Are you committed to consistent improvement? You should be…

In the first installment of this series found here, I discussed how important it is to consistently assess and re-assess everything you are doing.  This goes for your job performance, your relationship, your nutrition and training program, your friendships, your mindset and attitude… everything! 

If you’re not doing honest assessments of all areas of your life on a regular basis, how can you possibly pinpoint your weak areas and continue to make progress?  I’ll be the first one to admit that this is easier said than done, which is why it’s important to surround yourself with like-minded people who love you enough to let you know what improvements you can make, especially when you can’t see them yourself. 

In part 1, I discussed two aspects of my training in which I had been slacking a bit.  The first being that I hadn’t been putting forth full effort on my warm-up sets and the second being that I hadn’t been doing a good job scheduling my cardio sessions each week to not only ensure that they get done, but also to ensure that they don’t interfere with my weight training sessions. 

 

In this installment, I will be discussing 2 other areas in which I struggle: asking too many people for advice and not doing enough long, slow cardio.

3.  Quit asking so many people for advice –

As some of you probably know, my business partner Jim Laird was my Trainer/Coach for several years until 2010 when I started training under Mike Robertson.  Mike and Jim have gotten to be buddies over the years and Jim and I have both learned a ton from MR over the last few years.  Since Mike coaches me from a distance, often times Jim has to “fill in” for him and be my in-person Coach, which Mike is totally cool with, and it’s nice for me to have 2 super knowledgeable Coaches from whom I can get advice and feedback.

So what’s the problem? 

Wellllll… I will admit I am blessed with the double-edged sword of being surrounded by people who are super-knowledgeable about training.  In fact, at any given time I typically have at least 1-2 people at the gym with me who have squatted 600+ raw, benched 450+ raw, and deadlifted 600+ raw and they have all trained under great coaches and many of them are coaches themselves.  So anytime I have an issue or something doesn’t look or feel right, I have the tendency to ask them to take a look at what I am doing and see if they can help me pinpoint the problem. 

In addition to all of the wonderful people at my gym, I have the luxury of going to places like the EliteFTS compound and get help from the likes of world-class lifters like: Brian Carroll, Jo Jordan, Matt Ladewski, Michael Keck and many others.  Wah wah wah!  I know you’re feeling REALLY sorry for me right now, huh?  But seriously… getting advice from all of these super-strong, wonderful coaches can actually lead to what’s called “paralysis by analysis.” 

They all have great ideas and have had a lot of success with themselves and their clients, but you can’t follow 10 training programs at once and while most of them follow similar principles, their exact approaches can be quite different. 

As a Coach I know it would drive me CRAZY to have a client asking other trainers/coaches for advice, and like I said, it’s not because Mike isn’t an amazing Coach, because he IS!  It’s just that it’s nice to be coached in person 1-on-1 and with our nutty schedules and the distance between us; I can only get coached by MR in person 2-3 times a year.  So what starts as innocently asking someone to watch my squat, usually ends up in a 30 minute discussion about the accessory work I should be doing, and why I am doing XYZ for my main movement, and have I cycled in speed work? And how about bands this and chains that? And have you ever tried such-and-such protocol?  (And this doesn’t even begin to touch on all of the unsolicited advice I get!). 

As any good Coach or Trainer will tell you, listening to more than 1, maybe 2 trusted people and trying to piece together and mish-mash programs will do nothing but leave you confused and frustrated and likely with sub-par results.  And while I do a good job of following the programs that Mike writes for me, it does mess with my head at times to have so many people telling me that I should be doing something different. 

Over the next several months I need to do a better job of staying focused and not getting distracted by too much advice from other people!  After all, I am healthy and I am hitting PR’s left and right by doing the program that my Coach has written for me and I can’t ask for much more than that!

 

4. Doing more long slow cardio -

Yes, yes I know what you’re thinking.  “WHAT?!  More long, slow cardio?  Am I crazy?  Won’t long, slow cardio make me slow?  And catabolic? And so efficient that I won’t burn any calories?  And isn’t it responsible for world hunger and global warming and the extinction of unicorns?!?!  How could you possibly think you need to be doing more of this?”

