High on the list of things that perplex and plague trainees, according to the mail that I get, is the matter of waning enthusiasm for regular, systematic workouts. Training sessions are sometimes enjoyable. But let's be honest: sometimes they are just about the least desirable of things on your "love to do" list! Like everyone, you become bored. And plain boredom, make no mistake about it, can be just as detrimental to your progress in physical development as training injuries, a poorly designed workout routine, or improperly performing the necessary exercises.
Certainly some boredom can be attributed to what psychologists call "low frustration tolerance" (which is epidemic today). But when a person who has been plugging away at hard workouts for years, experiences boredom, it won't do to dismiss the problem as being merely one of infantile inability to delay gratification, and/or to accept life's inevitable demand for EFFORT before REWARDS can be expected.
Serious trainees are neither infantile nor skittish about accepting necessary effort in a stoic fashion. They become bored, nevertheless, because they are human. Disciplined as the best of us might be, we sometimes feel that the necessary grind is TOO MUCH OF A GRIND -- and we bog down and mentally go on strike against further effort.
STALENESS is another problem. Unlike simple BOREDOM, staleness indicates a combination of physical AND mental factors that have caused enjoyable progressive training to come to a halt, and that one "can't go on any further." These then are the two most powerful causes of a decrease in or a cessation of enthusiasm for continued training: BOREDOM and STALENESS. Let's try to outline some helpful measures that will assist you in remaining enthusiastic for training.
Boredom is all mental. Boredom results, occasionally, because of self-imposed training ruts. That is, one trains on the same exact routine in the same exact way, at the same appointed hours, week after week after week after month after ... year! To an extent, regularity and disciplined consistency is indispensable. Without it no progress or results are possible. However, people more often than not wish to experience variety in that which they do -- at least occasionally. When they don't experience variety at all, they feel bored.
Boredom can creep up on a trainee. After all, we all expect to train in a relatively routinized way -- that's what training is. However, there's a delicate balance here. What has been in effect a properly disciplined approach to regularity on a basically good training schedule can, however, become a d-r-a-g, almost without even realizing it. Boredom CREEPS up upon you, and you FEEL it before you UNDERSTAND that it's happening.
I've been bored at times with training, and I dare say everyone else in the world who trains regularly has also experienced boredom. It happens. What we can do -- ALL that we can do -- is MINIMIZE occurrences of boredom by endeavoring to forestall it, and to train and live in a way that reduces the likelihood that our training will produce boredom. Here are some suggestions:
1. Deliberately Change Your Routines, From Time To Time!
Avoid following the same exact workout month after month. Jack LaLanne wrote that he advocated changing schedules every two weeks. That may be too frequently for some, but it's obvious that doing so won't hurt you (providing you change to sensible and quality training schedules). Take a look at how LaLanne has maintained his incredible level of development, fitness and health over the decades. Switching to a new routine every two weeks hardly seems to have harmed Jack LaLanne!
2. Occasionally Change Your Training Goals.
Specialize on leg or back work, periodically. This will trigger all-round gains, and stimulate your interest in working out. By having a new GOAL you have a fresh OUTLOOK. And a fresh outlook doesn't go with boredom.
3. Learn More About How To Train Correctly.
Some people "harden" on one routine done one way, because they fail to realize their other options. Understandably, when they hit on a schedule and an approach that works, they are reluctant to give it up. However, if these people will learn about how the proper principles of physical training can be applied to varying routines and approaches to working out, it's likely that they will discover several (or more) alternatives to routine arrangement and design that will work every bit as well for them as their favorite schedule.
4. Try All Dumbbell Training For A While.
This can be one of the most interesting and enjoyable ways to approach training, without detracting one iota from its effectiveness. Dumbbells are an excellent means of physical training, and because of the unique balancing and stabilizing challenge they provide, learning to get a good workout with them can be great, and really interesting.
5. Develop Other Interests & Activities Besides Training.
This may at first seem to be the least attractive suggestion; but it's often the most effective, and necessary. When barbell training is ALL that you do, you tend to think about it way too much. This is okay for a complete beginner, for the first few weeks or months. However, after that, one's training, like everything else, ought to be kept in its logical place.
