One mistake we make when it comes to training is that we want to do too much.
Often when we start we are excited and we go overboard and end up breaking our bodies. This is a great paradox of training, in my opinion. Yes, it is important to push yourself in order to make gains but it is also vital not to overload your body and capabilities too soon.
Obviously, there are beasts out there who do crazy things on a consistent basis when it comes to training — John Cena, for example — but they have worked a long time to get to where they are.
For most of us who are still working their way up, it is more important to make sure we train in a way which allows us to exercise regularly, and hopefully daily.
I got this concept from Firas Zahabi who is a world renowned martial arts trainer.
Basically, his philosophy is that you should never train to breaking point.
“Training should happen at 70% effort most of the time, on a consistent basis, and full intensity effort occasionally. We should train in a flow state, enjoying the work leading to effortless consistent training,” he says.
Zahabi says he never pushes his athletes to their physical threshold in training and, when his session objectives are completed, Zahabi stops the workout, even if his athletes want to do more.
The benefit here is two-fold — the athlete isn’t exhausted and they are eager for the next session so they can continue from where they left off.
As Arnold Bennett says in How to Live on 24 Hours a Day, be careful of ardour. Be careful of your excitement at the start of any endeavour to do extravagant and gaudy things, especially when it comes to exercise.
Bennett says: “Ardour in well-doing is a misleading and a treacherous thing. It cries out loudly for employment; you can’t satisfy it at first; it wants more and more; it is eager to move mountains and divert the course of rivers. It isn’t content till it perspires. And then, too often, when it feels the perspiration on its brow, it wearies all of a sudden and dies, without even putting itself to the trouble of saying, “I’ve had enough of this.”
Progress takes a long time but the best part of the process is when you begin to see its results in action — when you begin to do things you have never done before and you withstand physical challenges you thought were beyond you.
Push, but don’t break.
There are also different types of fitness.
If you are marathon runner you will obviously have to a run lot more while bodybuilding, on the other hand, requires mass muscle. I haven’t researched these nuances of training enough but, anyway, my ultimate basis for fitness is to have some movement every day and, in order to do that, I mustn’t wear myself out.
For an athlete, especially in contact sports such as football, boxing or basketball, this crucial because your sport demands that you are always taxing your body. Yes, you want to train at a high level and improve but you don’t want to break your body down.
Fatigue is the fastest shortcut to injuries which are the greatest impediment in any fitness quest, be it for an athlete or anyone just wanting to enjoy exercise regularly.
You must take care of your body. Train consistent, not hard.
So, that was my answer the other day when I was asked: “what can I do to get fit?”
Just start. Start exercising. Start slow.
Start with small, easy targets. Don’t worry about elaborate exercises or routines. 10 sit-ups every day are enough. Don’t worry about appearing to do a lot. Just do what you can.
It is better to do 10 sit-ups for 30 days than to do 100 for two days and exhaust yourself.
It is what I have leaned on this year and I am seeing improvements.
As I said earlier in 2020, consistency is king.
Just train and be consistent.
This piece was originally published in October 2020.