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All Or Nothing Tendencies

by | May 19, 2021 | Blog Archive

The tendency to an all or nothing mentality.

It’s human nature.

I’ve seen it time and time again in my 6 years working with clients.

The “all or nothing” mentality.

If I can’t do all the exercise, then I might as well do none.

If I can’t eat perfectly, I might as well do the complete opposite.

If I’m injured and can’t do my usual plan, I might as well stop all together.

If I can’t do all my meal prep on Sunday then I might as well just eat takeaway.

If I miss one session, I might as well skip the rest of the week.

If other things in life get busy, and I can’t do as much as I was before, I might as well give up.

If you’ve ever noticed yourself doing this with regards to your health and fitness, you’re not alone.

I want to advocate for some moderation today, by talking about two extremes I’ve observed.

For the most part, I see two types of fitness clients.  Those who do too much (and burn out), and those who do too little (and get frustrated).

One of the biggest misconceptions I deal with with women who have fat loss goals, is how much training they need to do.   They’ve struggled to commit long term to the level of exercise they’ve been told to do in the past, or even gotten results with. They now believe that over training, particularly cardio, is the only way to get results.

I then tell them to prioritise a strength training programme x 2-3 per week, with “cardio” as an added extra if they have time, and they decide that doesn’t sound like enough, based on their past experiences.  you know, the one they failed to stick to.

It’s true that in order to increase fitness and strength, there’s a certain amount of “over reaching” aka work, to be done.  But the element that habitual over trainers fail to consider is recovery.

You don’t always have to be a sweaty heaving mess after every workout, you don’t have to always be unable to sit on the toilet!  In fact, if you are experiencing this after each workout, it’s probably an indication you’ve gone too far for where you’re at.

It’s not during your hard workout that you get stronger, fitter, faster.  It’s between workouts that the real progress occurs.

When you workout, and you workout hard, your cells are breaking down and the dead cells are dropping off so new cells can rebuild.  If you’re smashing yourself with long workouts most days of the week with minimal rest between you don’t experience those positive training adaptations.

People usually don’t realise they’ve overtrained until it’s too late – because they feel really good at the time!  Until they end up fatigued, unmotivated, sick or injured, or all of the above.  

I have seen clients who dropped back their strength training, prioritised impact cardio and lost weight (which they count as a win), only to discover that they actually lost some muscle mass the next time we put them under the bar and they couldn’t lift the same as a month ago.

This is not a positive health outcome.  The literature clearly supports the link between long term health, and higher levels of muscle mass in humans.

Worst case scenario is women who habitually over-train and under-eat can suffer from low energy availability resulting in a disrupted menstrual cycle, absence of period and ultimately loss of bone density.  

Enough of the scary stuff…..

The other side of the coin is people not doing enough consistent training to get any positive results.  Every week some people seem to have a reason, or multiple reasons to put their stated goals on hold, not show up and they declare they’ll start again next week “when things settle down”.  Things never settle down.

This is not a “no time for fitness” problem, it’s a time management and prioritisation problem.

Does that mean your goals aren’t achievable? 

Not at all, it means setting realistic targets for what sessions you can do, and structuring your sessions for maximum impact during the small amounts of time you may have available to train.

Some training is better than none, but the key becomes the “what” when you can’t just throw hours of exercise at your goals and hope for the best like you may have in the past.

This means looking at the intensity and exercise selection particularly – this will differ from person to person, depending on their current level of fitness and skills, ranging from big effective bodyweight exercises such as we use in Metafit, to a metabolic resistance circuit like MetaPWR to progressing to barbell training where we can produce the desired effect on an individual basis in less hours per week under the bar.

There’s a range of training volume required per muscle group per week that is shown to get best results in beginner, intermediate or advanced trainers.  I structure my clients’ training plans on an individual basis to account for this.  Even if they can only attend 2 sessions per week we can build that in to their plan. The problem is, train sporadically or keep missing sessions and your body simply isn’t getting the work required to see results.  This isn’t a “how many calories” did you burn or how much time did you spend working out each week scenario – this is numbers for muscle growth and strength, and yes this applies to those of you who want to be “Toned”.  

From a beginner level, I see best results from 1 x strength based session and 2 x HIIT sessions consistently over a period of 6-8 weeks.  Progressing from that, we’d look at increasing training volume to look something like 2 strength sessions 1-2 HIIT (time permitting) with recovery between.  The more long term trainer is going to need to prioritise their barbell work in strength sessions, but depending on the goals we would adjust the ratio of strength work to HIIT training block to block.

In a nutshell, you’ll need longer than you think being consistent to see results by spring.  Be realistic about how much time you have to train each week and work back from there on: volume and intensity, and modality.  

If all of this sounds complicated, let me break it down for you.  It’s what I do!  Email me at [email protected] to enquire about in person and remote training options.

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