We love variety. We love coming in and doing something new each and every day.
But if you have specific goals, like doing an unassisted pull up, you can’t simply do something new each and every day.
Actually if you want to reach your goals, you need to repeat workouts…over…and over…and over again.
And then you need to progress your current workouts.
You are not reinventing the wheel each and every workout, each and every week.
You are simply constantly building on your past and current routines to progress and get stronger to reach your goal.
How can you progress your workouts if they are constantly changing?
The simple answer is…You can’t.
You can’t easily track whether or not you are moving forward. And whether or not you are getting results, you won’t know what is and isn’t working.
And if you don’t know what is and isn’t working, you don’t know what to change when you plateau or your results slow.
So how often do you change up your workouts? And how do you build from progression to progression?
Below are some great tips and guidelines to help you create a great progression.
1. Change up your workouts every 3-6 weeks. You need to spend at least 3 weeks on a progression to get results from the workouts. The first week you will learn the moves and become comfortable with them. The next week you will add weight and the third week you will be able to really push yourself to the max with them. You may find that you can get just a little more out of them if you do a fourth and final week or you may be ready for a recovery week. I’ve found that the maximum amount of time you can repeat the same workouts without plateauing is 6 weeks. Longer than that and you start to get bored or overtrain or plateau. Go no longer than 6 weeks without a recovery week and changing up your workouts.
2. Progress the exercises and weights. There are progressions/regressions for every exercise. Think about the push up for instance. Never been able to do one? Start against the wall. Then do one from a lower incline with your hands up on a bench…maybe even on your knees. Then maybe a super low incline from your toes. Then maybe from your knees on the ground. And finally from your toes on the ground. You can even progress the move further and do a decline push up. The point is, you start with one move, master it and then move on to the next level the next progression. You can also make moves more challenging by adding weights. Heavier weights make moves harder. But going heavier or lighter isn’t the only way to use weights to change up the exercise. You can also vary exercises by where you hold the weight and the type of weight you use. A kettlebell deadlift is different that a barbell deadlift or a suitcase deadlift. A front squat is different than a sandbag shouldered squat or a barbell back squat. They all challenge the body in different ways because of where you hold the weight and the type of weight used.
3. Change up your workout design. You can change up the number of reps and sets you do to challenge your body in a new way. Working toward a one rep max? Then slowly lower your weights down as you progress. Looking to get stronger, feel better and create some body composition changes? You may want to mix up your workouts and add in some density sets. You can vary the reps and sets to help you achieve different results. If you are working on maximal strength, your workouts shouldn’t look exactly the same as someone focused on weight loss. If you are focused on doing an unassisted pull up, your workouts won’t look the same as someone working on a pistol squat or training for a race. You workout design should match your goals.
4. Change your supplemental lifts to address your weak points. As you progress, you will find that different body parts are the weakest links. Address those weak links with supplemental exercises. If you want to do more push ups and your triceps are weak, add in some dips or some close grip push ups. Shoulders weak? Then add in some overhead presses and maybe some handstand holds. Make sure to add in lifts to help you progress toward your goal and address your weakest links. Those supplemental lifts should change even if your goal stays the same for a progression or two. These different lifts will help work those weak links in different ways to make them stronger and can address any new areas of weakness.
5. Consider what your week looks like OUTSIDE of working out and plan around it. If you plan out your workouts ahead of time, you can plan certain workouts to go on certain days. Know you are alway busy Monday and really only have 30 minutes to workout? Plan your short workout for that day. Know that you hate going to the gym on the weekends when you are home but want to get in a workout? Plan a home recovery workout for that day or any other workout you can do from home. Consider your schedule and match your workouts to your schedule. It will make your workouts easier to stick to and therefore keep you more consistent. A huge part of progressing is consistency!
6. Focus on one goal each progression. Often we have lots of different goals we want to accomplish, but we can’t address all of them at once. Sometimes we can address two at once if they somewhat overlap (like doing more push ups or pull ups can easily be compatible with the goal of losing weight). However, you must stay FOCUSED on one or two things with each progression. Focus your progression with only a goal or two in mind so that everything you are doing will benefit those goals. When you spread yourself to thin and try to do too many things at once, nothing will end up getting accomplished.
