Most people don't strive to be better than average. Mediocrity is just good enough for most. – Erik Leden
Over the past 17 years as a fitness coach, no one has ever come to me for training and said, “I’m just looking to be average or mediocre”. If they did, then I recommended that they pay another trainer more. MM Team Fitness is not for them, it’s not our culture.
Yet, I see some clients repeatedly struggle to be, by their own doing, the best they can be within their genetics and physical limitations. The purpose of this blog is to summarize the key variables beyond the right ATTITUDE to be the best you can be. If you’re good where you are, that’s great but if you ever wonder if you could be better, then consider what I've briefly describe below. These key points represent a compilation of everything that comes to mind that can limit ones transformation potential. Some are simple fixes, others more challenging, some outside the scope of what is feasible and it is understandable given the issues many face. Take a look at what I discuss below, even one of the easy fixes could make a big difference!
Consistently train 3d/wk. For some, schedules make it very difficult but most top transformers will figure out a way to make it work. Budget is the only reason besides a physical limitation that should preclude a client from training 3d/wk. If its just not within your budget I understand, however if you tell me that you can’t afford that third day and in the next sentence tell the group how much fun you had partying with your friends in Chicago the past weekend, you should reassess your priorities if being a top transformer IS one of those priorities. Until you’ve trained all three days consistently (+1 yr), you won’t understand how the program works, its benefits and the various components that interact to optimize performance, function, flexibility, endurance, cardiovascular fitness and overall health. I have clients that can’t currently train three days a week because of a chronic injury and now realize how much it sucks, and how it negatively impacts other aspects of their lives beyond the physical component (energy, feeling of well being, self-esteem, etc.). Clearly, you have to live within your means, but if you’re not the best you want to be and are not training 3d/wk or picking up the 3rd day on your own consistently with the same focus you would with the group, then you are missing a key component of the transformational process.
Dietary intake. There are several basic catagories that most clients fall into: 1) optimized individual nutrition requirements, 2) not eating enough calories in general, 3) poor macro nutrient composition (too many carbs and not enough protein), 4) poor meal timing or skipping meals then overconsuming, and 5) a regular intake of crap. Crap defined as something that comes pre-packaged, is a junk snack or in simple terms, a regular diet of pizza, soda or alcohol, fast food/bar food or regular evening snacking on ANYTHING especially junk for emotional gratification or out of boredom. If you’re sporting a muffin top or gut, performance sucks more often than not, you’re sick all the time, generally feel like crap mentally and physically, but are otherwise free of known disease, a crap diet is the problem.
The more insidious form of dietary destruction comes from simply not eating enough. If you struggle with strength and performance and have no clue how many calories you consume, the macro composition of what you consume or why nutrient timing is crucial, less than optimal performance is inevitable. The same goes with an obsession over leanness. The fastest way to become a smaller fatter person is chronic dietary restriction and skipping meals. This leads to poor performance, chronic illness, emotional instability and impaired quality of life. Those with the mind over matter mindset ultimately find out that matter wins and by that time serious metabolic damage has occurred that takes months to years to fix. If you have dietary questions, attend the Jan 19th seminar.
Nutritional Supplements. Whey protein, caffeine, creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, fish oil and a multi-vit/min. KISS principle. No cleansing, thermos, or exotic products with labels printed so small you need a microscope to read the proprietary blend of ingredients we know nothing about and hopefully won’t do much more from a health perspective than give you expensive urine.
Post Workout Recovery Drink. 12 – 16 oz of chocolate milk with about 10g of Whey added or a 1:2-3 PRO:CHO drink RIGHT after the WOD, then follow it up with a balanced meal composed of real food. This one is so simple yet so important.
Old School Neanderthal Training or Fear of Getting Big. I wanna go heavy, I wanna go heavy every session and to failure every set! Form what form? I want to lift more weight! This is the ultimate fast track to mediocrity, injury and burnout. The strongest guys and ladies in the world rarely train to failure during the strength phase of the workout and always with good form. If your form sucks and ROM is ¼th of what is should be, check your ego, fix the form and ROM before considering heavier weight. Every week someone is setting a new PR in strength and/or endurance moves, tells me the programming works just fine. On the flip side, if you scamper through the workout fearing that you'll resemble a genetically altered farm animal if you hit it hard, you'll never achieve your potential. Big has more to do with bodyfat than muscle mass. Lose the fat, keep the muscle.
