How Your Life Experiences Impact Your Fitness Success
Note: This was a guest post on A King’s Castle, a great blog for Fathers Over 40 and self-development. Check their blog out here.
I wrote an article last week here on how to improve your fat loss results. There were some opposing views in the comments section, mainly in regards to whether or not men should go fast or go slow when beginning their fitness journeys. My article proposed the more moderate approach, whereas several comments disagreed and thought that a more aggressive approach was better. Today I’m going to address this.
I respect guys who do the aggressive route and have major success with it. I think it’s admirable and it takes balls to pull off and more importantly, to maintain. My younger brother is actually a perfect example of this when he began his journey back in 2013. He was in the gym five times per week, high volumes from the word go and he’s now a beast. All in all, I think it’s great. But there’s a problem with this when others try to replicate these results. Bear with me here.
I’m sure most of us agree that it’s going to be impossible to achieve any level of real, long-term success with fitness within a month. Or 3 months. Or even a year. To build an appreciable amount of muscle is going to take years, plural. To get to the point whereby you know how to stay lean year-round without risking muscle mass is likely going to take years also, especially if you are starting from a relatively high body fat percentage. Therefore, we need to be in the game for quite a long time.
With this in mind, how many people have you seen set New Year Resolutions and fail within a few weeks? Too many, I’m sure. It will always go something like this: “from January 1st onwards, I’m going to hit the gym every single day and never eat chocolate ever again™”
How many actually pull this off? My guess would be less than 5%. Many of you will say that these people deserve it as they aren’t committed enough. I partially agree. Only partially, because I know that some of these people could have succeeded if they had just tweaked their approach a bit. I see it as needless suffering, and I think it’s a shame that so many people quit so early. Why do so many people fail with their New Year’s Resolutions?
Your life experiences to date will play an enormous role with your fitness success, and how you need to approach your fitness goals. Take the guy who’s recently divorced and is fighting tooth and nail to see his kids. How angry is he going to be? How motivated is he going to be? The only thing on his mind is going to be revenge. Is this guy going to want to only train 3 times per week once the whole ordeal is over? No of course not. He is going to be in that gym at least 5 times per week, absolutely killing it, releasing all his inner anger on the weights and growing a load of muscle in the process.
This is going to be the same kind of thing with a guy who’s had a recent health scare from his doctor. Maybe it’s diabetes, blood pressure or heart problems. Doesn’t matter. The point is, he’s going to have a fire under his arse and is going to be very motivated to achieve fitness success. Both of these men will make enormous gains under a high volume system. In fact, I would go as far to say that they need high volume.
My younger brother had neither of these two incentives, but he still had massive success with training 5 times per week, and performing 15 sets of squats, deadlifts and bench presses every week. He wasn’t recently divorced, dumped or unhealthy. I would argue that with him, it’s just his personality, which is another factor correctly highlighted by a commenter last week.
The Slower Approach
The slower approach will give you slower results, end of story. The faster approach will give you faster results. On paper the faster approach is far superior, if you can stick to it in the long-term. The above examples will need a faster approach. But what if you’re not one of the above guys? Are you doomed to failing within the first few weeks of trying? No. My overall point here is that slow results are better than zero results.
If you’re someone who hasn’t had the life experiences to incentivise you to jump into a high volume and high frequency training routine, you’re likely going to be better off doing something that you will stick to. Always keep the long game in mind, and that if you want to have a great physique, you certainly aren’t going to get there if you don’t make it past the first few months.
The slower approach is better for people who:
- Feel that they “should” lose weight (after Christmas for example)
- Just want to gain “a bit of muscle” (you always end up wanting more, trust me)
- You’re an older guy who wants to feel more masculine and have more energy
I started my journey back in September 2010 without any major incentivising life experiences – no divorce or health scare. I just wanted to “gain a bit of muscle”. In hindsight, it’s a stupid goal, but it also served me well. I also don’t have the same personality as my younger brother.
What I did during my first 6 months of training is what most New Years Resolutionists need to do. I trained 3 times per week, slowly got hooked, became addicted to the gains and was officially a “gym rat” after about 1 year. I gradually became hungry for more growth, more gym time and more volume. This is far better than giving up within a few weeks, and maybe that would have been my fate if I’d acted differently.
This is also what most Men Over 40 need to do. It’s all about priorities, and realistically, most guys in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s aren’t going to prioritise their fitness above their family and their work unless they have extremely strong incentives to do so. This was the assumption my first article was based upon. As a coach, there’s not much I can do about this reality and I simply have to work around it.
Fast forward to 2018, I love high volume training and it’s an absolute requirement if I want to make any progress in terms of muscle and strength gain. This means I need to train more frequently and I need to spend more time in the gym. But was this the best training strategy for me in 2010? No.
Summary: If this is a do or die mission for you, train five or six times per week and you will make massive gains. If it’s not do or die, you’re better off starting with three times per week and lower total volumes, and when you start making gains, you’ll become hooked. Once hooked, it’s time to ramp up the volume. If you are interested in improving your results, my blog has some good information, feel free to have a read.