4 fitness rules to live by
Here are my 4 fitness rules to ensure you stay injury free, continue to make progress and continue to enjoy yourself in the gym.
Do not absolutely end yourself everyday - this might seem obvious to some, but going into the gym everyday and absolutely smashing yourself to bits is unlikely to end well. Either overtraining, a drop in motivation or an injury, or a combination of the three, will likely occur. Working hard and pushing yourself beyond your perceived limits is one thing, doing more than your body can handle, adapt to and recover from, is another. For example, I train on average 4-6 times a week, but only 2-3 of my sessions are what I would consider to be at the upper end of my limits, whether that be in terms of higher percentage weights or an extended period of time at a near maximum heart rate. Other days are focused around slightly lower intensity and even sometimes active recovery days depending on how I am feeling. In the past, I’ve tried to train at maximum intensity everyday and every time without fail, after a couple of weeks, motivation wanes, I no longer look forward to training and progress slows. Giving your body and mind the ability to recover properly and essentially catch up with all the work you put in will enable steadier and more sustainable progression in the long run.
Consistency is progress - someone (Craig Stevens) once said ‘progress is a process’ and he was right. Nowadays, we want immediate results and often resort to extreme and unsustainable methods to reach them. However, for truly sustainable results, consistency in your training is often the answer. For example, if you want to get stronger, strength development that lasts, which is free of injury, takes time. Similarly, if you want to lose fat, crash diets aren’t the way forward. Sure...you may manage to reach your target weight, but the lifestyle changes needed to achieve that goal, are unlikely to be sustainable. In contrast, more progressive fat loss over an extended period of time, may take more time, but the changes to your lifestyle needed to maintain your ideal weight are unlikely to pose as many challenges. As I said, consistency and patience are the key to progress.
Do not neglect mobility and flexibility in your training- it can be easy to “forget” to stretch at the end of your workout or not bother. However, if there was one thing that I wish I had performed consistently (see point above) when I first started training, that would be regular stretching as well as mobility exercises. Can you touch your toes? Can you sit at the bottom of a squat, comfortably, with a straight back? Can you straighten your arms fully overhead with proper thoracic extension? No? Then it might be a good idea to start implementing these aspects into your training, rather than waiting, as most of us do, until after an injury occurs. Just 5-10 minutes spent mobilising at the start of your workout, and 5-10 minutes stretching at the end of your workout is a great place to start.
Be open to learning new things - an underrated aspect of fitness is skill acquisition. This can be anything from taking the time to learn how to skip, hold a handstand or even try various more advanced training systems, like drop sets, super sets, negatives etc. Do you need to constantly be using them in your training? No, of course not, but being aware of them and being able to perform them can’t hurt. For example, let's imagine you are into bodybuilding. The thought of trying to hold a handstand might seem unnecessary to further develop the size of your shoulders. However, taking the time to try to learn a handstand would be beneficial for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a great indicator of shoulder and core strength, it also gives you awareness of whether you have tight shoulders and therefore need to improve your shoulder mobility (an important aspect to avoid injury if you are overhead pressing a lot). Not to mention the fact that as soon as you try to hold a handstand (even against a wall), you’ll soon realise how much of a struggle it is, giving you a great bodyweight exercise that can be performed at home if you are unable to get to the gym. Take home message - getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things will only positively aid your training.
By Luca Samara