Small changes for big results: efficiency is key
By Tia Norris, December 2019 Issue.
you been exercising for several months or years, but haven’t seen the results
you feel you deserve? Do you feel like you put in your time in the gym (or in
the pool, on the pavement, or in your sport otherwise), but your goals still
feel far out of reach?
If you answered yes to these questions,
this article is for you.
I find that often, people are doing one or
two of the big things correctly but are doing many of the small things
incorrectly. Having those small leaks in the hull will sink a fitness
battleship entirely. Here are four seemingly small, but ultimately critical,
corrections you can make to increase your efficiency with your fitness
1. No goals, no definite direction
This is a mandatory
step one, and it’s devastating how many people fail to set goals. Read this
carefully: it’s not enough to simply show up and do the time at the gym. Your
fitness program is like a symphony, made of several different instruments and
timings and complex rhythms all working in concert; you need to be sure that
all of your efforts are synergizing together, instead of un-doing each other.
People make the grave mistake of trying to
do everything all at once, in the same program. All of the following programs
are largely incompatible, and you can only work on really one or maybe two, if
you’re experienced and smart, at a time: strength, building muscle, losing body
fat, rehabbing an injury, and increasing endurance. Choose carefully, and
wisely, and then: tailor your reps, sets, rest, tempo, splits, exercise
selection, exercise sequence, and all other variables in your single
2. Time management: before, during, and after
Time is everything.
Before your workouts: take at least five minutes, or ideally more if possible,
to get your mind right. Take time to disconnect from the stress of your day,
and to then connect into your fitness. Review your goals, why they’re important
to you, and what you need to do today to get closer to those goals. This
“centering” effect can help your physical performance immensely.
During your workouts: don’t waste time,
slacker! Get off your phone, stop chit-chatting, and watch the clock. Most
people don’t need to be resting for more than a minute or two in the gym, but
it’s tragically rare for me to actually see someone adhering to that critical
rest window. Get serious about your rest periods, it’s one of the most powerful
manipulations you can make to your lifting program. Stay focused.
After your workouts: consider making time
to de-compress after workouts, both mentally and physically. Most people are so
time-crunched that they sprint out of the door when their workout is complete,
without any time to reflect on successes, failures, or appreciation for what
they just did. They are missing some crucial mental and emotional opportunities
for closure and progress moving forward. Additionally, spending 5-20 minutes
after a workout stretching, rolling, and doing other self-care could be a
game-changer in your mobility routine. Manage your time and watch your physical
3. Changing programs too often
Patience is the
number one thing that most people are missing when it comes to seeing results
in fitness. They want it now, and they want it easily … but of course, if it
were easy, everyone would be walking around with six pack abs and rippling
bicep muscles. Remember the mastery principle: it takes 10,000 hours to ascend
to mastery level of any skill — that’s years or decades in most cases.
Pick your goals and pursuits carefully.
Remove your ego (ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black?) and ensure that
you’re deeply in touch with your motivations and passions before you dive
headfirst in the deep end of any new sport. Once you’ve picked your horse, I’d
recommend riding that one single horse for a long, long, time. Do you want to
build muscle, build strength, or run a marathon? Train that for 6-12 months. Do
you want to reduce body fat and be more comfortable in a bathing suit? Train
that for a few years, cycling between building muscle/cutting fat several times
to figure out what your body needs.
Remember, it takes time to see results and
to find your unique formula for each phase. Patience is a virtue.
4. Not mastering the basics and the technique
Along the same
lines, don’t overlook the importance of the basics. Elite athletes in every
sport have all paid their dues and have drilled deeply into the basics. Spend
considerable time, both in the beginning and regularly throughout your
intermediate and advanced level trainings, on basic techniques. The technical
athlete will avoid injury, forge a sharper precision of movements and muscles
involved, and will ultimately rise further in their sport with a more masterful
understanding how, when, and how quickly to move.
Some examples of basics in the gym that are
worth your time: a grip of steel, strong wrist mechanics, serious understanding
of lats and glutes, ability to control footwork (toes pointed in the right
direction, heels grounded, no supination/pronation), spinal integrity (no
rounding, control of chin/neck), bilateral symmetry, basic stretching, and
basic foam rolling. All of these should be old hat for any weightlifter that
calls themselves more advanced than novice.
Guard your goals, time, commitments, and techniques extremely carefully; they’re non-negotiable when it comes to succeeding with fitness. Details matter. Don’t leave your success to chance with these small but wide-reaching pieces to your program.