7. Address injuries first. Know your injuries and address when and how you are going to rehab them. This may mean focusing on a different goal and only doing rehab for the injured area during a progression. It may mean adding in rehab/prehab to workouts as part of the warm up. Or it may mean setting aside stretching/trigger point days to address your imbalances. If you don’t address injuries first, you aren’t going to get stronger and you may cause issues in other parts of your body. If you don’t address an ankle injury and just keep pushing through your knee, hip, back may all end up with issues. Your progression should go mobility, stability THEN strength/cardio. If you aren’t mobile and have a good base, you aren’t really going to get the most out of your workouts!
8. Vary the intensity of your workouts. Each and every workout shouldn’t be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. With pre-planning your progression, you are able to plan so that you aren’t destroying the same muscles over and over again and pushing your body toward injury. You can plan so that your body has ample time to recover before those muscles are worked again. If you do a hinge day and a squat day, make sure that your body has time to rest in between. Don’t put those workouts back to back. And make sure your legs are worked in different ways during each workout. Also add in a super intense metabolic workout and maybe one where you work at 70%. Make one upper body day killer and maybe the other is more stability and mobility focused. Varying the intensity and having some “easier” days can actually help you get closer to your goal than 5-6 days of super intense workouts.
9. Consider the space and equipment available. This one seems obvious but often we actually forget about all the tools we have at hand…like our own bodyweight, which is super important to remember if we want to work out 4 times a week, but just can’t make it to the gym more than 2. Once you look at your schedule, you can plan out when and WHERE you will do the workouts. Maybe you can only get to the gym twice a week, but you find you can workout two times at home. Then consider all the tools you have at home. Utilize the space and equipment you have and don’t be afraid to mix it up. Not all workouts have to occur in the gym with machines or free weights or barbells.
10. Track what you do and progress each week. A progression helps you succeed because it is pre-planned but more importantly because it allows you to easily track your progress. Write down your weights, reps, sets. Track every variable that isn’t set in stone. Say you state you are going to do 8-12 reps. Track the weight you use for those reps and how many you manage to do with that weight. Then the next week work to beat that. Tracking allows us to know EXACTLY where we are so we know EXACTLY what we have to do to progress the workout the next week!
Do you repeat workouts? Do you make them up when you get to the gym or do you have a pre-planned progression?
How long before you change up your routine?
The other week I wrote about goal setting so that you can achieving your goals this coming year.
But setting proper goals is only the first step.
The next step is planning out how you are going to achieve your goals. And the more detailed your plan, the more likely you are to succeed.
Most people really skip this part.
They set goals. And then they start working out and eating healthy according to something they read or some vague idea of what they should be doing.
But they don’t really have a PLAN.
They really aren’t sure exactly what they are going to do from day-to-day. They really don’t know what is paying off and what isn’t. They really aren’t consistent enough with one thing to truly track what is working and what isn’t.
And while they may work really hard for a month to try to achieve their goals, they probably aren’t going to stick with it in the long run EVEN if they see progress.
Because at some point their haphazard program isn’t going to get them results. And when they plateau, they won’t know where to go because they will have no idea what worked and what didn’t.
But if they had a plan not only would they have direction to begin with, but they would also know what worked.
They could adjust the plan as they realize what benefits them and what doesn’t. As as they tweak their plan, they would continue to see progress.
Whereas if they had no plan, they would almost have to completely start over to continue getting results. And starting over with no idea of what works….Well that by no means guarantees you results.
Plus a plan is a great way to get you motivated and keep you motivated once you’ve set your goals!
Often we set our goals and those keep us motivated for a week or two.
But once that week or two is up, we lose that initial motivation.
If we’ve done enough to get results in those first couple of weeks, that may provide us with motivation for a few more. But if we haven’t seen great instant results, we may give up.
A plan though would help us stay motivated because we have something clear to follow and accomplish.
Accomplishing and completing the program you lined up, while it might not get you to your ultimate goal, is an achievement in and of itself.
