Fitness is getting complicated. If you follow CrossFit, just think for a minute about all the different movements and exercises you might do in a typical month. Yes, it keeps things interesting and you rarely repeat workouts but is variety always the best thing? I can’t argue with the success rate with my own clients using CrossFit programming but I can say sometimes we do some movements so infrequently that every time they come up, I have to spend 30 minutes just re-teaching that movement all over again. Olympic movements are a great example of this. Everyone wants to improve their Snatch but few realize that Olympic lifters practice this movement hundreds of times a week and daily to reach the skill level they have. We might do snatches 3-4 times a month or less. Don’t even get me going about how often we do a skill heavy move like muscle-ups.
I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on some of the most successful and fit athletes that I admire from all across the spectrum of sports. Outside of CrossFit, I’m starting to notice a trend; simple workouts pulling from a few movements repeated often and with dedication. This brings to mind my time in the Marines, especially boot camp. We didn’t do a lot of crazy movements but those we did use were done daily. In fact we had the daily 16, most were body weight gymnastics moves.
Over the last decade I’ve used, tried, and discarded quite a few workout programs. Some like, the original “Spartacus Workout,” and Tom Jane’s “Punisher Workout” were pretty brutal and I still go back to them from time to time. I’ll follow them for about 6 weeks then cycle back into CrossFit again. Of course my favorite has always been Gerard Butler’s “300 Workout,” he used it to get shredded for the movie “300.” What these three have in common are simple old school movements done frequently with heavy weight. There are no gimmicks, or flashy moves just proven muscle burners and the dedication to get it done.
This brings me to my point today. We as fitness professionals need to be teaching our clients the importance of dedication and discipline over variety and novelty. Granted it’s a hard sell and a tricky concept for the average gym goer to grasp these days. I have had a little success in this, by using myself as an example. Many of my clients ask me how I stay in shape and I tell them, “fitness is not about being entertained to me it’s about working towards a goal. I do like workouts to be fun, but I’m not there to have a good time, I’m there to accomplish a goal and destroy the iron.” I’ve often found that getting bored with a workout is a symptom or not working hard enough, using enough weight, or poor mental discipline. Trust me when you’re holding your bodyweight on a barbell overhead the last thing you’re thinking about is what’s for dinner or what music is on the radio. It’s similar to runner’s who can’t run without music, reading, or something else to distract them from what they’re doing. You need distraction because you don’t actually like what you’re doing but you know you need to do it, because you want to be healthy, don’t want to be fat, or want to be better. I don’t like music when I run, I want to hear the cadence of my feet and the rhythm of my breath. I want to focus on running when I’m running and getting better not getting it over as soon as I can so I can go back to something more entertaining.
Sometimes fitness is not about the moves you do or the program you’re following. In fact most of the time a lack of success is about you and your mindset. It’s about realizing that real, tangible, noticeable results are the reward of hard work and dedication not doing something crazy every day. If you’re stuck in a rut I would encourage you to simplify your workouts, take a step back from the craziness of modern fitness programs and spend 6-8 weeks getting to know the iron. You might be surprised at the progress you make when you learn to focus on every rep, every pound, every step and every workout instead of mindlessly going through the motions.