By Dan Taylor
Hundreds, if not thousands, of books and articles have been written about motivation. I’m no psychologist, but training clients for more than a decade and teaching continuing education workshops for trainers has exposed me to a broad range of attitudes about exercise.
The mental aspect of working out is huge and it’s complicated. But what makes it even more difficult to understand is that there is a very real physical aspect to training that can be downright unpleasant.
There’s just no getting around the fact that training is more physically difficult than what most people do the rest of their day. It causes strain and discomfort and few people are naturally wired to seek that out voluntarily.
It’s not, generally speaking, enjoyable to load your muscles near or past the point of capacity. We have a built-in instinct to avoid that condition. The reflex response is to harness physics in almost any way possible to move the object from point “A” to point “B” with as little applied effort as possible, or at least to avoid exhausting our strength in a single movement. This is why breaking form – compromising posture, biomechanics (body movement patterns) and controlled rhythm – is so common in gyms and when working out at home. Understanding this and addressing it is one of the keys to a safe, effective strength workout.
Just as common is the tendency to avoid high levels of cardiovascular effort. You might sprint up a hill to catch a bus but far fewer people do short, high-intensity aerobic circuits than spend up to an hour or more on a treadmill or elliptical trainer at a pace they can comfortably talk or read a magazine. Why? It’s more comfortable to train at 50 to 75 percent of your capacity for 45 minutes than it is to train between 80 and 95 percent for 15 minutes.
And while it’s true that it’s only safe to train at higher aerobic levels after you have built a solid fitness base, you only need to consider military boot camp or watch NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” to see that most people can do that in a matter of two to three weeks. And the results are, while often stunning, absolutely predictable.
So why don’t more of us use this short, intense format for cardio, and a pristine form, push-to-absolute-failure model for resistance training?
Because it’s HARD!
But we do many things that are hard, don’t we? If it really matters, and we have no choice — at school or when enduring a personal loss or trial — we almost always weather the storm and prevail. But something else often happens as a result of that unique and demanding struggle.
More specific guidelines on what levels and types of discomfort are safe or to be avoided when training can be found at: http://trivalleywellness.com/blog/2008/01/habit-5-embracing-discomfort-in-training.