It keeps you motivated to have something clearly laid out in front of you. It is harder to give up on something tangible, something you’ve spent time and energy already to develop, than it is to give up on something that is just a vague goal in your head.
There is something staring you in the face, letting you know you didn’t do it, when you write out a plan.
That is why programs like P90x get results. They have clearly laid out plans. They have ways to progress and regress the program so that you can adjust it to fit you as you work through it. They even have slightly different variations of the plan to help you reach your specific goals.
You don’t have to play a guessing game to figure out what works.
YOU HAVE A PLAN.
So this year if you want results, create a plan. Set great goals and then map out how you are going to get there.
The next step after creating the plan is to do it and track it. After that, you just can’t be afraid to tweak it!!
NOTE: I’m not telling you to get a program like P90x (although you can if you want!). I’m simply saying that if you want to achieve your goal, the more you can think through all the variables like a program like that does, the more likely you are to achieve your goals!
I’ve seen lots of Instagram photos with “You don’t need a New Year to make a change. All you need is a Monday.”
Monday means a new week.
A fresh start.
A chance to change right from the BEGINNING of something.
But why do you really need to WAIT till Monday?
I hear it all the time, “I’ll start Monday.”
But seriously….Why wait? Why not start TODAY! Why is Wednesday not as good as Monday?
Because Monday is the “BEGINNING” of the week and that means you have all week to make changes?
HAH! You really think Monday you are instantly going to be more motivated? Do you really think starting at the beginning of a new week is going to make you more successful?
I mean maybe you will be more motivated after eating crappy all weekend and not working out for even longer…
But maybe you won’t be….Maybe you will have lost the motivation you had on Wednesday – maybe whatever inspired you on Wednesday will have worn off after four more days.
When the desire hits to make a healthy lifestyle change, START RIGHT THEN AND THERE!
You don’t need a Monday OR a New Year.
Start while the you are motivated!
The more we can capitalize on our initial motivation the more likely we are to succeed. But that initial passion to succeed at our goals doesn’t last long.
That initial drive is fleeting. What keeps you on course is HABITS.
Healthy habits and values you’ve instilled because you’ve had to time create them because of your initial motivation.
But habits take a while to create. And they are most easily developed when we have the willpower, drive and determination to turn down temptations and old bad habits.
It is hard to say, “No” to bad habits when new habits aren’t yet in place and your initial passion is waning.
Heck it is hard to get started when you don’t feel that burning desire that you felt the Wednesday before.
It leads to a lot of failures early on and more statements of “Oh…I’ll get back at it Monday.”
STOP THE SICK CYCLE!
START WHEN THE MOTIVATION STRIKES!
Freaking start at 12 am on Tuesday night when you are motivated by something you saw on Instagram or TV or read in a book!
Oh but what can you do on a Tuesday at 12 am when you are just about to fall asleep?!?
The crazy part is actually a lot.
You can make lists of things you need to get started with tomorrow to help you realize your goal. You can write your goal down in black and white. You can really quickly print or write out or even draw whatever thing you read or saw that motivated you and place it some where that you’ll see it right when you wake up.
You can take little baby steps to start getting the momentum moving in the right direction.
It isn’t about starting when you can have a completely perfect year, or month, or week or even day.
It is about getting started right then and there and GETTING THE MOMENTUM GOING.
Momentum builds upon itself.
You’ve just got to get it rolling in the right direction.
So when the motivation strikes, get the momentum going.
Results will follow.
You don’t have to wait till Monday.
Of course since today is Monday and you are now hopefully motivated, you really have no excuse not to get the momentum going….RIGHT!?!
Happy Monday! Let’s not waste another moment wishing, waiting or wanting.
DO IT NOW!
Motivation creates Momentum. Momentum creates Habits. Habits create Results.
I never count calories now. I haven’t for years.
I eat whole natural foods and I know my calorie intake will be where it should be.
Really the only time you need to count calories is when you have to worry about calories in vs. calories out. And that only happens when you don’t consume quality calories.
So while I’ll make basic notes about to help guide my eating, I don’t that often use a calorie counter or food tracking app.
However, there will be periods of time that spur me to be curious about my exact macronutrient breakdown, which is when I turn to a calorie counter/food tracking app.
