5 rules to train smarter not harder
The road to exercise is faced with problems, evolving from a gym avoider to becoming a gym rat can be a tricky transition. I was speaking to an England Boxing performance director who shed some light on the expectations England boxing have of elite level boxers who move into the England boxing programme. This is a programme for elite level athletes, this put some perspective on the journey that a gym avoider needs to make to becoming a gym rat.
‘In the first year on the programme we are teaching them how to train, they need to learn when their body needs extra rest and when they can push it harder. They learn when they can perform two sessions in one day and when they need to rest and recover. They learn what works for them and what doesn’t work for them and how external factors such as sleep and nutrition affect their performance in the gym. After a year teaching them how to train, we then focus on getting them international competition to teach them how to compete and acclimatise to big tournaments, years 2 to 3 we teach them to compete. Once they’ve learnt to compete and years 4 onwards we teach them how to win, this is when they start bringing medals home’
So a competitive boxer who already regularly trains, when moving into the international programme takes a year to learn how to train – this gives some perspective on what needs to be done.
The goal of a newcomer to exercise is to move more. Group exercise such as bootcamps will do this for you. A group will naturally encourage you, an instructor will push you on and if it is structured as it should, you will get results. For the regular gym user performing two to three sessions per week they’ll lose weight and believe it or not they are learning how to train – they will ache, their body will adapt and will change. This kick-start will see changes and result in weight loss (fat loss), improving fitness and better body image. What will happen though is the results will slow and they will need to learn how to push on to achieve the next level.
The smart gym rat will look at what delivers quality results, they’ll set goals and train to achieve them – Training smarter, not harder.
The dumb gym rat will become a workout junkie, they spend their time doubling up on gym classes and ‘working out’ as often as they can without a thought to the plan or structure and more importantly how they rest and recover. They are chasing the same high they got when they started exercise and still chasing the results they once achieved. Theses gym users will bounce back and forth over a time frame and follow this cycle….
lose weight, over train, disappear, time off, gain weight, reappear, lose weight, over train, disappear…and so the cycle repeats.
The dumb gym rat will go hard, hard, hard. The smart gym rat will realise that you can’t live on HIIT bootcamps alone and integrate other modes of training in and look at a structured plan with clear training goals.
Now all athletes are different as are all gym rats. Here are five rules to follow as you become a smart gym rat.
1. Never perform HIIT more than three times per week.
We can easily become addicted to engaging and endorphin filled high intensity training that leaves you dripping with sweat and out of breath. High Intensity Interval Training is stressful on the central nervous system, it should never be performed on back to back sessions and/or twice in a day. Ideally do not perform on back to back days and never perform more than two days in a row. By HIIT we mean bootcamps and sprint interval training.
2. Don’t perform more than four boxing sessions in a week
You can fall in love with punching, but bag work, pad work and sparring repeats the same movements over and over again. If you want to be a boxer, you are welcome to train six days per week, but integrate HIIT work for fitness and lifting for explosive power and some ‘zen time’ not everything has to be punch, punch, punch.
3. Olympic Lifting, don’t lift more than three times per week.
If you are integrating lifting into a S&C programme, then three times per week is more than enough. Try and avoid performing lifts on back to back days and monitor your performance. When lifts stop increasing, it’s a sure sign you are overtraining.
4. If training upwards of five sessions per week, ensure you incorporate a yoga session.
The one thing missing from our timetable is some zen time! If you are looking at going all-out then you need to make time for down-time. Birmingham is awash with quality yoga studio’s, integrating this with lifting, HIIT and boxing will work wonders. This will help lengthen your muscles, strengthen your core and prevent injuries.
5. Set yourself a quantifiable goal and cycle your training with mini-goals.
Goals, goals, goals. As you progress your improvements will be smaller, accept this. An example of sensible periodisation of training would be to focus on lifting and aim for a 2-5% increase on maximal weight and then focus on boxing with the aim of staring open sparring. Cycling your training with small achievable goals will work. Set yourself a small time frame 4-14 weeks and set a small achievable goal each cycle.