The culture of sweat angels and “no pain, no gain” is pervasive in the fitness world.
We’re told that getting lean, strong, and healthy has to be brutal.
We’re told we have to suffer.
We’re told we have to punish ourselves.
We’re told we have to sacrifice.
While some of us may be turned off by this message, many of us eat it up.
We’re drawn to overcoming a challenge.
We’re drawn to competing with classmates.
We’re drawn to the virtuous feeling that comes with being able to work through discomfort.
Our drive to train hard is reinforced by the rush of endorphins following a challenging session.
This all-in approach to training is appealing, particularly to those of us who only know two speeds – 100% and 0%.
Some of us are able to go balls to the wall without rhyme or reason each time we train.
Some of us are able to give it all we’ve got every single day and still make progress.
Many of us, though, are crushing ourselves in the gym, day after day, trying to get our names on the board or keep our FitBit calorie burn as high as possible, wondering why we’re not seeing any changes in the mirror.
Aiming to leave the gym every single day drenched in sweat and barely able to walk appeals to the perception that effort is directly and infinitely related to results.
However, this mindset often leads to an approach that lacks consideration for progressive overload and recovery, two factors that are paramount to strength and skill development.
Training is nothing more than a means for sending the signal for our bodies to change, while recovery is required for that change to actually occur.
One without the other is useless.
Most of us don’t need, aren’t ready for, and won’t benefit from daily intense training sessions.
We might find this at odds with the idea of physical activity as a means for calorie control.
Movement is about so much more than simply manipulating energy balance.
Movement is about building strength and confidence in our ability to express ourselves physically.
Movement is about being able to live without restriction to a ripe old age.
This isn’t achieved by mindlessly punishing ourselves day in and day out.
This is achieved by taking the minimum effective dose and then allowing that dose to do its work.
For most of us, this entails moving at a low intensity throughout the day, strength training 2-3 times a week, and sprinting every once in a while.
No, this isn’t exciting.
Yes, this means we might have to find other hobbies and activities outside of the gym.
If training is something that you enjoy and would like to make a part of every day, that’s totally cool.
There are plenty of ways to stay physical active every day without crawling out of the gym.
It’s worth considering, however, if we’re using training to fill a hole in our lives that’s intended for something else.
Sometimes getting fit might be a little boring.
Sometimes it pays to learn what’s “enough” and leaving it at that.
There’s a time and a place for pushing our limits with our training.
This can benefit us not only by driving physical adaptation but also practicing the ability to push ourselves through something that we might not want to do.
There’s also much to be said for keeping ourselves interested.
No training strategy is effective if we aren’t able to maintain it for the long run, and if blasting yourself in the gym keeps you from staying at home doing nothing, then do it.
Just understand that it might be coming at a price.
Understand also that this approach is one of the primary reasons so many of us start and stop and start and stop, due either to burnout or injury.
A car can only run at full speed before it breaks down.
Intensity and frequency are not mutually exclusive with progress, by any means.
It’s important to acknowledge, though, that some of us might benefit from doing less, not more.
It’s okay not to suffer.
It’s okay not to feel sore 24/7.
It’s okay not to “leave it all” on the gym floor.
Effort is necessary for physical change, but too much can prevent it.
Don’t be afraid to dial things back.
Don’t be afraid to show up, do enough, and go home.
It might not be as exciting as going all-in all the time.
It might not come with the same perceived badge of honor as training five times a week.
It will, however, allow you to get and stay strong, mobile, and confident in your body for years to come.
It will be worth it.
You’re worth it.
You’ve got this.