Food logs or food tracking apps/websites are a great way to help you really be conscious about what you are eating. While I think calorie counting is awful and stressful, I think tracking what you are eating can be super helpful.
If we aren’t truly aware of what we are consuming, how are we going to know what needs to be changed if we aren’t making progress? If we are succeeding, how are we going to know what works so that we can keep doing it?
That is where a food log comes in handy.
Anyway, after our Metabolic Typing workshop at Innovative Results, I became interested to see my exact macronutrient breakdowns.
I generally don’t worry about exactly what ratios I’m eating. I focus on eating meats and veggies as the base of my diet, with carb cycling throughout the week. My carbs include rice, potatoes, fruit and the occasional corn tortilla.
I knew my carbs stayed low, under 60g, on most days and about 150-300g on carb refeeds (with my fat intake under 50g on carb days).
But I honestly had no idea what my fat and protein intakes truly were.
So I decided to try out a food tracking app.
In the past I’ve used Fitday.com.
And I like Fit Day, but honestly, it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to use. If you are willing to spend the time to put in your own foods and the nutritional breakdown, it is perfect.
I’ve also had clients use Spark People and love it. I found it easy to use and liked that it had some good information in addition to the tracker for anyone using the site.
But I decided to try out My Fitness Pal since a ton of my clients love it and I’ve liked using the phone app with them.
I’ve only used it with clients and never really sat down and fully used it myself so I was curious to really give it a try.
And it is pretty darn great and tracks a ton of stuff.
I customized my own macronutrient ratios and there are a ton of foods listed in the counter already.
It is also super easy to save a meal so that you don’t have to go back through and select the list of foods in that meal every time you eat it (which for me is great since I eat a lot of the same meals over and over again).
Of course, I was amused by how many different foods there were in there….It is always interesting to see what people consider healthy…Lots of soy milk lattes and sugar-free things….YUCK!
There were also a lot more restaurant dishes and processed foods than whole natural ones. Which I guess, at least, allows people to know what they are eating when they eat out. But still, it is sad to see how much of even the diet of people trying to be “healthy” is really processed crap.
At least though, people are CONSCIOUS of what they are eating when they track it. Because so many people aren’t conscious of what they eat.
And being conscious of what you eat is extremely important. As I said above, if you know what you are consuming, you can figure out what is working and what isn’t.
Same thing goes for tracking your workouts.
Which is why it is nice that My Fitness Pal allows you to track your goals AND your workouts along with your food.
However, while I like the food tracking portion of this app, I can’t say I’m a fan of how the other two sections work.
I like that they exist…Just not how they work.
Under goals, you can choose macronutrient goals. You can even take a few measurements. You can record how many times a week you want to workout. Which is great.
But really the main focus is on weight loss. And it almost even encourages you to weigh every day…Which I don’t like.
It shouldn’t allow people to record their daily weight. Because daily fluctuations don’t matter and can even discourage people.
Shoot if I weigh right before a carb day and then right after a carb day, I can fluctuate numerous pounds. It’s not really cause I gained weight though! And sometimes I might have even eaten fewer calories than on a low-carb day.
And actually the carb days are what help me become even leaner over the long run even if I do gain weight on the scale right after them.
The point is…YOUR WEIGHT FLUCTUATES. Be it water weight or whatever else. Weight fluctuates so shouldn’t be tracked daily.
And while it has measurements, it only allows you to record neck, waist and hips. Waist and hips are two great places to measure, and tell you a lot, but still…Why not just include arm and thigh as well?
You can lose/gain inches on a number places. And all can show progress. So why not include them all?
I know that there are only so many things a food/workout tracking app can do, but a couple extra measurements should be included.
Just like I think it would be great if the app included a place to record a couple lifts and/or runs and their numbers or times.
Right now, the app asks for workout goals that include how many workouts per week, how long and even how many calories you want to burn. And yes, working out the number of times you planned to, and having that be tracked, can be motivating.
But performance goals for during your workouts can be even more motivating! Having performance goals can help keep you motivated so that you accomplish other goals, like weight loss goals.
