Stockholm Syndrome: Discovering strategies to succeed in aspects of fitness that you absolutely loathe:

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Even for a seasoned trainee, there are often things in the fitness world you just don’t wanna do.  It’s the truth.  Some are tolerable and others are viewed as downright torture.  I mean, ask a bodybuilder if they like jogging?  Or a marathon runner if they enjoy heavy squats?  And that’s just considering elite or near-elite specialists that focus on one aspect of fitness.  But even the general population of gymgoers will invariably have things they don’t wanna do when it comes to fitness.  And like someone who becomes sympathetic to their kidnappers, there are strategies I’ve found that can definitely boost the capacity to wade through some of these activities that might otherwise be the last thing you wanna do upon your next foray into the gym.

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Playlists, portable audio and quality tunes.  My method of madness for a long time and in all honesty, I get pretty scientific and downright neurotic about it.  Separate playlists fill my iPod for things like weight training, flexibility training as well as cardio.  I’ll map out the playlists according to how the tunes make me feel and usually follow a rule of keeping the cardio playlists more upbeat and uptempo to hopefully maintain a good rhythm during the activity.  Weight training playlists can vary in tempo but they need to get you fired up for those tough sets and to help you keep that laser focus.  Finally, an assortment of relaxing music can go a long way to help that cooldown session with a little flexibility work.  The beauty of it all is that it’s YOUR playlist and you can structure it how you want!  Once those songs begin to grow stale?  Swap them out for new ones and you’re ready to take names and the whole bit.

There’s no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there’s no excuse for boredom, ever.Viggo Mortensen

Nobody sticks to anything that bores them.  This is a big pitfall that fitness facilities are permeated with.  Why?  Simple.  Consistency pays the bills for sure, but breaking a sweat day in and day out with the same activity usually pushes that button within us that makes it feel like purgatory instead of progress.  Sometimes, the ritual becomes a trap.  This is the oft-ignored aspect of program stagnation that isn’t given much lip service.  But it should be given loads of it.  Adherence to a routine can falter when the activity becomes stale like day-old bread.  Therefore, when I can sense this in a client or even in a trainee who just asks what to do with their program, I have a simple counter question:  “Are you bored when doing your cardio?”  They typically counter with:  “Yes!”  My next response?  “You should have the same level of near-fear when doing that as you do with your hardest workout with weights.  It means you are stagnant and aren’t pushing yourself.  Kick your butt in gear and get on it!”

Karate’s a very boring sport, but when you know the technique you can go further and further. Jean-Claude Van Damme

I’ve found this approach applies to training for general fitness as well.  More often than not, I see weight trainers fall in love with rep schemes or runners that fall in love with times and get stuck on those things.  A sort of quantity over quality mindset that stunts long-term progress.  Why?  Well, in a nutshell, great technique in training adds to better progress in performance over the long haul.  Think about it:  If you grab ten reps on the bench press with sloppy mechanics, what did you really gain?  Battered joints and no real increase in pressing strength or legitimate physical adaption.  If you squeaked several seconds off your mile-time on the treadmill but used a haphazard run stride that bled force and beat your knees, ankles, feet, toes and hips to death to get it…was it really a gain?  NO.  Never.  To break this habit I use a couple of easy methods.  For weight training, we just discard the number of reps at a given weight.  Don’t count ‘em.  Throw ‘em out.  We instead focus on the technique and make it like a game of golf where we shoot for perfection in technique.  Then, we just work the trainee until they are at or near failure and only re-implement numerical rep counting when they can keep the technique maintained for a desired number of sets.  Running is the same way.  Clean the stride up and we just pick a casual and easy speed they know they can maintain while focusing on run particulars and we’ll just let the treadmill run.  We can worry about beating a time when the technique becomes second nature and is maintainable.  And once these technique issues are solved?  Then ALL of the numbers they put up or times they run will be worth ten times more than the output they turned out previously.  Plus, the running for is now ingrained.

“Once something is a passion, the motivation is there.” Michael Schumacher

Any person who truly adopts a fitness lifestyle will have that one aspect of fitness that really brought ‘em to the dance, so to speak.  Thusly, it’s also what keeps them coming back to the well each time.  It’s become a necessary part of the day.  A passion.  They may have just loved the strength gains and physical transformation weight training supplied them with or they couldn’t get enough of breaking a sweat from the cardio room and the feeling of total accomplishment when they were finished with a session.  So, if they happen to dislike the other half of the equation, how can we change things to make them at least…tolerate it?  Make it more akin to the activity they already enjoy!  If someone is a strength-junkie, have them work intervals on their cardio for shorter sessions to break up the monotony of long cardio work.  And have them treat each interval like a weight training set, where their job is to focus on mechanics and get busy!  Conversely, if a cardio junkie hates heavy weight training, get ‘em into circuit training or at least high-rep schemes that’ll support their favored activity.  It’s all about specificity, but if you can adjust the thought process going in, then the activity is a lot less bothersome to approach, I’ve found.

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