Intuitive training is the key to success. Blindly following a program without really listening to your body is a sure-fire way to burn out, or get injured. But what does it mean to train intuitively? Read on to find out.
You just read Muscle and Fitness Magazine and now go to the gym to follow the Ultimate Glute Scorcher routine. You ignore that you have tight hips, you tweaked your hamstring running for the bus this morning, and you only slept 5 hours last night. You grind your way through the workout doing multiple sets of squats, lunges and all sorts of variations thereof. That is the opposite of training intuitively!
Every time we step into the gym, we must mindfully assess how we feel today:
- Did I get enough sleep?
- Am I stiff or sore anywhere?
- Do I have any injuries I am dealing with?
- Have I eaten enough?
- Have I eaten too soon to this session?
- Am I hydrated?
- What do I have time for?
- What have I done/not done this week in the gym?
In order to be aware of these things before entering the gym, it’s important to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness techniques have been used and cultivated for thousands of years in various philosophical and religious systems. Mindfulness can be considered a state, a trait, or a practice. We can have a moment of mindfulness (state) but also each has a general ‘set-point’ of mindfulness (trait). Higher trait-level mindfulness means that we’re more mindful even when we’re not trying to be mindful. That’s critically important – part of what we’re learning to do is create a healthy habit of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a particular way of paying attention, and mindfulness practices can be applied to any experience: sensations in the body, emotional experience, thoughts, sights or sounds. The quality of the attention is MORE IMPORTANT than the object of attention.
Take a few minutes of mindfulness practice to really tune into how you feel: do a Full Body Scan (read our post on “Progressive Muscle Relaxation” and apply a similar approach). There’s no shame in stopping a workout short or not doing it altogether, as long as there is a valid reason for it. Do not work through pain; the mentality “No Pain, No Gain” has contributed to more catastrophic career ending/life altering injuries than anything else.
The photo below is famous for happening during a photo shoot. Take a look at the amount of weight he is using – a few plates less would have been just as impressive. He was an extremely strong athlete who pushed beyond what he was capable that day…just for a photo.
Arnold Schwarzenegger explained it well in the now famous cult-classic Pumping Iron. He would visualize every workout before he did it, before his workout he had a plan of attack, and he kept detailed records of all his sessions. During his workout he would get his “mind into the muscle“: he used visualization techniques to imagine his biceps filling the room. He went on to win Mr. Universe and then Mr. Olympia 7 times.
No matter what your goal is (even if it’s not to be Mr. or Ms. Olympia!), you must find your own way to achieve your own maximum potential. We cannot follow routines out of a magazine and expect fitness model results. This is where a quality coach can help you. A good coach can make changes on the fly depending on what they see that day, and will give you what you need, not what you want. A good coach does listen to the client, but takes everything with a grain of salt. People’s natural intuition regarding what they need is actually quite poor. It takes plenty of practice, and really tuning into your body to get good at it. Together with more mindfulness in training, and a good coach, you can reach your fitness goals faster, without injury.
Unabashedly educating you on how you can win in life with your fitness, sleep, diet, and stress management.