Stop Focusing on the Workout, Start Focusing on Long Term Outcomes

This past Saturday marked our final in person BWCLP fitness class.  (Keep an eye out, we will be announcing an online format soon).  The emphasis I tried to bring to this class was to prioritize fitness outcomes spanning the course of the next 5-10 years rather than the outcome (or feeling) of a single workout.  I was inspired to write this article based on the response we got from the attendees.

If you missed the follow up article from our nutrition workshop, you can find it here.

Consistency Will Always Beat Intensity

I’m guilty of it.  Many of us are guilty of it.  Regardless of what we are exercising or training for, we think that all workouts have to be done at 110% intensity.  After all, that’s what the fitness industry tells us, right?  “No pain, no gain!”  “Live sore!”  “Compete everyday!”

Aside from the non-sense slogans advertisers spew at us, we’re also told to go to the gym and burn thousands of calories every day.  We’re lead to believe that workouts are only successful if we end up in a pool of sweat on the floor.

The truth is that a single workout has never produced long term sustainable fitness.  At the end of the day, sustainable fitness should be what we are aiming for.  If you ask any successful athlete the keys to their success they would likely tell you consistency.  An athlete training for the olympics can’t leave all their energy on the floor at every practice.  It’s vital for them to be able to return to practice and train again the next day.  You simply can’t do that if you’re fatiguing yourself every time you workout.

The temptation of “crushing” yourself every time you go to the gym is very real.  An insanely intense workout leaves you with an endorphin rush, strangely satisfying soreness, and a pump in your muscles that lasts for days.  However, that dragon we all chase isn’t a key to long term success.

I’m Guilty Too

After I allowed myself to become overweight my first couple years of college, I discovered running as a way to keep myself in shape.  I thought if a little running was good, a lot of running done at a high intensity must be even better!

The result: Injured and overtrained.

After running, I discovered CrossFit way back around 2007 when it was just a website.  “Great!” I thought, “ten minute high intensity workouts!”  “I can do these a few times a day, everyday!”

The result: Injured and overtrained.

After CrossFit it was weightlifting, followed by endurance sports after I joined the military.

The result: you guessed it.

This past year, after dealing with several chronic, nagging, injuries I decided it was time to relax a little bit.  My runs, rides, and swims turned into walks, mobility work, gymnastic bodies, and recreational rock climbing.  Since hanging up the racing shoes I have lost 6 pounds and a significant amount of body fat simply because I’m not training to an extreme level of fatigue anymore.  When you’re not training to extreme levels of fatigue you don’t have as large of an appetite.  (As well as other positive metabolic effects, that are too long to discuss in this short article).

So, What Am I Doing Now?

Did you see that picture of the gymnast on the rings?  Those are my types of goals now, and my timeline for achieving those is about 5-10 years rather than a couple months.  Setting performance goals with a 5+ year timeline is far more sustainable than trying to “lose 60 pounds in 30 days.”  Unfortunately, performance goals over a 5 year period doesn’t sell a lot of fitness magazines.

I recently came across a quote by the late, great Charles Poliquin who said: “Most people greatly overestimate what they can do in a year, and greatly underestimate what they can do in five years.”

Think about that next time you see a magazine cover advertising some diet or exercise that promises you’ll lose 10 pounds in 10 days (or whatever).

The reality is that I could never achieve what the guy is doing in the picture in a single year, but focused and consistent work over five years just might get me close to it.  If, after five years of consistent work, I’m unable to do that; I’ll bet I’ll still be better off for having tried.  However, if I try to accomplish something like that in just one year the result will most likely be elbow and shoulder injuries.

Stop thinking about exercise as only a means to burn calories and “earn food.”  It’s about learning what your body is capable of doing.

4 Ways to Look at Exercise

  1. What type of stress am I applying during this exercise?  Are you pushing yourself too hard?  Too little?
  2. How will my body recover from this exercise?  If you’re not recovering, what’s the point?
  3. Am I enjoying what I’m doing?  If not, find something you do enjoy.  Otherwise you won’t do it long.
  4. Is it bringing me closer to my goals?  If it isn’t, why are you doing it?

If these questions don’t make sense to you, or are confusing, keep your eyes peeled for when we take our BWCLP classes online.  Keep checking our website for more details!