I've been working out for over 8 years now (roughly around 2002 or 2003) ever since I was 22 and I've learned a lot from those years of training.
My passion for training, intrinsically far exceeds the external benefits that it provides; although the results flow right back in which fuels my desire some more.
Apart from the other posts that I've done in the past regarding the subject of training, my intention for this post is to highlight the things that I've learned
and perhaps improve it by making incremental adjustments. I also have a list of things that have helped me in my workout efforts.
By nature, I'm what they call a "creature of habit" where my greatest strength has always been my consistency and I attribute all my success due to that very fact.
I can pretty much stick to a routine or schedule and eat the same thing almost everyday. I do buy the same things in the grocery store every time and know exactly
what to eat to maintain my current body fat. A little change might throw me off but I've learned to overcome such change both physically and mentally especially
when traveling where protein sources might not be available. Even yet, there are those days when I can't have my normal six meals per day. I learned to not stress
about those days since really, I have no intention of being competitive.
Bodybuilding to me is a lifestyle choice and that includes being healthy, to combat aging, relieve stress, and to look great which builds confidence. When I started
training however, my goals or intentions were different from what it is today. My focus back then was to bulk up and get my weight up in the 250s in which I got to
about 245 pounds. I read as much as I can towards building mass, with sources of information widely available in the Internet forums, blogs, and articles on the web.
I literally breathe and embraced the lifestyle. When I first started, I cancelled my gym memberships a few times (2001) mainly because I found it to be uninteresting
and I didn't have the willpower to keep going. Also among other reasons, I felt intimidation towards other people who were in shape, and the ones who were way stronger
than me (often in the free-weights room). I see this as a downfall these days among people who are just getting started or trying to get in shape. The hardest part
was overcoming the intimidation factor. I started slowly by using machines in the beginning and progressed towards free-weights exercises.
Through working out, I find serenity. Just like when people do yoga or meditational exercises routine, I use it as an outlet to release stress as well as isolate myself from the world. When I step in the gym, the inner beast gets unleashed and I become one with myself. I find that closing my eyes between sets (or while doing a set to focus on a targeted muscle group) helps me revives my energy and helps my mind deter from surrounding distractions. When I walk towards the water fountain, all I can think of is the next weight that I need to push or what can I do to improve my previous set.
Throughout the years, here are the things that allowed me to make the most out of my workouts. The list is not in any particular order of importance.
- Focus on yourself. Learning to tune out your environment is absolutely the best thing that you can do to get your rhythm going. The rhythm is the driving force behind every workout since this creates momentum and the pump as they call it. Also cut the crap, meaning no phone conversions or chatting- just simply focus and get out.
- Do proper warm up. I usually start out with a very light weight that I can do for 20 repetitions or more. This serves multiple purposes such as to loosen up your joints, get your muscle used to the motion, and to get those blood flowing.
- Intensity. I feel like this separates a great workout from an OK workout. If your eyes are not burning with desire to improve, then the training is pretty much a waste of time. This might include varying your workout scheme such as two non-stop back-to-back sets, or having little rest in between sets. I find that intensity is vital in every workout, so finding that intensity wherever it is, is the key value.
- Post-workout supplementation. One of the most important factor when working out is to replenish those nutrients and calories back in your system so it can grow and fully recover. I prefer whey protein for quick digestion and some type of carbohydrates such as rice cakes.
- Consistency. Although I don't write out my schedule anymore, I still keep a mental note of what days I need to workout. Having a schedule and learning to stick to it is what separates a dedicated person from the rest.
- Listen to your body. Your strength level is not going to be the same so don't be disappointed if you don't lift the same amount of weights or have the same intensity on your next workout. A crappy workout is always better than a no-workout. As part of listening to your body, also pay attention to works for you whether your workout routine or the food intake. Everyone's metabolism and genetic makeup is different, so one size doesn't fit all.
- 80/20 rule. The 80% diet and 20% workout approximation is a number that I came up with (or maybe others has similar figures). Either way, what you eat is far greater than the amount of time that you spend in the gym. This means that your efforts whether you're trying to lose weight, build muscle or maintain should be mostly focused on the diet, which to everyone is the hardest part. Anyone can workout for hours and not get the results that they want simply because they're diet is not solid.
- Concentrate on your form. Often times, I see people (even big guys) lift with bad form which is possibly the worse that you can do in terms of potential injury and perhaps productivity. If it works for you then it's fine with me (although you'll see me swing the weights too from time to time) as long as you know when to back off. Just don't get to the point where you're not working the targeted muscle group anymore or you're about to break your back.
- Conquer the fear. There is this motivational quote that I like and it goes like, "if you're not scared then the weights is not heavy enough". Learn how to push beyond your boundaries, and go above your pain threshold. Fear is what's stopping you from lifting those 100 pounders that's been staring at you all these years, and now is the time to make them your friend.
- Have fun. While working out can induce stress on your body, there's no reason that it can't be fun. I like listening to music that's fun, energizing, and I can sort of rap or sing to. There's those little things that can give you happy thoughts while at at the same time giving you the pump that you need to keep going. I often hear people discouraged of working out due to the fact that they find it hard, or not enjoyable; and I really think it's the other way around. My philosophy is that, if you're not having fun while doing something then you shouldn't be doing it. In the case of working out, you need to find a way to make it fun and enjoyable, otherwise you'll find yourself discouraged.
- Never give up. Whatever happens or whatever results may be, giving up should never be an option.
- No excuses. There's no reason why you can't hit the gym whether your work schedule don't allow you, or you have to attend a wedding; there's always time, period. The problem is finding that time. Whether it's 110 degrees or 30 degrees outside, there shouldn't be reason not to go. You just need to dig deeper inside of you and find a reason on why you can't skip a workout. You can't make up for your workout by working out harder next time around.
- Clear vision. Whether you're starting a new project or just working out, you need to have some sort of vision or goal. This metrics is important as a measurement of your progress and in which it also carries a clear set of path of your undertaking. The questions that you need to ask yourself are, "what am I trying to achieve?" and additionally, "what actions do I need to take to get there?". If you can pin point those things, then the journey towards realizing your goals becomes easier; whether in your work outs or other facets of your life.
- Keep on learning. When I first started working out, I would ask people for advice on how to do certain things or I would watch others who I think knows what they're doing. Working out is a constant learning experience and having the desire to keep wanting to learn more is essential towards constant improvement and breaking through those plateaus.
The list pretty much highlights the things that I know for a fact, time-and-time again that I've found invaluable and has helped me tremendously to stay on track
with my workouts.