Watch Your Language

The words we use matter, in our thoughts as well as in our conversations with others. Because the mind is capable of processing at speeds much faster than our rate of speech, even our rate of internal dialogue; each word has connotations that can trigger reactions. These reactions often happen on a subconscious level, and have an impact on our mood and outlook.

Every language gives us a number of options to convey thoughts, and some are better than others. While we use many words interchangeably, our reaction to the words may be very different. A few examples: I want to vs. I have to, I can’t vs. I won’t, That looks difficult vs. That’s impossible

Though we have command of our choice of words, controlling the emotional reaction once we use those words is much harder. So when it comes to achieving the goals that you aspire to, the difference between success and failure may just be watching your language.

Keep An Open Mind

We have opinions on everything. These quick judgments help us deal with the sheer volume of information that is constantly streaming. While our opinions are necessary, they are not always correct. And just because we have an opinion does not mean that we are informed on a topic.

In fact, our opinions should change as more information presents itself. This holds true for diet and exercise, and every other field that has ongoing research. Even without new studies and innovations, our bodies give us both short and long-term feedback that will gradually inform our opinions, if we let them.

Yet for many of us, once we have declared an opinion (or even worse, assumed someone else’s as our own), we stick with it. We resist changing our opinion, disregarding evidence that may contradict a belief. We need to be aware of this instinctual tendency if we are to keep our minds open.

Mixed Signals

Many of us no longer know when we are hungry, and when we are thirsty; we simply have cravings. We have trained our bodies to send us mixed signals. What should be straight-forward is not the case.

We have a lot of options when it comes to food and drinks, more so than at any point in the past. While variety is the spice of life, it comes with a problem that most of us do not realize that we have. We have confused our body by consuming beverages that contain macro- and micro-nutrients (carbs, minerals, vitamins), and foods that have high water content (soups, stews, and sauces).

This can be combated against by adhering to a few simple guidelines. First, drink water more often than any other beverage. Ideally, have two or three glasses of water between any other beverages. Second, during meals try to drink sparingly. When you get more thirsty than hungry, that is a signal to stop eating. Drink a glass of water and then wait fifteen minutes before eating more food. Finally, do not eat when you are not hungry. There is a difference between having a taste for something and being hungry.

A Comforting Thought

For the first time in history, many of us live in a state of constant comfort. We address our needs and desires almost immediately. Convenience is king. This is not entirely good.

I want to let you in on a secret to training (and to improving yourself): It is okay to be uncomfortable! It is okay to feel fatigued. It is okay to be hungry for a few hours. It is okay to feel hot, and to sweat. It is okay to feel the burn during a workout, and it is normal to feel sore afterwards.

It is okay to be uncomfortable for a time. While it is very important and highly desirable to be aware of what is going on, you do not necessarily have to take immediate action to alleviate the discomfort. Your discomfort is your nervous system registering changes within itself. Those changes are the stimulus that forces your body to react and improve.

It’s okay to have help

Great accomplishments take a supporting cast.

If something is important to you, use the resources that you have available to get you to your goals. Do not try to do everything on your own; do not make it about pride, if pride gets in the way of success. There is no shame in wanting to be healthy and free of pain.

On Adding Resistance

Movement is the answer for many health and body issues. Simply put; we do not move enough, and we often do not move correctly.

When starting out, many people rush to train with weight because of the numerous benefits of resistance training. But a body that strains to move correctly (or is dysfunctional to the point of being unable to move correctly) without resistance will exacerbate the problems that it has through the increased intensity. In other words, when you move poorly with weights you add to your troubles even though you may feel that you are improving. Strength without stability and range of motion is not real strength.

So choose your resistance wisely. If a movement is incorrect, use only the amount of weight that encourages proper form. Increase intensity by adding repetitions or reducing recovery until your nervous system learns the movement pattern and you achieve the necessary timing and balance for that pattern.

Get Better Before You Get Hurt

Why wait for an injury to occur when you can improve the situation before it becomes a problem?

Many injuries are caused by repetitive strain (overuse) or poor technique (misuse). Repetitive strain is often indicated by feelings of prolonged fatigue, or a gradual loss of range of motion. Misuse is only obvious when a movement causes pain. IF A MOVEMENT CAUSES YOU PAIN, STOP IMMEDIATELY! When it does not cause pain, poor technique is much harder to detect. A few good indicators are the inability to breath during a movement or a noticeable difference when performed on one side of the body versus the other.

If any of these warning signs are present during your training, consider an alteration of your training until they are not present. Repetitive strain can be overcome easily with more rest, massage, stretching, and/or activation of opposing muscle groups. Misuse requires a shift in focus toward timing and coordination; this is most often accomplished by decreasing the difficulty until neuromuscular control and efficient movement are achieved, and then slowly progressing the difficulty back to previous levels.

Train Inside Out

Our tendency is to train ourselves from the outside in. For many of us this comes from an aesthetic motivation to workout; in other words, many train because they want to look better. But the problem with this is that focusing on the outside can leave you frustrated. It can even set you up to be worse than when you started.

Instead try to train yourself from the inside out. Focus on rest, nutrition, and core musculature first; then slowly shift the focus outward to encompass strength, endurance, speed, or aesthetics and body composition. This can be a great boon for anyone that is having trouble because they are intimidated.

Train Everything

Because nothing happens overnight. It takes a while to improve, to adapt.

Focus on your specific goals, because they are your inspiration and motivation. But that does not mean you should exclude everything else.

Include the practices that maintain and improve your body. Your goals will change as you change; and if you have been working a little bit on everything, then you will be that much farther ahead when you take on the next challenge.