What does it really take to get the physique you want? Certainly not a fad diet or fad exercise programs. Those rarely work. When you think about it, it really comes down to three things – intensity, focus, and consistency. Despite how easy it is to say the words, it’s not always easy to LIVE the words and apply them to your workout and lifestyle – but if you’re not doing it, it’s time to start. Here’s why.
Why Intensity is Important
Muscles grow by progressive overload, and intensity is what causes the release of anabolic hormones like growth hormone that gives your muscles the stimulus to grow. Research shows intensity is more important than duration for improving your fitness level and burning fat. To see your body change, you have to push it harder than it’s accustomed to, to move a little past the discomfort you feel when your muscles are spent. You don’t have to do this every time because that would lead to overreaching and overtraining, but you have to push past the point of comfort during a certain percentage of your workouts.
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to take the path of “least resistance” and bring down the intensity when things get challenging. Some people have more of an ability to push themselves even when it’s unpleasant and they’re the ones likely to see the greatest gains.
Certain types of athletes are accustomed to pushing themselves and dealing with a certain level of discomfort. What could be more psychologically and physically painful than running a 100-mile ultramarathon? Still, thousands of people do it every year. Were they born with a higher tolerance for pain? There probably are some genetic differences in how people perceive pain but some have simply developed a different mindset or their desire to reach a goal is strong enough to push through discomfort.
One study looked at the perception of pain in athletes. It concluded that focused physical activity, pushing yourself when you work out, can actually alter how you perceive pain and discomfort. So don’t run away from high-intensity exercise, use it as a tool to become stronger and better.
Focus, Focus, Focus
Simply putting on exercise putting on exercise shoes and going through the motions won’t get you the defined muscles and sleek physique you started exercising for. You have to focus on the movements to get the most out of them. That means not letting your mind wander to what you’re having for lunch after your workout or how much longer you have left. Even worse is working out with one eye on a television set. If you’re doing these things you’re not concentrating on form and are probably letting yourself “cheat” by using momentum. Doing this won’t challenge your muscles as much and it reduces the calorie burn. In addition, it teaches you to use bad form. At best this will reduce the gains you get and at worst it’ll lead to injury.
It might sound okay to distract yourself during a cardio session but when you’re distracted you’re probably not giving it your best effort. You may be burning calories but you’re not increasing your fitness level as much as you could be. Better to decrease the time, increase the intensity and really focus.
Yes, it would be nice if you could take it easy once you’ve developed the body you want, but it doesn’t work that way. Without consistency, you’ll probably never get them in the first place. When you’re inconsistent with your workouts, skipping more than a few days in a row, not only do you not maximize your gains, it makes it harder to stay motivated. Unfortunately, once you lose motivation, it’s downhill from there.
One way to stay motivated is to set a goal for each workout – what you want to accomplish. Give yourself a new challenge each time – to do a few more reps or push a little harder on cardio. If you’re not as consistent as you should be with your workouts, ask yourself why. Are you exercising at the wrong time of day? If you’re too tired to make the effort in the afternoon, try exercising in the morning when you’re fresh. Remove obstacles that are in the way of keeping you consistent.
The Bottom Line?
There you have it – a three-part formula for fitness success. Get all three components right and you’re on your way to achieving the body and the fitness level you want. It doesn’t always come easy but it is worth it.
Pain. 2012 Jun;153(6):1253-62.
Related Articles By Cathe:
Related Cathe Friedrich Workout DVDs:
All of Cathe’s Strength & Toning Workout DVDs
Total Body Workouts
Lower Body Workouts
Upper Body Workouts
HiiT and Interval DVDs
Low Impact Cardio DVDs
Beginner Workout DVDs
Fit Tower DVDs
Boot Camp DVDs
Cycle Workout DVDs
High Step DVDs