“You don’t have to do things that way. You can do something different – what works for you in regards to training and nutrition – and get awesome results.”
She looked puzzled after I uttered that simple statement.
First, let me take you back to the beginning of that conversation.
Christina was a hard working lady, in and out of the gym. For the past several months she had been showing up consistently, week after week, to workout; she’s achieved some good results. However, I noticed she hadn’t been her usually happy-go-lucky self. She looked tired, frustrated, and a little annoyed.
As she was going through her warm-up I approached her and said, “Hey, Christina. How’s it going today?”
“Ugh. I don’t want to be here. This is my fifth day coming to the gym this week and I just feel completely burnt out – physically and mentally.”
That’s when we got to talking. Here’s a breakdown of the conversation and I’ll highlight the most important topics.
“Don’t I have to workout a minimum five days per week if I want results?”
Christina had been coming to the gym at least five days per week, because they said she had to. When asked, “Does coming to the gym five days per week fit easily into your lifestyle and schedule?” she immediately replied, “No! I have other things that need to be done, and other things I’d rather do. But, I have to, right?”
I’ll tell you what I told Christina. You need to follow a training program that fits into your lifestyle and available training time. If going to the gym five days per week is easy for you to do consistently, and you enjoy it, then go for it!
If, however, you’re like Christina and you want to go to the gym no more than three days per week, you can still get awesome results. Not to mention, if you’re following a program that works for you and doesn’t cause you unnecessary stress, you’ll be consistent long-term. That’s crucial.
As I explained this to her she looked bewildered. I told her as long as she follows a smart training program, she can accomplish everything in the gym training three days per week instead of her usual five. For example, Christina had been doing a traditional bodybuilding split five days per week. I told her to switch to total body workouts and train three days per week. Doing so will allow her to save time while still achieving the results she craved.
“Don’t I have to do A, B, and C exercises?”
In Christina’s case, the “A, B, and C exercises” she was referring to were barbell squats, straight bar deadlifts, and bench presses. She thought each exercise was mandatory in her training.
Look, I absolutely love those three exercises. But the fact is, unless you’re going to compete in a powerlifting competition, you don’t have to do those three exercises.
Instead of forcing yourself to do certain exercises, for whatever reason, it’s more important to train certain movements. In Christina’s case, she couldn’t deadlift a straight bar from the floor very well, and despite practicing the lift with lighter weights, she never got the hang of it. “I thought I had to perform a deadlift from the floor with a straight bar,” she told me.
Nope. She didn’t have to. I told Christina to definitely train the deadlift movement, but the exercise(s) she used were up to her. For example, she could perform a rack pull or trap bar deadlift with more confidence, and I encouraged her to use those variations instead.
You can apply this same line of thought to squats and bench presses as well. What if you don’t have a barbell set? Well, you can perform goblet squats with dumbbells and perform push-up variations. Again, it’s more important to train the movement.
“Don’t I have to follow certain eating patterns to lose fat?”
Like many people (and I was this way too in the past), Christina thought she had to follow a specific diet protocol or eating pattern because someone proclaimed it was “the only way” to achieve fantastic results. She thought she had to say “good-bye” to some of her favorite foods and force herself to follow specific eating patterns, even if they were a pain and caused her unnecessary stress.
As I told Christina, “Meal frequency isn’t the most important nutrition factor; eating real food is.” Don’t feel obligated to eat 5-6 small meals every day or start a form of intermittent fasting because someone proclaimed it to be “the best” or “only” way to eat. It just ain’t true.
Eat smart and discover eating patterns that work for you, your lifestyle and personality. No two people are the same, and so you needn’t feel obligated to force yourself to follow a specific eating pattern. Just like with strength training, you’ll get better results and be consistent if you adopt eating patterns that fit your lifestyle and personality.
It may not be easy, but it’s that simple. On your way to achieving your goals, there will be a lot of trial and error. There will be a lot of figuring out what feels better, and what your body responds to best. Do what works for you.