Progress Takes Time. Learning an Olympic lift, even a power clean takes several months to a year, same with basic KB moves. If you screw up, you’ll sustain a serious injury, I guarantee it. There are videos and PDFs that cover the basics on the website, you also have to practice and manage your fear of failure, or you will fail and/or get injured. Focus is essential; being “goofy or giddy” as I describe it during a skill set is ill advised. Check your performance anxieties and insecurities, and focus on the tast at hand. As Arnold said in T3, “anger is more useful than despair”. It is clear that when I get someone’s head wrapped around a movement, they set a new PR with perfect form and walk away feeling really good about themself. Also understand that if you come to me and say, "I wanna try that", and I say, "no", it is because you are not ready. You'll get over the emotional pain much faster than the potential pain of injury that could result if I let you try something you are not ready for. Lastly, we perform OLs and KB work on Fri/Sat, if you want to learn how to power clean and use KBs, Fri/Sat is a must. There will be WODs outside of Fri/Sat where we use these skills, I can't teach them at that time, you will have to modify.
Be Patient. I see clients try to get it right on the first try, first week or even first month. They keep trying and trying until it looks like they are having a grand mal seizure, ultimately collapsing on the floor in exhaustion and despair. It takes months to years to get it right. Hit a few reps and move on, repetition with good form goes a lot further than pounding a set to exhaustion with bad form.
Know Your Limitations. For some of us, including myself, we have anatomical limitations that if we try to exceed, serious injury will result. Improvement is always possible, but once you hit a structural limitation, some movements may simply need to be modified. No way around it, be good with it if you want to stay in the game.
Gear. Wrist wraps and ankle socks. Have to use them if you don't want wrist problems or rope burns, respectively. We do so many moves that stress the wrists, protect them.
Too Much Cardio. This one is like the myth that you have to run mega-mile weekly s to be a good middle distance (13.1) runner. Some of the top transformers do very little additional cardio, 1 – 2 days per week of something fun and healthy social (spin class, Zumba, 4- 5 mi run, kick boxing, some intervals). Add in a yoga class for flexibility. Most importantly, if you add in cardio or are an endurance athlete (runner or cycling), make sure you cover the caloric needs and time your training appropriately with the WODs. Spinning or a 10 mi run before heavy legs is not a good idea.
Mobility and Flexibility. If pain limits ROM, see one of my sports med referrals and take care of it. The less you move, the less you will move until a scooter is the only option. If you try to ignore an injury or chronic pain, at some point the pain will force change, by that time you will have been compensating in so many different ways you have many more structural and functional problems, and pain to try and fix.
Minor Injuries. Tell me about them before they become major because if you don’t deal with them as soon as you notice that twinge or ache, they will get worse and put you out of training.
Be Careful Outside the Gym. Most injuries to clients occur outside the gym. Something as seemly benign as painting a ceiling can cause a shoulder impingement that takes months to resolve and can put you out of upper body training. Repetitive movements cause many of the shoulder and elbow problems. Getting totally drunk after playing 18 holes and rolling a golf cart, well that is a special kind of stupid. What many clients fail to consider is the cost of injury. If you have a high deductible and need an MRI and treatment, it gets really expensive.
Recovery. Do the best you can. Work, kids, family obligations all limit sleep and contribute to stress. The better you manage it, the better you'll feel, you'll be sick less often and perform better.
Communication. If you are having issues with anything related to training, call or set up a time to talk. NO EMAILS other than to set up a time to talk. Several minutes of face to face or phone time will resolve any problem. Drama filled, million key stroke emails are a waste of time and energy, and create more problems than they solve. Don’t let emotions dictate your decision making, and DO NOT wait until whatever is bothering or stressing you turns into an emotional thunderstorm, that will ALWAYS lead to a poor decision longer term.
Top Transformers, anything I'm missing? Please comment.