One of the things I tell my personal training clients during our first session is that, in my opinion, there are four components to fitness: Consistency, Effort, Nutrition, and Rest. And, I also tell them that when a client of mine is not achieving their desired goals from their training program, 99% of the time it’s because one of those components needs to be tweaked, changed, or improved. In this article, I’d like to go over these four components in a bit more detail in the hopes that you’ll incorporate them into your thinking when analyzing your own training regimen.
For me, this refers to working out on a regular basis. When beginning a fitness program, you should decide how often you’re able to workout each week (I’d recommend a minimum of 3 times per week) and then stick to that over an extended period of time. Don’t workout for two weeks like crazy and then give up and don’t train so intermittently that you’re only working out here and there (I see plenty of people who are “weekend warriors” or who show up to train only every once in awhile and then wonder why they don’t succeed). Stick to your schedule and make working out and training part of your routine.
It’s called working out for a reason: it’s work. You should sweat, your breathing rate and heart rate should increase, your muscles should become fatigued. When you train, you need to challenge yourself. If you feel the same after a workout as you felt before the workout, you’re doing something wrong. I see many people simply going through the motions, lifting the same old weight workout after workout while their mind is somewhere else or strolling on the treadmill while chatting on their cell phone or daydreaming. This is not the path to success…challenge yourself from workout to workout and train hard.
Both of these (Consistency and Effort) are important because what we are doing when we workout is trying to make our muscles adapt by placing them under stress. By adapting they become larger and stronger. Adaptation will only happen if our muscles are challenged (Effort) on a regular basis (Consistency). Otherwise, the muscle will simply assume that the status quo is just fine and will have no need to improve itself. As a result, you will make little or no progress toward your goals.
For me, this component involves everything you put in your mouth outside of the gym. It means making healthy meal choices, limiting your fat and (to some extent) your carb intake as well as boosting your protein intake (most sources recommend 1-1.5g of protein per pound of body weight per day). It also means taking the necessary supplementation or the supplements you’ve decided are best for you to take. Obviously, a comprehensive discussion of supplements is beyond the scope of this article but the basic idea here is to choose supplements that best fit your needs and goals and then take them regularly.
From a practical standpoint, rest is the easiest of the four components to do simply because it, in effect, involves doing nothing. However, rest is a very important part of any training program. Once you’ve stressed your muscles, you must let them recover so that they can become larger and stronger. Not allowing your muscles to rest properly will result in over-training. Not only can over-training result in muscle soreness, fatigue and other unpleasantness, it can also cause your muscles to actually shrink which, for me, is the absolute worst part of it. Your technically doing more work, resting less, and your muscles are shrinking! In general, you want to allow at least twenty-four hours in between workouts involving the same muscle group and you should learn to listen to your body as well. Often a “feeling” that you need rest is a better indicator than a specific prescribed period of time.
I hope that this article has perhaps led you to think a bit more about your own training program and maybe you’ll find some aspects of these four components that need improvement.