Consider that you go about your day thinking, “This is how I do that, and this is how I do this.” It works, you feel it, and you don’t look completely lost. But then there’s a person — someone you don’t expect, most of the time — who says something along the lines of, “Why don’t you try leaning back a bit more when you do that?” One tiny suggestion, but you’ve got to admit: It does work better!
Along my path of discovering my fit self, I’ve had plenty of these moments, and I want to share a few with you. There aren’t many shortcuts in life, but I hope these help.
1. It’s not about the weight you move. Okay, well, it sort of is. But weight’s not everything. A lot of new lifters want to push as much weight as possible, in any way possible. I know I did. When I hit 185 pounds, I was ecstatic. “Finally, a plate!” I thought. Then I fixed my form, and the 185 pounds dropped — quickly. Doing lifts in the right manner can drastically alter the way an exercise works. It’s important in both preventing injuries and building a balanced physique.
2. Muscle activation. Along the same lines, lifting with the proper muscle activation can really change the way a lift feels. It might have the same effect as a form change, causing you to use muscles you’re not used to. Lowering the weight and finding the mind-muscle connection is just as important as the form.
3. It’s more about the meal than the exercise. I see it all the time. People log mile upon mile on the treadmill or pavement, yet the weight still doesn’t come off. The opposite can be the same: under the bar, day in and day out, but can’t put on weight. It’s the food. Calories in, and calories out. You have to eat toward your goals or you’ll never get there. Whether trimming or bulking, protein, carbs and fat all need to be tracked and monitored.
4. People aren’t paying attention to you in the gym. I suffered from this badly when I first started frequenting the gym. I was a 260-pound man who hadn’t sniffed an organized sport or training session in well over eight years. If it weren’t for a personal trainer who did an amazing job of making me feel like the only person in the room, I may not have continued. It took me a long time to realize that the people in the room didn’t care what I was doing. Even when it looked like I might be trying to hurt myself, no one said anything. As I became more comfortable, I did the same. If anything, when I did notice someone in the gym it wasn’t because they were out of place, but because I was happy they were starting their own journey. I loved it.
5. It’s all about consistency. Finally, if there is one thing I wish I could get through everyone’s skull, it would be that it takes time and consistency to become fit and healthy. It’s not an overnight thing. Others getting discouraged and quitting is the most frustrating thing for me to see. Results are slow and steady, weight change fluctuates, and linear gains only last so long. My favorite saying is, “It’s ‘working out,’ not ‘leisure-ing out.'”
These seem incredibly simple when written out, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re thinking, “Duh!” If so, I’m happy you are. But I also know there are some who have just seen the lightbulbs switched on above their heads. And they’ll soon have vastly improved workouts.
Brandon Harrison covers Health and Fitness for Metro Weekly. Follow him at @ttrbrandon on Twitter.
Illustration by Christopher Cunetto.