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How to Get a Sweat On (When You Really Don’t Want To)
By WH Staff | Oct 27, 2021
There are times when the hardest exercise is just lifting your glutes off the sofa. That’s why we’ve constructed fail-safe contingency plans for six of the most common cop-outs. Here endeth the excuses…
Excuse 1: You’re Bored of Your Training Plan
Training plans may not be as exciting as flitting between the latest trending fitness classes. But they still have their place.
If you have a bona fide training plan – not just a bunch of exercises you do out of habit – you’re probably working towards a goal, whether that’s adding muscle, losing fat, or improving on your 10k time. Mix things up too much and you violate two important principles of effective exercising; specificity (to improve your 10k, you should, erm, run) and progressive overload (forcing your body to adapt by
applying a greater stimulus than it’s used to).
The trick is to tweak your training plan just enough. “Each week, you should be making small increases – lifting slightly heavier, adding a few more reps, running a little faster,” says Jonathan Dick, an Equinox Tier X fitness coach. “After four to eight weeks, make changes to your plan, so you move towards more advanced versions of your favourite exercises. This way, you can make consistent progress,” he explains. Consistency might not fire you up – but progress certainly will.
The quick fix:
– Make your plan progressive, rather than doing the same squats and biceps sesh every time.
– Tweak that plan every four to eight weeks, changing the movements to ensure they remain challenging.
– Track your progress via consistent workouts.
Excuse 2: You Had a Terrible Night’s Sleep
Noted sports scientist William Shakespeare defined sleep as “sore labour’s bath”. He was right. It’s when your body repairs damage caused by the previous day’s activities. “If you didn’t get adequate sleep, you’re already starting a little bit in the hole,” says physiologist Jim Pate. In a study published in The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, cyclists tasked with riding while sleep deprived had less energy and aerobic power, plus they exhausted more quickly.
Still, onwards and upwards: training is the best way to give your tired brain a lift. One study by researchers at the University of Georgia found exhausted volunteers who took part in moderate-effort exercise experienced a 65 per cent decline in fatigue; separate research from the same uni revealed that a 10-minute stair climb can boost alertness more effectively than 50mg of caffeine. Pate advises avoiding anything too intense and building your sessions around mobility, stability and fun stuff, such as skill development. Bear in (addled) mind, though, that your coordination will be impaired – this is not the time for complicated gymnastics. Practising pull-ups? Perfect. No kipping…
The quick fix:
– Understand that you’re going to find things harder. Prioritise form over weight or speed.
– Replace high-skill movements with simpler versions focused on stability.
– Don’t be a hero.
Excuse 3: You’re Still Sore From Your Last Workout
Perhaps you’re new to fitness or you haven’t trained for a while. Or maybe you overdid what you usually do or tried something new. No one’s judging.
“You should be satisfied that you’ve achieved significant enough overload,” says Pate. The inflammatory response to the tiny tears you’ve caused in your muscles is what drives your body to adapt, so it doesn’t get overloaded next time. “Soreness is a good sign,” confirms Pate. So you’ve earned a couch day? Not quite.
“You need to rest, but you don’t want to be static,” says Pate. “You’re trying to encourage your muscles to work better for you, so you need to maintain them.”
In other words, rest is relative. While the thought of it might make you wince, a slightly softened effort will keep your body ticking over and allow it to let go of that soreness. Hop on a treadmill or rower if you have access to them, or take to the streets in your runners, and warm up with five to 10 minutes of cardio at 50 to 60 per cent of your maximum intensity, with a few bursts of higher-level stuff.
Once your muscles are more pliable, dynamically stretch and mobilise (think: lunge rotations), paying extra attention to tight, sore areas. If it’s only one area of the body screaming at you, train the other areas as normal. Cool down with static stretches, holding for at least 30 seconds. See you tomorrow, bright and early.
The quick fix:
– Warm up sore muscles with five to 10 minutes of moderate cardio, followed by mobility work.
– If only certain parts of your body ache, train the rest as normal. If it all hurts, try a light body-weight circuit.
– Remember that soreness isn’t a bad sign.
