Woman in black sports top, from behind

Written by Louka Kurcer

Many years ago, as a young Coach used to work at the local Crossfit gym, with the “no pain, no gain” mentality.

Although I disagreed with many of their workout methods, I still learned valuable lessons about what not to do.

Many of their workouts consisted of the popular “AMRAP” (As Many Rounds As Possible) where hardcore trainees took their training to the very limit of their capacity, to the point of total exhaustion.

Not only did I know it was wrong, but it was also dangerous. But it was encouraged within their community. Although I saw many people get injured there, they wore it like a badge of honor.

I remember clearly one evening working, after the daily “WOD”, trainees lay on the floor panting, moaning in pain in a pool of sweat, destroyed from their workout. I could not believe fitness could look so gruesome, almost like a battlefield with wounded soldiers.

Eventually, I left that gym because my training values did not match theirs.

I knew there was a better way to train, as I had made those mistakes, years previously, thinking doing more was better. I used to think I had to push myself as much as possible during my workouts. Eventually my body rebelled, I was exhausted, and injury caught up.

I realized through experience, research and education that training should be to stimulate the body, not annihilate it. I concluded that training “all out” was unnecessary and counterproductive. I could get superior results, get in greater shape, and stay injury free by giving my body the minimum effective dose.

One of the best ways to exercise for continued progress is what Dan John, Strength Coach Extraordinaire, calls the “Goldilocks Method.” The premise of the GM is the do just the right amount of exercise that feel right for YOU. It’s an intuitive approach that involves listening to your body.

It’s a way to auto-regulate your workouts, so that you can adapt any program to your needs. The key is knowing how to adjust your workouts based to how you feel that day.

Feeling tired? No problem, go easy! Feeling strong? Super! Let’s push a little more. It’s that simple.

We know life happens, and sometimes you just can’t do what the program says that day. Then there are days where it just feels too easy.

The thing is, exercise programs don’t consider individuality nor fitness levels. They don’t even consider if you had enough sleep last night. Here’s how to adjust any workout program, no matter what life throw at you:

Consider all the variables in a Program: Exercises, weights, reps, sets, rest periods, exercise speed and workout frequency. Choose exercises, weights, sets and reps that are challenging, not overwhelming. That’s really key here.

Do something that you know you can do again tomorrow, and the day after. The two magic words are repeatable and sustainable.

Keep this in mind: always leave gas in the tank and focus and quality, not quantity. Never exhausting yourself completely will go a long way. This will unsure perfect form and safety. Build up the training load gradually over time and listen to your body.

For reps, use the -2 rule for continued progress. Do as many perfect reps as possible but stop your set feeling like you could have done a couple more.

How long should you rest between exercises? Again, that depends. Long enough to feel recovered and repeat the same level of effort. Your rest periods will naturally decrease as you become more conditioned.

The goal of exercise is the move well, not poorly, so be aware and listen to your body for the following “Stop Signs”:

  1. Stop exercising if your speed slows down. When your working muscles start fatiguing, the smaller, weaker muscles take over the job. This is the worst time to continuing exercising as chances of injury dramatically increase.
  • If you feel your technique changing in any way, stop exercising. Keeping perfect form will ensure high training standards are maintained and injury risk will drastically decrease.
  • Stop if your Rate of Perceived Exertion exceeds 8 on a scale from 1 to 10. This is a powerful way to auto-regulate how much to do. If the exercise intensity is too low, a 4-5 on 10, it won’t challenge you enough to illicit change in your body. However, if it way too intensity, maybe you will survive, but you’ll definitely pay the price the following days. Keep your efforts consistently between 6-8 on 10 and you’ll be able to maintain your workouts for a very long time.
  • Stop if you are gasping for air. During exercise, your diaphragm’s main job is to create stability and protect your spine. However, when you are breathing hard after an intensity bout of exercise, the diaphragm switches it’s focus to helping you breathe. Catch your breath before starting again so that you can concentrate on your core muscle when it matters. Use the Talk Test to gauge when you are ready to continue. If you can speak clearly without panting, you can go!

I hope you enjoyed these tips and I have brought to your attention a better way to train to make your workouts more productive. Remember to have fun, stay safe and keep making progress!

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