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Successful gym rats / gym bunnies

“It’s time to go to the gym and get awesome”! This thought or something similar has probably popped in to our heads at some stage, whether it be to enhance athletic performance, to look good in speedos, or to improve health. But simply going to the gym / track / pitch may not cut it. There are a few factors that need to be addressed before we can claim ‘gym rat / gym bunny’ success.

Here are a few that are essential. In no particular order except the first one which should be the main focus at all times:

1. Decide on  goal. Ask yourself what you want from your endeavour and how much time and effort you are willing to spend achieving it: For example – “I want to be leaner so that I look and feel better and I am willing to train towards that gaol 4-5 times per week for 45 -60 mins each time”. That’s a fair general goal I reckon. Now add more specific targets to this goal such as: “In 4 weeks I want to have dropped 3% body fat and increased muscle mass”.

Decide on realistic long term and short term goals.

2. Decide on a clear plan. To get to your chosen goal. This will usually be some form of training program that is specific to you. If you want to throw a javelin a long way then ditch the CV. If you want to run fasterthen ditch the long steady jogging. If you want to have big guns then lift appropriate weights…you get the idea!

Get a pecific plan that focuses on what you want

3. Be consistent, be patient and be relentless. You now have a goal and a plan, now be ruthless in your pursuit of it. Many people are enthusiastic initially but this often wanes as time goes by. The pursuit of excellence takes time, resolve and stubbornness. Do not be deterred, there will be times when you truly can’t be bothered…got to ‘man up’ a bit when these times come, as they surely will!

Regular and ruthless…try to enjoy the journey as well as the goal.

4. Measure progress with a workout book. This is vital in my view and is very simple to do. Simply keep a log (during the workout) of all your work including exercise type, reps, rest, tempo, weight lifted, speed, distance and so on. This is a powerful motivational tool and gives immediate feed back from session to session.

Keep a meticulous log of all training to ensure progress, motivation and adherence.

5. Get your body fat measured. If fat loss is your goal then get a start point measurement and monitor it periodically to ensure your plan is working and that you are in fact losing fat. Skin fold measuring takes time to perfect so find someone clued up with callipers and / or an ultrasound bodymetrix device. Also get your photo taken every 2 week from the front, side and rear wearing the same kit. If your program is working these pics will tell the story and can be extremely motivational. Be very aware that fat loss is not a linear affair, there will be plateaus where not much changes. Be patient, if your regime is correct it will happen.

Whatever is measured improves. Biosignature analysis can be very useful.

6. Overcoming the obstacles that life will throw at you. Work, kids, social, traffic, tiredness, meetings, school runs, relationships blah blah blah…these can all conspire against our planned mega-ness! Go back to point 3 above. As best as you possibly can remain relentless and consistent especially when the sofa is calling you to mong on!

Difficulties be damned. A bit of focused discipline goes along way. Do what ever it takes (sorry I overloaded a bit on cheese there).

7. Eat as we are designed to eat. Whether the goal is health, lean body mass, tickets to the gun show, freaky strength, hot-bod in a swim suit etc, poor nutrition will ultimately scupper your plan. I believe that a good physical training plan can only reach its full potential if it is accompanied by a clear and agreed nutritional plan. As mentioned in my booklet ‘Leaner living’, for fat loss it is better to get your training wrong but you nutrition right rather than the other way round. I will not go in to details here but we should eat as we are designed to eat, not as some clever advertisers tell us to eat. This is true for all human endeavour.

Strive to be ‘fat adapted’ and eat as our ancestors did. Ask yourself “is there such as thing as a wheetos (etc) / tree, bush, plant, animal’!?

8. No guilt. If for some reason you get side tracked and your training gets put on the back burner or your nutrition goes a bit wayward, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Except that you have had a slip up, get over it and get back to your plan. Guilt is only motivational for us suppressed Catholics!

Accept the universal truth that some days you will be rubbish…but not everyday!

9. Allow recovery, rest and relaxation. Stimulation happens during training and adaptation happens when we rest. Therefore allow at least one full day of rest away from the training environment per week. Also a recovery week / period is a good long term plan. Every 3-4 weeks allow a week or so of recuperation or recovery training. This can be by reducing the volume, or at times reducing the loads / intensity of the training. This aids recovery, increases longevity, reduces injuries and ensures you come back stronger. (I need to heed my own advice here)!

Some good recovery strategies include: massage / soft tissue work, easy swim / pool work, yoga, stretching, have a cheat meal, walking in the country and sunlight, bath, sauna, deep breathing, sun bed (occasionally), easy (no plan) training and best of all sleep.

Excess training and ‘yang’ activity will eventually harm you. Relax from time to time and embrace the ‘ying’… (a bit tree huggery I admit!)

10. Change the program at suitable times. Evidence suggests that if we follow the same program / regime for too long we will stagnate and stall. They say that changes to programs should be factored in every 3 – 6 weeks. This will stop boredom and keep interest. However more importantly changing programs at suitable planned intervals allows a different stimulus to be applied to the body which keeps us adapting towards our goal. Often the unsuccessful trainee finds a program that they enjoy and sticks with it for years, not good!

The body adapts quickly to a given stressor and as they say “familiarity breeds contempt”.

11. Ethos. Find a training facility where the ethos is to train, be healthy and robust. In my opinion some faddy / funky / globo gyms may not cut it!

Go to the gym to train and strive towards your goal. Socialise later!

12. Supplement. As well as a clever specific program / regime and correct nutrition some supplements can help no matter what your goals are. There the basics such as: multivitamins, fish oil and probiotics as well as specialised ones like: magnesium, zinc, D3. This doesn’t include the workout nutrition such as: BCAAs, creatine, whey, glutemine and so on.  To the unfamiliar eye this paragraph may seem a bit much, but I mention these supplements because I am convinced of their usefulness if applied well.

Be open minded about some proven supplements. They are not all rubbish and in today’s toxic world can help.

Sum up

Decide on what you want to achieve, get a plan organised, and go for it…relentlessly. Measure and record progress and do not be afraid of changing things if you are not steadily getting towards the chosen goal. When things go a bit astray (as they always do) don’t beat yourself up, get back on the horse as soon as possible.

Also it is worth noting that a bit of ego goes along way in keeping you going when you would rather slob in front of the TV. Have some personal pride!

If you have trouble getting a suitable plan together seek advice from  a proven professional. They can laser in on how to help you and save you from setting out on a path of wasted inappropriate training.

If your going to sweat, grunt and groan at least ensure you are panting long the correct path!