Ever start a workout program and realize it’s simply missing your sweet spot? Perhaps you made a New Year’s resolution to work out, but you’re not getting the results you envisioned. You’re not alone – one of the most common questions I get from loved ones is what to do when they’re unhappy with their current fitness routine.
For today’s post, I invite you to be a fly on the wall of a conversation I had via email with a close friend. He wrote me because he is displeased and burnt out on his current workout program and wants to change it up. I’ll provide the exact interaction, then we’ll explore what it really means. See if you spot yourself in any part of this conversation.
For context, my friend is an executive with an NBA team. He’s intelligent, hard working, caring and intuitive. I’ll call him Fred.
Kap, I’m struggling with old tired ass workouts. I’ve just trained for a half marathon and lost most of my muscle that I actually had. I am looking to try a different type of routine. I actually was interested in doing a sprint workout because I am tired of bikes and Precor machines. I am looking for a plan that allows me to do a few different exercises but not spend the whole day in the gym, the squats and deadlifts scare me as I don’t want to do them, actually never really had to. I will do them if you trust they are the best. I need to add muscle definition to my upper body as it took a beating during this running gig I was doing, not to mention jet ski and boat season are right around the corner. Thoughts on number of days to train and what to train?
[I’m struggling through a moment of weakness and feeling insecure. I tried something and it didn’t work; now I’m worried about trying anything new. I need a friend to talk to about this and I’d like to make a change. I need extra reassurance that this is right for me. Can you help?]
Yes, I believe wholeheartedly in squats, dead lifts, bench press, overhead press and rows as the essential moves. This is tricky, because it will require a huge mental commitment on your part to potentially gain some body fat while you build muscle. I recommend zero cardio for a month while you build, no sprints either. Just do the lifts, and only three times a week for an hour. Can you do that? This is a three month process that will have you leaner and harder at the end, but you’ll need to put the dogma out of your head for at least the first six weeks.
Let me know how this sounds, and we’ll talk further.
Whoa, wait bro…..just curious….what do I do on the other days?? Yoga, stretching, TRX training…swimming? I don’t have the problem doing the work, but what do I do when on the road and don’t have a facility that has a squat rack, or over head bar or bench are there other exercises that I would do as a replacement?
[Your advice is overwhelming and makes me nervous. This is very different from my current program, and it’s hard to digest that as wasted time. I was hoping you’d suggest something that would require less change but provide great results.]
On the other days, you rest. You do nothing, or take a leisurely walk, because you want full recovery and give your tissue time to repair. You will be in building mode. Like I said, it’s a challenge mentally to do less.
A rack and bench are the two most common pieces of equipment. Your ability to find them and adjust is an indication of your willingness to grow. Nobody understands that better than you, dig?
Every hotel you stay at will have a gym with what you need within a 5 min cab ride, more likely a walk.
Wow interesting. I see your point…I think the real struggle would be not doing cardio for a month…wow. If I would commit to do this, I would find the places to work out. I am very curious to do this, but need to prepare mentally as I won’t have anything to do on the other days. After the first month would I then do some cardio next?
[You’re taking me out of my comfort zone. Reassure me that this change won’t break me, and I’ll get through this. I’m still overwhelmed.]
I’d introduce modified sprints after the first 4 weeks to help you burn fat. You’ll be more efficient at that point because you’ll have more mass.
I totally get it mentally. That month will be a grind on your mind, because you’ll think you’ll be getting fat. You won’t be. You’ll be getting harder, stronger, and more equipped to burn calories, meaning eating will be more fun.
Endurance, cardio, distance style training is ideal if you want to look like a distance runner. Picture in your mind a sprinter, then a marathon runner. Whose physique do you prefer?
I prefer the former, which is why I train like one.
If there’s no bench to do dumbbell press and also if there is no squat rack can I use a machine instead?
[I’m warming up to your advice, but I need to be motivated or I’ll keep coming up with excuses. Whatcha got for me?]
I won’t bullshit you here, Fred. When it comes to this building phase, flexibility is not your friend. It’s already easy. Don’t try to make it easier. You can find a gym with a bench and a squat rack within a few miles of any major hotel in the US. I’ll prove it if need be, but I know you know it already. If it costs a few bucks to get in, it will be good incentive to make it worth it. If you call the gyms a few days in advance and throw out a little NBA bait, you’ll be working out for free. Man up and reap the rewards.
Dude…you’re the best. I’ve gotta give it some thought. .Haven’t squatted in decades!!!!
[I’m almost ready to make a commitment but there is some fear in the back of my mind. Coddle me and I’ll keep digging for reassurance. Cut me off and I’ll be forced to act.]
Fred (a few minutes later):
I’ve told my wife what I might try….she wonders if I will get hurt…lol.
If I start Wed, should I follow the workout in the blog? Warm up?
[I’m in, I took the step of running it by a loved one and I want to prove to her and myself that I can do this. I’m starting; all I need is this last bit of info.]
Go slow! Especially with the squat and dead lift. Very, very light weight for the first few sessions. You won’t get hurt, you’ll get strong.
Yes, follow that workout. It’s ideal for what you’re trying to accomplish and time tested.
My suggestion is to warm up with the moves themselves, e.g., body weight squat and build up to the working weight. Same thing with the other moves. The best way to warm up for an exercise, in my opinion, is to perform that exercise at 25%, then 50%, then 75%, etc. Your body will adapt. Take your time.
Got it….3x a week….do nothing else. Slow and steady wins the race…ever hear of a guy named Aesop! !
[I’m excited and appreciative. I got what I needed and I’m ready.]
Can’t wait to see how this goes for you. Keep me posted, please!
[This ain’t my first rodeo.]
Did any of those questions resonate with you? Have you made any of those excuses or would you? My advice to you is the same. Accept that change is hard, but make the commitment for a month. Then keep me posted. I’ll still be here.