This post comes from people wondering why some workouts just don’t feel right. You feel fine when you get the gym, but you’re having trouble matching the weights or reps from previous workouts let alone progressing. I have decided to outline a few things that can screw up a workout to keep in mind to make sure you’re next trip to the gym is a good one.
- Lack of sleep – This is a huge one. Sleep is an extremely important factor in any exercise program. You need to get the right amount of sleep to not only recover from workouts, but to improve energy levels throughout the day. So if you normally get 9 solid hours of sleep each night, but you stay up extra late to watch the Biggest Loser season premier or reading 1960s exercise books by Kenneth Cooper telling you to do your cardio, and you only get 5 hours of sleep, we are going to have a problem. The result is that you are only are going to be sluggish. That Lo-Carb Monster may wake you up, but it’s not going to magically give your Central Nervous System (CNS) the ability to perform strength training at the high level I’m sure you’re used to. I have a rule for myself, if I don’t get my normal amount of sleep, I don’t workout. I don’t want to waste an hour going through the motions when I may to able to actually work hard enough to make some progress tomorrow with a full nights rest. It’s not about just punching the clock and satisfying your gym addiction, it’s about working hard enough to stimulate the body to change.
- Inadequate Food Intake – This one is simple. Food is fuel. Without proper fuel, the engine won’t run as well. We see this a lot with younger athletes. A kid has a poor performance and looks sluggish, you ask what he ate that day and get a response like “I had a pop tart for breakfast, and some peanut butter on toast for lunch, and I’ll have dinner when I get home tonight.” (usually from a kid trying to gain muscle mass mind you, who will then start asking about which supplements to start taking, but I digress) The point is you have to eat in order to stay energetic and be able to have a substantial workout. That’s the whole point of food consumption. It’s also why I don’t like huge caloric deprivation diets. It prevents you from getting in quality workouts.
- Stress – Stress can have a huge impact on your workouts. It wears on you and this is going to show up in your workouts. While working out is a great way to reduce stress, stress is a great way to kill a workout. It goes back the CNS. Your nervous system is impacted by stress, you can’t ask a fried nervous system to engage the muscles in a serious way, it’s just not going to cooperate. It goes back to quality. If you can’t do your workout with enough intensity to create some change, you’re probably going to be better off resting.
So take these controllable factors into consideration as you enter and continue your workout programs. All of these can be improved upon and can really help keep you on track. And I can’t emphasize enough the importance of understanding that working out is not a daily mundane task that you simply just have to show up and go through the motions to achieve the results you want. It is a specific process with goals and progressions and proper rest. Don’t fall victim to the thoughts that you have to be in the gym for 2 hours everyday to get “in shape”, sometimes a little rest will make a huge difference. Is your goal to be in the gym for 2 hours everyday rain or shine, or is it to improve your body? Think hard about that as we come to the end of the first week of 2011.