There are many reasons we go to the gym, to lose weight, get stronger or maybe even to sculpt our bodies so the pretty girl (or boy) in the coffee shop gives us her special smile on the way to work each morning. Whatever our motivation, it can sometimes be a real slog just getting to the gym, let alone working hard when we finally arrive. The muttering of dread at the prospect of another fifty burpees or 5k trudge on the treadmill can be heard daily within gyms all over the world. Although these complaints are par for the course to some degree, is the negativity that’s often attached to so many peoples training routines really the way it must be?
As a broad rule, with the general exception of competitive athletes and training for specific health complaints, doing anything is better than doing nothing. There is an endless library of clinical trials, scientific studies, informed opinion and outright nonsense available to all of us via the internet. This overload of information can be very confusing and often leads to over-complicated training plans as we feel we must hit the latest criteria set out in a magazine or fitness journal. Many of these plans include slogging through movements and intensity levels we find very difficult which in turn leads to a loss in confidence and motivation.
At this point I must say that there are those amongst us who enjoy what I call ‘the smash’ and relish making things as difficult for themselves as possible (I am one of these dubious individuals). There is no problem with this if your physically capable and keep a degree of sense to your workouts. Fall short of those two essential criteria however and you will end up both physically and mentally broken, take it from someone who knows through personal experience.
Assuming you’re a more balanced and sensible person than I, why not take a little time to think about what form of training you most enjoy. Break it down even further and think about which movements you enjoy and how you can apply them to your training plan to help achieve your goals. Also take a moment to think about what you don’t like, that’s normally the easiest part of this process. Now check yourself a little and admit that even with a ‘do what you enjoy mentality’, 45 minutes of bicep curls and bench press 3 times a week is not going to achieve much except help to make you look very top heavy and unstable.
Now we’ve done our ground work let’s look at how we might put it into practice.
Jon wants to build some lean muscle, loose a little body fat and generally feel a bit fitter. He is currently following an online training plan involving a leg day, an upper body day and a running (cardio) day. Jon loves upper body day, hates cardio day and is indifferent to leg day as he doesn’t push himself. This equates to Jon only really enjoying a third of his time in the gym.
Jon changes his plan, he takes the exercise he loves from upper body day and puts them into a timed circuit alongside some exercises from leg day and uses them for his cardio day instead of the running which he hates. Jon now really enjoys cardio day and pushes himself harder on the leg day exercises he was previously taking easy. He now enjoys a lot more of his gym time and is working harder to boot.
This is a great example of how a small, simple change to your training plan can transform how you feel about the gym. You don’t need to be a slave to a generic training plan from the internet. If you hate running and aren’t training for a running based activity, don’t run. Likewise, if you love running but hate lifting weights then why not increase your running volume with different variations (sprints/long distance) and try some body weight exercises to compliment it?
Hopefully you’ve grasped the basic premise I’ve attempted to outline in this piece. Exercise is good for you, but you may not find all/much of it fun. As in the rest of your life, try and find what you enjoy and get after it without worrying about what you’re not doing.
Stay happy and healthy all.