coach Scott Sonnon summed it up really well in a recent Facebook post of his:
“On a scale of 1-10, 10 being your “best technique”, even if you have very good technique – an 8, your still accumulating all those 2’s. Those 2’s add up after a while to aches and pains”
That not quite perfect technique is building poor body structure and movement patterns and why too many people get injuries. That exercise we do to build ourselves up becomes the thing which breaks us down if we don’t train our bodies with respect and control.
As Daniel Coyle explains in his book the talent code our brains never forget the bad habit, it cements it deeper into the brain. The more often you perform a movement with poor form the harder it becomes to do it right. This is why the old saying that you should perform a technique or skill for 10,000 hours to perfect it is miss-leading.
Paying attention to exercise technique isn’t sexy and exciting and certainly won’t sell magazines but it is the difference between creating a healthy mobile, strong body and a knackered one in future years.
It’s one of the great things I love about Joseph Pilates Controllogy Method. The movements are all about creating perfection and balance in the body. This can still be achieved by lifting weights and training in the gym we just need to change our focus.
My tips for training.
- Remember more isn’t better, only better is better.
- Fitness is a skill! Think of your exercises as practice training. Try to improve your technique with each repetition. Getting stronger through correct practice not through self harm.
- I have found that training with aggression leads to the habit of more aggression. Practice with focus, not anger.
- Incorporate mindfulness into your training. Listen to your body when you train. Feel what’s working and listen for any discomfort or pain. Don't ignore and push though it.
- Aim for perfect reps and don’t be afraid to stop. If you’re doing 50 kettlebell swings and you notice form deteriorating at 40 reps stop.
- Don’t get confused by what it is your trying to do or who you are trying to impress.
If you would like to develop the skill of fitness and begin personal training sessions with Stuart click here