Because, let’s face it, when you have a performance goal, you are more likely to eat well AND workout hard no matter how much you want to skip the workout that day.
Anyway, I just think it would be nice for the app to allow you to include a bit more under “goals.”
Not everyone who wants to track their food intake cares about losing weight. And if weight loss IS the goal, it never hurts to have other markers of progress to help keep you motivated!
I know I just went on a bit of a rant about the goals portion of My Fitness Pal, but really the only thing I HATE about the app, is the workout portion.
I’m not sure how they could make it more accurate, but it isn’t accurate at all when it comes to calories burned. Which doesn’t matter to me, but since they add that in to what people can then eat, you would think they would want it to be more accurate. (I guess though if you really care, you could manually enter it yourself….)
But worse than that, is the fact that the app puts a HUGE emphasis on cardio.
Because when you choose the strength training moves, they don’t show you any calories being burned. Fortunately you can add weight, so if you really wanted to track your lifting progress you could always scroll back through your workouts.
However, the only way to show calories being burned during a strength training workout is to select “Circuit Training” under Cardio!
I, personally, don’t care if it doesn’t show what I burned during my workout, but since they do add that in to what you should then be consuming, you would think that strength training would have some value.
It just made me mad because I felt like it perpetuated the LIE that cardio is key to weight loss (and health in general).
Anyway, I’ve found tracking to be very interesting. And I would recommend My Fitness Pal, at least for the food tracking portion.
Do you keep a food log? Workout log? What is your favorite app? Anyone else pissed off about the exercise portion of my fitness pal? (Am I just maybe missing something that makes it better?)
P.S. Another reason I like some of these online/phone apps is that you can easily SHARE and create a community. The more you involve other people in your goals, the more likely you are to accomplish them. ACCOUNTABILITY and SUPPORT!
As a trainer, you sometimes feel like a parent being asked by your kids over and over again, “Are we there yet!?!”
Sorry trainees, but it’s true.
Most people come to the gym to accomplish a specific goal – be it a new lifting number or weight loss.
And most people get frustrated when they don’t start seeing results on paper almost instantly.
They start asking,”What am I doing wrong?” “Why am I not there yet!?!”
The answer is…Maybe you aren’t doing anything wrong.
Most likely, you just haven’t given yourself enough TIME to see the results adding up.
You can’t necessarily FEEL yourself getting stronger every time you workout.
Heck, there may even be some workouts where you feel like absolute crap and even feel like you’ve gotten weaker. (Which honestly probably isn’t the case.)
Sometimes you might not see the weight on the scale changing. Or even your measurements.
But that doesn’t mean good things aren’t happening!
I, myself, am not a patient person. I don’t like waiting in any sense of the word. If I have a project to do, I want to do it now, even if that means working through the night.
So I do understand when people want results instantly.
That simply isn’t the way it happens though…at least not in the sense most people want it to be true.
Every day you WORK toward your goal, you are getting results. Doing the hard work, itself, is a huge result!
Think about how many people out there are still only thinking about doing what you are trying to do!
And I don’t mean to put those people down…I’m just saying you have to give yourself credit for taking that first step.
Every time you workout. That is a result. It is a step in the right direction.
Every time you make a healthy eating decision, even if it is a conscious decision to cheat, that is a result!
It may not seem like it, but it is!
Because results are about us making better decisions. Results are every time we make a decision to do something that leads to our long-term goal.
Results come in many different forms and BIG RESULTS are the culmination of hard work day in and day out.
Think about it…People don’t expect to be the CEO of the company the work for in one day…one week…or even a year.
Yet they expect to be as strong/fit/in-shape as they desire in a matter of weeks. And the crazy part is, most of them spend way more hours each day focused on their job than they do on their health.
So how do we stop focusing on the numbers and stop getting discouraged when we aren’t there yet?
We start focusing on small victories and enjoying those successes. We enjoy the journey.
Yea, yea, yea…Enjoy the journey!
Are we there yet!?!
Ok, not every day is going to be fun, but reaching your goals doesn’t have to be about sacrifice and torture. Find an exercise or a diet that you ENJOY doing. Trust me…it is possible. There are so many physical activities out there that can help you stay healthy…and a lot of them don’t even involve a gym!