Before you totally write me off and think I’ve gone off the deep end, let me explain.  The cardio that I am talking is often referred to as LISS cardio, or low intensity steady state cardio.  The cardio that falls under the LISS category would include walking, light bike riding or swimming, light hiking, light bodyweight circuits, etc.  Basically it’s any activity that burns a few extra calories, gets your blood pumping, and elevates your heart rate a bit (but still keeps it below 130-ish).  This type of cardiovascular exercise is a fantastic addition to any workout regimen and has many benefits that may include but is not limited to:

-          Increased work capacity

-          Increased recovery ability/decreased recovery time

-          Improved mood and focus

-          Improved circulation and blood flow, and in turn, nutrient delivery

-          Improved GPP (general physical preparedness)

-          Improved insulin sensivity

-          Improved sleep quality

-          Decreased body fat

Again, these are just a few of the positive side effects that can come from adding in a few LISS sessions per week.  I know that for me personally, having time to relax, clear my mind, breathe deeply, and enjoy fresh air and sunshine is absolutely priceless.  This LISS cardio is as good for my mind and soul as it is for my body. 

In fact, one of my favorite things to do instead of scheduling lunch or dinner with a friend is to schedule a walk with them.  You get to do everything you would do at lunch, except it’s free and it’s great for your health!   In fact, I did this yesterday with a client/friend of mine.  In no time, 55 minutes had passed and we hadn’t even noticed!  I have also noticed that changing my mindset from, “I have to do cardio!” to “I get 30 minutes to relax and clear my mind!” definitely lends itself to having a much more positive attitude and enjoying the LISS cardio more.

And remember, it’s not supposed to be super intense and draining.  In fact, this type of cardio should be refreshing and replenishing.  Start with a couple of light walks a few days a week lasting 20-30 minutes.  If you find that these walks are hindering your recovery from your other training, you are pushing yourself too hard or you REALLY need to improve your conditioning in badly!  =)

There you have it.  Two more areas of my life and training that can be quickly and easily improved by making small tweaks to my current habits and schedule.

Are any of you making the same mistakes I am currently making?  Are you going to change them?  Are you making any other mistakes that may be holding you back from reaching your goals?  What are they?   What do you plan to do about it?

8 Responses to 6 Areas in Which I Can Improve– Part 2

  1. kenny carlisle says:

    I listen to so many people i get confused. I try and always keep in mind the phrase most of them use ( listen to your body and do whats best for you). My first powerlifting meet will be in ky.on the 19th, at 47 i dont even know which division to enter novice,masters 1,or masters 5? I gotta start somewhere. Then find a coach or part time coach to help me with my weaknesses and improve slowly,maybe someday in my 50′s break a record or two before all those strong young guys reach 50. Meanwhile passing it along to any who are willing to listen.

  2. Helen says:

    Whilst I am a personal trainer, as in most professions, that makes me a generalist at the start and then you further specialize. I went with the over 50s rather than specific strength training/weight training/body building, whatever you may like to call it. This means now that I am changing my personal fitness plan to be strength orientated lots of reading up and research for me. Like you I am feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information/advice/programs out there and at least you know that your advice is coming from reputable sources. I feel slightly qualified to shift out the pure BS from the good advice because of my background but god knows how a pure beginner must feel.

    My plan is very similar to yours, stick to my programme and assess results every 6-8 weeks. If it’s not working then I will try something else. Hopefully to prevent me getting bored (another one of my mistakes is I flit from one thing to another) I will be interrupting the programme once a week to do Tuesday Trainer over at Lindsays List for fun.

    Love your suggestions about getting outside for a walk, if only people realised something as simple (and free!) as this could lift their mood and improve their health.

    Love your blog.

  3. Andrew says:

    I am slowly becoming a full time bike commuter in NYC. I find that the ride home from work at night is great cardio (13 miles in 58-62 minutes) and is a great stress management. It has also helped my weight/waist issue and my blood pressure. I highly recommend a long ride home to everyone. As my favorite bike shops employees like to say, a bike can and should replace your therapist.

  4. Pamela says:

    Great article. I do what i call a lazy walk every Sunday. I get out and walk my neighborhood and by do so, I’ve discovered some gems I didn’t know about. It’s also my alone with me time.

  5. Kyra says:

    I Appreciate that you’re admitting to seeking change and not being perfect.

    After just coming off a competition I’m realizing the need to start eating more fruit. It’s so delicious and refreshing in the summer but I have a tendency to shy away because of the high sugar content.

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