Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Every Day a Plus

My philosophy of training boils down to a simple concept:

Every day a plus.

There are other ways to put it:

Every session a check in the win column.

Every day a step forward, no matter how small.

Every day a little bit of progress.

But I think of it as "every day a plus."

It doesn't need to be a big plus. It doesn't need to be the biggest plus I could get that day. This is about a minimal effective dose, aiming for optimal, and avoiding the tendency to push for maximal.

What I want to avoid is minuses. Injuries are minuses. So are workouts so stressful you can't recover in time to work out again the next time you're training. Pushing too hard for just one more plus is less valuable than just taking the easy wins and moving on.

This is an easier concept to read about and agree with than to implement. It won't always work out. You'll push too hard. You'll try a new exercises or variation or set and rep scheme and get hurt, get too sore to move, get too stiff to move well.

And it can be psychologically hard to learn to hold back. To just do what's useful and valuable. It's tough to do the warmup and skip the workout - not vice-versa - because you're short on time. Sometimes you'll go a little too easy and miss out on some benefits you could have gotten. Or worse, just think you're doing that and push too hard another day to "make up" for missing some easier benefits.

External factors can step in, too - stress is stress. It doesn't matter if it's from lack of sleep, a job change, a fight in a relationship, a tough commute, whatever. It's stress. You might push to exhaustion in the gym to "work off the stress" but you're swapping in the feeling of one stress for the feeling of another. It's useful, but it's stress. You need to recover from that.

Aesop's fable of the tortoise and the hare was written to illustrate something people know from experience even if it's counter-intuitive - slow and steady beats fast with breaks. If all you ever do is get a small positive benefit each day that you can, and cut down on the minuses, you'll make steady progress over the long haul. You will reach your goals over time. If you aim for the maximum benefits in the least time, rush for benefits, and push and push and push, you'll generally come up short on benefits for the same time invested in consistency.

I try to live this myself as best I can. I say it all sorts of different ways to my clients, until I find the phrase that connects with their viewpoint. I don't want them to work hard and feel beat after a workout. I want them to be better after the workout. I want to optimize the plus they get, and keep them moving forward more days than not. It's all about a plus, any size of plus, every day you can. Over time, that will bring success.
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