Saturday, July 9, 2011

Want the Improvement

You've done your personal inventory.  You sit and wonder about the results, experiencing thought patterns that may be new to you.  Perhaps you realize for the first time just how far you've already come in your quest for fitness.  Perhaps you can see how far you have (or want) to go.  You now probably feel a little different about the junk food on the table, a little curious, a little wary.  You can feel the softness of your environment, the familiarity, the day in and day out rut.  Maybe you want to kick over the coffee table, or put the XBOX through the TV screen.  But wait--don't do that.

That's not the point of our previous exercise, because all that stuff was certainly making you happy until you realized it wasn't.  Get it?  Don't sweat yesterday, or the day before that, or the 1990s (though they were shitty at times).

Optimally, you're now arriving at a new mental place.  It's an important one.  It's the place where you nail down another big issue: why do I want to change my body?

Most modern-day banalities revolve around some notion of "being yourself" and "accepting things the way they are."  While this certainly applies to (debatably) fixed parameters like height and age and gender, it doesn't apply to many of the most intriguing and rewarding facets of the body.  We're not going to waste our time with a discussion of any moral imperatives behind getting bigger, stronger, faster, more sexually attractive and generally healthier.  You're here to develop a complete fitness plan.  You're here, which now means I'm here, to get it right the first time and make a confident, motivated decision to improve.

Because I can't possibly know the thought-making strategies you employ, I say this: whatever you need to do to get comfortable with the term improvement, do it.  If it means you have to experience a warm, feel-good moment where you maintain your current adequacy but decide to get bigger or stronger purely for the sake of sport or challenge or pleasure or whimsy, do it.  If it means you need to experience new humility by criticizing yourself thoroughly and vowing to change out of a sense of necessity, do it.

These are the two endpoints on the continuum of fitness decisions.  I know people who have traveled either path and reached considerable success.  This is the point where most commercial, technique-based fitness programs show their hands and try to preach the superiority of one way over the other.  That is not my aim, because I don't think it is important to your goals.  It is not my aim, because I am a motivator and not an instructor.  It is especially not my aim here, because I couldn't instruct from such a distance, anyway.  I can only communicate.

So why do you want to change your body?  I bet you know.  I give you plenty of credit, at this point.  Perhaps for the first time, you are beginning to think not only "I can do this," but also "I want to do this, and I'm fucking happy that I want to do this."

Starting to feel it?  Great.  Are you still in doubt?  Don't worry.  Doubt has a way of receding before strength, and you'll be getting stronger every day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Comfort Kills

You're sitting in your living room.  You might be on a couch, or a recliner, or a bean bag (anyone got those anymore?), whatever.  The TV's on; Sportscenter.  There's nobody around to bother you.  The ceiling fan is on.  You've got a ton of chips, candy, beer, pizza, wings and flank steaks.  All the good shit.  Some of it's on the coffee table in front of you, rapidly disappearing while you munch away.  This is all just great, isn't it?

It's great, but it's not gonna get you any closer to the You Version 2.0 you've constructed in your head.  The issue here is comfort, and way too much of it.  You know all this right?  SO why are we going over it again?

Because most people who start any kind of exercise regime never even consider this critical problem on the path to getting bigger, stronger and faster.  Most people don't want to first examine their own environment and their interactions with that environment.  It's a natural response to avoid taking personal responsibility.  If that sounds harsh, it's just because you're gonna need a few minutes to deal with it.  And that's okay.  You aren't the only one, believe me.

Instead of jumping right to the details regarding the reasons behind doing 12 reps instead of 10 and all that highly technical bullshit, let's do it right the first time.  Always try to do it right the first time.  This is something I'd like you to remember, and it'll prove valuable in many areas of your life: work, play, relationships, sex, cooking, you name it.

So how do we do it right the first time?  Take a deep breath and start at the beginning.  Do a quick inventory.  Who are you?  How old are you?  What are some of your basic fitness goals?  Do you want to lose weight or put on muscle?  Both?  Have you achieved any previous fitness goals?  What were they?  How close are you to achieving any upcoming goals?  Finally, ask yourself:  What's stopping me right now?  What are my normal excuses for not going to the gym?  For not running?  For not eating healthy?

I don't recommend going much deeper than this, for now.  You need to get it over with, though.  Do an inventory, and be honest.  It's just your inner monologue doing the work at the moment.

I've had countless clients put up fierce resistance at this stage.  "You're a personal trainer, just tell me how much weight to lift, and how often!"  "I came here to feel better about myself, not tear myself down."  "What the hell is an inventory?" and so on.

This is where I think most personal trainers shaft their clients, too.  Would you drop an intern on his first day into a challenging teleconference without preparing him mentally for the task ahead?  Why would a personal trainer shove you in a squat rack without first creating some level of personal, mutual understanding?  Perhaps you've had a PT or are a PT who does/did indeed employ this technique.  Most likely, however, if you're reading this you haven't been so lucky.

Do it right the first time and take the first step out of your comfort zone.  I promise you won't be sore tomorrow.