Everyone wants faster progress in the gym. 20lbs on your squat in a month? Sign me up. A shredded physique by summertime? Sounds too good to be true. Most of us know that progress takes a long time and the curse of this knowledge lulls us into complacency with training that is well….stuck. Haven’t hit a PR on a main lift in a couple years? Can’t quite make it over the hump with your new eating plan? Make sure you haven’t STIFLED your progress by avoiding these 3 major mistakes:
1. Being inconsistent
The first thing we tell folks at True Fitness and Nutrition is: you must workout at least 3x week. Why? Because that frequency is about how long it takes for your body to adapt to a hard workout - then rest long enough to let the gains soak in - but not too long that you don't make progress. Most folks do great in week 1, and week 2, and then maybe there’s a blip in week 3, and then week 4 was a holiday so that doesn’t count.
Look, it’s easy to fall off the rails, we all do it. We all push the workout to the next day, or use the ‘in-laws are in town’ as an excuse to skip the gym. This kills progress. Not only is the adaptation cycle now all screwed up, it’s harder just to start the habit again. Making time for training forces you to structure your day to get in the things that matter and skip the things that don’t. Training carries momentum from week to week, so train heavy and often and keep the stick out of your bicycle spokes.
2. Thinking exercise means you can eat anything
While it’s true that exercise and muscle helps speed metabolism, this is not a free pass to eat with your blinders on. If over time, the number of calories you can eat in a day increases from 2000 to 3000 due to increased muscle and activity, great! Use this as an opportunity to put more healthy things into your body and not more crap. This ‘I just need the calories’ fallacy is especially true among those trying to put on muscle. But beware. Your body can only put on muscle so quickly. The rest will be fat.
The best analogy here comes from Dan John. He says to imagine growing a strong tree that will live for decades. What would you feed it? I bet you’d choose sunshine, water, and patience over pizza, ice cream and ‘it tastes good now but I’ll have a belly ache later’. A healthy tree, and body, is the one that grows slowest and strongest. We all know that living solely on donuts and candy isn’t healthy no matter what "If It Fits Your Macros" says. Not to mention, even non-physique based goals, like strength, benefit from a healthy body composition of muscle and bodyfat. Powerlifting is a weight class sport, and the winners of each class usually carry the most muscle, not fat. Not sure if you’re over- or maybe under-eating? Track your calories for a week to see your starting point, then ask yourself what your goals are and if eating better won’t get you there faster. And, ya know, get yourself acquainted with a Nutrition Coach.
3. Training without any urgency
I’m guilty of this one all the time. I think my program is great so all I have to do is go through the motions, do the work, and get the gains, right? Unfortunately for me, not so much. Every time I look back at my training logs I realize the best progress I have is when I’m training with urgency. There is either a specific date on the calendar or a specific goal I'm hungry for. When I'm striving for a goal like this I bring an extra intensity to every set and every session. When I have this mentality I do a lot of things differently. I put down my phone and focus more during training, I go to bed earlier, I add 5 lbs to a working set that was already hard, I drink that extra glass of water. And you know what? All those tiny changes add up over time to some big progress. Even if there isn't an event on the calendar, you can still train like there is.
It’s easy to be complacent and just do the minimum, but if there’s one lesson from successful people it’s that they are hungry to be successful. It takes more than just wanting it, but wanting it bad can go a long way. If you’ve never really thought about it before, try out your goals in our Effective Goal Setting machine (it’s actually a piece of paper). You’d be surprised about what you’re willing to do and sometimes what you’re not. Make goals that matter and then chase them hard.
Fallen into one of these ruts? It’s ok, we all do. What matters is realizing it, dusting yourself off and grabbing the bar for anther set. And why not? Add another 5lbs.