Speaking for myself, and looking back at a training career that so far has lasted 30 years (and which I intend to continue for the rest of my life) I note that my own most productive training -- and my highest level of enthusiasm for training -- has been during times in my life when I had very little time to think about training and/or to actually train! Boredom is, to repeat, ALL MENTAL. When the reason for lack of enthusiasm is either wholly or partially PHYSICAL, then we label it STALENESS.
Staleness, ironically, tends to occur most in those whose enthusiasm for training is generally very high. This is because staleness manifests almost entirely from overtraining -- and it is the most serious, dedicated trainee who overtrains. He does so with the best of intentions, but intentions don't alter facts. When the body is overtrained, it becomes stale. And when one has become stale, one feels about as enthusiastic to train as one might feel if one were asked to go in for a tax audit.
Staleness is accompanied by physical weakness and fatigue. One finds poundages that were possible, now impossible; and one lacks much more than interest for training, one lacks energy. Painfully, one often finds that one's muscles have shrunk when one has become stale, in addition to having become weaker than they were.
Beating staleness is simple. I've successfully employed the following tips with myself and others, for decades.
1. Never attempt to keep progressing on any routine indefinitely.
The average amount of time that steady progress on any single course, routine or program can be enjoyed, once one has achieved a basically good level of development and training experience, is six weeks. (Some men can push for four or five weeks only. Others manage to continue to seven or eight weeks. MOST find about six weeks to be it.) Once you've "peaked out" on a routine, stop. Rest a few days; then resume training with drastically reduced poundages. Or, and better yet, alter your routine and drop back in poundages. Start the building up process again.
2. Experiment and find all of the exercise variations for the key basic movements that suit you best.
Be sure that you fully exploit them, and don't fixate on but a single variation of any basic exercise. In addition to using different basics, follow them with varying objectives. Train for a while on high reps, then try low reps, and so on.
3. Take occasional layoffs.
A week off every now and then is good for you. It will not harm progress, but rather will enhance it. Certainly take a layoff immediately, if you realize that you've gone stale! Lay off for anywhere between three and ten days. If you allow yourself to become seriously stale, you may well require a full month or MORE to recover! So be sensible. Let your body bounce back every now and again, BEFORE you need to let it recuperate from exhaustion.
4. Maintain a good diet and always make sure that you get sufficient sleep and rest.
Good sleep habits will foster regular good sleep, and the more of these you incorporate into your lifestyle, the better your sleep will be. However, no sleep advice is dogma. If you fall asleep quickly by listening to punk rock, keep doing it.
5. From time to time, train light.
I'm a firm believer that light weight training is NOT useless or pointless. It's good for you; and while light training will not build maximum strength, no one says that you should train ONLY with light weights. Just allow yourself to coast from time to time, and give yourself a month or more to regain your drive and enthusiasm for the heavy stuff.
6. Accept yourself.
This is REALLY important. As I've written before, there are TWO basic phases to physical training: the build-up phase, and the maintenance phase. No one can "build up" forever. Once you've been at the weights WELL and PROGRESSIVELY for a few years -- CONSISTENTLY using good programs and applying EXCELLENT dedication -- you'll have achieved your hereditary limit in development. At that point, be satisfied with what you've achieved and with where you're at! Then, shift your focus to maintenance training, and endeavor to make it interesting, enjoyable and sensible, so that you KEEP what you've worked so hard to achieve, for the rest of your life.
If you keep on hammering yourself to become stronger and bigger -- when you're ALREADY as strong and as big as your genetics have predisposed you to be -- you'll inevitably grind yourself to a stale halt in your overtraining sessions. Don't be foolish.
Maintaining enthusiasm is very important for training success. The failure to remain enthusiastic is generally traceable to either BOREDOM or STALENESS. Hopefully, I've provided you with some assistance in beating these two problems and in preventing them from hampering YOUR training success.
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