Excuse 4: You Just Really, Really Don’t Want To
It happens to the best of us: occasionally, your motivation will fail you. But if you feel that your drive is constantly stalling, take a moment to reflect on the underlying causes. “It’s often the result of trying to force an end game that goes against your true aspirations,” says Tom Foxley, a CrossFit coach. “Maybe you’ve never really wanted to get to where you say you want to, or perhaps your desires have changed.” In other words, if you genuinely want to reach a goal, you should feel pulled towards it, rather than always having to push your way there.
If you’re certain about what you want to achieve, then think about how that will feel. “Emotional drivers are much more compelling than logical ones,” explains Foxley. “Imagine how stoked you’ll be when you achieve that body-weight snatch, or cross the finish line of a triathlon.” Desired outcomes are the fire that forges the iron of self-control, so bring distant consequences closer in your mind. Or you could cut yourself a deal.
“If the full session is an hour long, tell yourself you’ll do, say, the first two sets,” says Foxley. The chances are that, once you’ve completed them, you’ll be inclined to do more. Either way, you’re taking the weight of expectation off your shoulders.
“Frequently, you don’t want to work out because you feel the pressure to have a great session,” says Foxley. But athletic success isn’t built solely on great sessions. Its foundation is unwavering commitment, whatever your motivation level. In a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, subjects visited the gym twice as often when they scheduled their sessions ahead of time, compared with when they were given ‘inspirational’ reading material. “Turning up and doing 20 per cent is better than doing nothing at all,” says Foxley. So pull on your kit and get going. Trust us, you’ll never be disappointed that you did.
The quick fix:
– To borrow a top phrase, just do it.
– Motivated by fierce kit? We love ECCO ST.1 Lite Women’s Sneakers (shown right), $249.95, au.ecco.com
Excuse 5: You’ve Only Got 15 Minutes Anyway
Pah! You can get a whole lot done in that time – work your entire body, raise your heart rate, build muscle, burn fat – and, crucially, do so with minimal equipment. Weighted HIIT, such as this kettlebell workout from Sylvester Savyell, another Tier X coach, provides more bang for your buck than standard cardio. “You’ll continue to burn more kilojoules as your muscles recover,” he says. Spend five precious minutes warming up, then perform as many rounds as possible.
AMRAP (15 mins)
– Kettlebell goblet squat: 15 reps
Holding a kettlebell to your chest with your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down, chest up, knees wide (imagine sitting back in a chair). Then drive back up, squeezing your glutes.
– Pull-over with static hip thrust: 15 reps
Set up in a double-leg glute bridge, with the kettlebell on the floor behind your head so you can reach it. Pull it over until it’s above your chest, then lower. Don’t let your bridge collapse.
– Burpee into overhead press: 10 reps
Goblet squat down and place your knuckles on the (ideally, padded) floor. Shoot your feet out and back, then in again. As you stand, lift the kettlebell and press it overhead. That’s one rep.
– Kettlebell lunge with chop: 10 reps each side
Hold the kettlebell at one shoulder, fingers interlaced. Lunge with the opposite leg and simultaneously chop the bell across your body (keep a firm grip on it). Reverse.
– Side plank with press: 10 reps each side
Lie on your side, propped on your elbow, with your feet stacked and top arm (holding the kettlebell) straight above your head. Contract your core to lift your hips so your body is straight, then lower.
Excuse 6: You Can’t Find Your Bloody Headphones
Whether your partner has nabbed them for their own outdoor run or aggy neighbours mean you can’t blast your home workout playlist without them, use the quiet time as a chance to tune into what you’re doing. “Choose exercises that challenge your coordination,” says Ian Robertson, a personal training manager. “You’ll be far more engaged.” Granted, music is a proven performance enhancer, but aimlessly trawling Spotify is not, and all those seconds spent waiting for the bass drop before you start your next set will add up.
In a study published in Computers In Human Behavior, treadmill runners who looked at their phones during training spent 10 of the 20 minutes they worked out at low intensity and only seven at high. Those who left their handsets in their lockers only phoned it in for three minutes, and dialled up their speed for 13 minutes. Besides, you don’t need your trusty playlist to get amped. “Rhythmic breathing can actually help you push an extra rep and very often you lose this benefit when you don’t hear it,” says Robertson.
The quick fix:
– Practise more complex, show-off moves while you can focus on what you’re doing.
– Listen to your breathing during your workout, rather than today’s mix.
– Once you break the exercise-earbud association, missing ones won’t be an issue.
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