Living your Maximum Life is about motivation, maximum performance and a balanced lifestyle, but more importantly, there is a recognition that every person is unique, and a pioneer of their own life path.

My aim is to help readers define their Life Footprint and start living a Purpose Driven life. This means taking hold of the steering wheel and Living Deliberately. One warning though - Reading these essays could be life changing!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Training and Motivation

This article was first posted on the Hive Health Media Site. I am posting it here for ease of reference and in case they decide to delete it there.

The gym is a great place to get stories for motivational speaking. The members who are serious about training are always revved up and talk about goals, better ways of training, progress made and of course new supplements. You can learn a lot by just listening to the guys around you.

I recently overheard another such conversation where a member said to the gym owner; “Hey, I’ve just heard about a great new supplement. Perhaps you can help me get it, because no-one seems to have it in stock.” Chris, as helpful and interested in new developments as always, said; “Sure, what’s the name? I’ll find out who supplies it and see if I can get you some.”  We both smiled as the member replied; “It’s called motivation.”

You can learn a lot by just listening to the guys around you.

He was right of course, motivation is the single biggest factor determining what results you will get from your training and probably contributes more than any supplement will. Now that is a loaded sentence right there, and excuse me while I play the part of motivational speaker and analyse this a bit. “The results you will get” are determined by how clearly you envision the results you want to achieve. 

I am quite often approached by people in gym wanting some training secret, or similar results to me, or training advice. My first question to them is always; “What exactly are you training for?” The answer will determine the rest of the conversation. You see, your approach to training will differ vastly depending on what you want to achieve.

What exactly are you training for?

Laurence E. Morehouse wrote two books in the 1970’s that are in themselves a commentary on this, as they are at the two opposite sides of the health and fitness spectrum. The first was a relatively short book entitled “Total Fitness in 30 Minutes a Week”, while the second was a substantial work that had much broader application and also dealt with specifics of programmes and dietary plans for specific sports entitled; “Maximum Performance”. I still consider these two books the best overall reading on the subject. The first was aimed at people who simply wanted to be heart fit and basically healthy, the second was for people who wanted to seriously focus their training and compete in various different arenas.

Motivation (from the Latin “moveo” – meaning to move) is what gets you moving. Knowing exactly what you are training for is the basis for motivation. Being here and reading this article, I suspect you already have a reason for training. It could be a carrot – training for a sporting event, for general health and fitness, to look and feel better about yourself; or a stick – recovery after and/or prevention of a heart attack, to combat obesity, etc. Whichever of these or whatever combination of these, or any other reasons that got you moving in the first place, is your primary motivator. The problem usually lies in keeping the momentum once you have decided to start training.

Glory lies in the attempt to reach one's goal and 
not in reaching it.
Mohandas Gandhi

Here are a few pointers:
·         Clarify Your Goals. There are four factors to consider here:
o   What prevented you from starting training before? (Things that made training undesirable, i.e. it is hard work, you hate getting sweaty, etc.)
o   What kept you inactive? (Possible negative reinforcement, such as that people calling you “fat boy” is the only attention you ever got and you therefore crave it)
o   What inspires you to train? (This is your main motivator, like wanting to be able to walk up stairs without getting out of breath, or taking part in a Mr. Universe Competition)
o   Why should you change from being inactive? (These are the possible results if you do not change, like dying early from a heart attack, not being able to play with your kids, Etc.)
You should now have a clearer picture of why you should be training. Remember, these are things you already knew, but writing them down increases the power of your resolve.

·         Envision Your End Result. You want a clear mental picture of what you are aiming at, so get an actual picture of someone in the condition you want to be in, lean, muscular and busy training with a smile on his/her face or enjoying a game of beach volleyball without a shirt on and looking great or winning a swimming event. Don’t forget to get a “before” picture too, or you will (like me) be destined to regret not doing so. Put both pictures where you will see them every day.

·         Check Your Progress. Regularly check progress towards your goals in such terms as recovery time, weight lifted, time trials, fat loss, endurance, muscle gain, etc. Knowing that you are achieving your goals is very important. Make sure that every time you train, you end at a point where you feel that you have succeeded, do not train until you are too exhausted to feel that you have achieved your goal. Weight is not a good tool for measuring progress, as you might be losing fat but gaining heavier muscle, and your weight might be constant or even increase – rather use the mirror and see the difference.

·         Attend Regularly. Do not miss a scheduled training session or event. If you are not feeling well, just tell yourself that you’re going to relax and enjoy the training session or sporting event. You’d be surprised to find that these are the days when you perform at your best. In fact, most world records are broken when athletes want to withdraw because they are not feeling well and their coaches insist that they just take part, relax and enjoy the event.

·         Don’t Overdo it. Yes seriously, if you do not rest, your body cannot recover. Recovery is at least 50% of the process. Also, injuries can put you out of action for lengthy periods of time, are unpleasant and create a psychological resistance to returning (who wants to go to a place where they get hurt?), and will hamper your progress more than not working out at less than optimal capacity.

·         Don’t Compare to Others. Every person has their own idiosyncratic build and constitution. You will move differently and have different results. Remember that another man’s programme is just that – another man’s programme. You must work out what exercises work best for you in achieving the goals you have set for yourself. Let the gym bunnies offer whatever advice they want, if you are making good progress, stick with what works for you, but experiment freely with other methods to find your optimum method of training. Variety also helps, both with physical progress and maintaining interest.

·         Do What You Enjoy. If you find your training programme boring, uninspiring or just plain too much effort, you will not stick with it. Try something else before you finally give up – the human machine was designed for physical exertion, but you may not enjoy the type of rigorous schedule I maintain or want to get up at 04:30 to get to gym. Exercise should fit your schedule and preferences. Be warned though, once the chemistry sets in and you start feeling good, it is addictive, and you’ll find it even harder to quit.

You are never too old to set another goal 
or to dream a new dream.
C. S. Lewis

Training is however also useful as a method to motivate you in other areas of your life. Apart from the pheromones (feel-good hormones) secreted during exercise, there are at least two other ways in which exercise is good motivation for other areas of your life. In the first place, exercise is an easy way to achieve success, and achieving success in one area of your life will inspire you to achieve in other areas as well. General fitness will also improve your health and increase energy levels and naturally lead to improved performance. I suppose I could make a more exhaustive list of how training will benefit, but you could do this yourself. 

The important thing is that, rather than going into analysis paralysis, you should get moving. Don’t worry about the mistakes you might make, any training is better than nothing at all, and you’ll learn as you progress. Take it easy in the beginning, but get started…. Yes, RIGHT NOW!

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