Like Bane, was born into Darkness, I was born into the Globo Gym and molded by it. (or at least this is what I tell myself when I’m in a Globo Gym on a Deadlift 1RM day).
I didn’t see a “box” or a “strength and conditioning facility” until I was much more experienced.
Now, my work takes me further and further from the standard “Check-in and go” Globo Gym, but the lessons I learned there still apply to my training today.
The environment is unique. Despite a seemingly endless supply of Gym-Goers, hanging from every machine, bench and rack, virtually everyone trains alone. On their own program. Chasing their own goals. Everyone deciding for themselves, what exercises they do, for how long, and with what tools. More importantly, everyone deciding for themselves, when they are finished.
From time to time, I still go back to the Globo Gym. When I do, I get a lot of questions: most concern technique, form, rep & set schemes, or percentages of 1RMs. All have their relevant time, place, and application. Once in awhile, I get asked a question that is just general enough to really spark my interest, providing some real room to play.
“What’s the #1 tip that you would give me for improving my workouts?”
Now that gives me some latitude to explore.
But before I can answer the question, I need to identify my audience. Mine is a specific in name, but large in population: people who do their own programming, which for the most part, is every trainer, and everyone at your standard Globo Gym.
You know the drill.
You have a loose idea of what you want to accomplish on a given training day.
One day it’s “Squats”, “Bench Press” and maybe some “Rowing Intervals”.
So far, we’ve listed 2 movements and a training structure, which for the purposes of this discussion is sufficient to get you started. So you head to the gym, warm up, and get under the barbell. You start with some light weight Back Squats, and slowly ramp up to a heavy 3RM or 1RM depending on how strong your morning coffee was, or how many people decided to flood your inbox by hitting “reply all” to the company wide email blast that specifically said “do not reply all”.
Your coffee was strong.
It was 459 “reply all”s.
No, now it's 460.
Lucky you, you are just angry enough to score yourself a new Back Squat PR to start your training session. Now what? You turn around and look at the vast sea of occupied racks, scattered dumbbells, and machines.
“What do I do now?”
You walk around. Do a goblet squat here and there. Maybe some lunges.
“Oh! Bench Press and Row Intervals!” you remember.
And you’re off.
You pull the rower over to the Bench Press (much to the surprise of those who have never seen anyone use that dusty “wind-wheel” machine that sits in the corner). You sit down on the rower, input 30sec work/90sec rest into the “Time Interval” screen and you’re off. You row for 30sec at a reasonable pace. Then, you get up and do a few heavy reps on the Bench Press. Then, you hop back on the rower, waiting for the next work period to start.
Now, your bench press is getting weaker, so you reduce the weight on the bar by about 10%.
Now, you’re sweating.
Now, you’re getting winded.
Now, you can’t feel your legs, so you back off the initial rowing pace.
Then, the moment comes. You originally thought you might do 20 Rounds, but 15 ain’t bad. You think about quitting. You think you’ve done enough. After all, you’re muscles are fatigued, you’re sweating, and you’re breathing heavy. Convinced, you rerack your weight, roll the rower back to the dust and cobwebs of the Bosu-Ball filled “Functional Fitness” corner, and call it a day. Job done.
You’ve earned your dinner.
But could you have earned a bigger, more delicious dinner?
This is where my answer to the original question applies.
I was once a person who wandered aimlessly around the gym with no real plan. Then, I made 2 small changes that completely revolutionized the way I approached my training sessions.
First, I wrote my workouts down before getting to the gym. Doing so forced me to be deliberate and really think about the purpose of the days’ work. I had to think about how the reps/sets/intensity/weights/structures would come together in a cohesive and well-informed way to help achieve the days’ goal(s).
Then, and most importantly, I took what I wrote down, and DID IT. ALL OF IT. No matter what.
When you work out alone, you are judge, jury, and executioner. There is no check or balance. It is 100% dictatorship. So the natural tendency, at least initially, is to abuse your absolute power. You get 15 Rounds into a 20 Round session and decide you’ve done enough. What was never actually written is easiest to erase, and amid a tough workout, you are all too happy to make any revision that will reduce the pain. So, you do. What was supposed to be 10 sets becomes 7. What was supposed to be an hour becomes 45min.
But it’s you that is doing the deciding. Unfortunately, it's the You that is already tired, weak, and breathing so hard that your head is pounding, that is limiting your expectations.
The trick is to create accountability, and to the right person.
Some say they need a trainer to accomplish this.
I’d rather you listen to someone you know and who knows you.
Someone you admire and respect.
Someone you would trust with your life.
You. The You BEFORE the workout that has just enough Ego and believes in You just enough to set a lofty goal.
The question was, “What’s the #1 tip that you would give me for improving my workouts?”
My answer is twofold and simple.
Write your workout down.
Then, do it. All of it.
Be the You that wrote the workout, not the You who revised it half-way through.
Red Sullivan is Fully Certified Gym Jones Instructor located in New Jersey. For more information on his fitness background, Training Philosophy, and Contact Information visit www.