On top of finding something you enjoy, celebrate your mini victories. Give yourself CREDIT for all of your hard work.
Because when you focus on the destination and not on enjoying the journey, you get stuck in a cycle of “Are we there yet?” When you constantly ask that question, trust me….it makes the trip feel a whole heck of a lot longer!
If you are doing the right things day in and day out, things will add up.
It just takes time.
And a slight side note…but just to demonstrate that even if you aren’t SEEING huge number jumps you probably ARE getting results.
One of my clients whose goal is to lose a bit of weight and feel healthy just managed to do an exercise she wasn’t able to do before.
It wasn’t a concrete goal of hers to be able to be strong enough to do that specific move, but the fact that she could do it, showed that she was making progress.
And it made her pretty freaking excited even if it wasn’t part of her long-term plan.
How often do you question yourself and think “Why am I not there yet?” instead of focusing on all the things you can now actually do?
So often we talk about losing weight/being healthy/getting stronger/being in shape in terms of the diet and exercise program that we need to follow to achieve our health and fitness goals.
Depending on your specific goal, you may even be told that diet is 80% of the battle.
But is it really that simple?
Are diet and exercise really the main players in the healthy equation?
Yes, if you follow a well-developed diet and exercise program, you most likely will hit a lot of your health and fitness goals.
BUT, these goals may be more easily realized AND easier to maintain IF you get some of the other pieces of the puzzle in order.
The amount of stress you have and the amount of sleep you get both affect your hormone levels, appetite and level of fatigue.
Too little sleep and too much stress can cause your body to not only try to hold on to fat, but also to feel hungry and overeat.
Holding on to fat!?! Overeating and feeling hungry when you really aren’t!?!
HMMMM…Maybe sleep and stress need to be a part of our program…..
And not only can too little sleep and too much stress cause you to hold onto fat and overeat, but both can also make you feel fatigued which can lead to crappy and/or skipped workouts!
Sound familiar? Skipped a few workouts recently or have you seen your numbers slowly declining even though you KNOW you aren’t overtraining?
Maybe you aren’t getting enough sleep OR maybe your body is just too stressed!
And if all of this wasn’t bad enough…let’s face it….they both also really affect your self-control.
Tired? Stressed? Where do most people turn for comfort?
And usually BAD food.
That doesn’t sound very good for your health and fitness goals…
So maybe diet and exercise aren’t enough on their own. Maybe you do need to consider your sleep and stress levels.
I’m not saying to change jobs to lessen your stress level. BUT it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start to plan in some “me time” to help you unwind every once in a while so that you don’t turn to food.
I’m not saying to start sleeping in and going in late to work, but every once in a while maybe try to take a nap or sleep in instead of forcing in that extra hour of work that realistically you COULD do at some other time. If you really do create a time management schedule, you may just find you DO have more time that you could use for sleep than you originally thought!
Anyway, sleep and stress ARE two other things you should consider when trying to create a healthy lifestyle. Diet and exercise AREN’T the only pieces to the puzzle.
I’m not a patient person.
Generally, I work hard and want results fast.
But unfortunately that isn’t how things work.
They say “patience is a virtue” and it really freaking is.
Unfortunately you don’t reach your fitness goals overnight. True lasting progress is consistency over time.
Consistency over time….patience…bleh…
BUT…you need to be patient!
If you create a program, progress yourself forward and give yourself proper recovery, you will reach your goals if you stay the course. This can mean weeks or months or even years.
The key to keeping yourself on course, to helping yourself be patient and consistent over time, is to set mini goals. Break your yearly goals down into monthly, weekly and even daily goals.
Achieving these mini goals will keep you dedicated each and every day. And shoot, a daily goal may just be to exercise for 10 minutes every day! They shouldn’t be anything crazy. They should be realistic and achievable.
You want goals that will motivate you to keep moving forward not goals that will make you feel like you’ll never achieve your goals.
Remember, BE PATIENT and consistent over time and you will achieve your goals!
P.S. The only good part about all of this is that one slip up also doesn’t mean you’ve destroyed all of your progress. What matters is consistency over time!