5 Keys to Working Out Smarter

1.) Consistency wins

Work smarter not harder applies….we always want to train consistency over all-out intensity and overall volume over acute bouts of volume. Why?

Because the individual who gets the most reps in over time at a lower intensity will be in a better position for success as opposed to the individual who goes 100% for half the time.

Think of it like this, if you work out 5 days a week for 30 minutes, vs. someone who works out 2 days a week for 2 hours, that 5 day a week person is still training 30 minutes more per week. That’s 26 hours of additional training per year…that’s pretty substantial!

Consistency should always rank higher than intensity when it comes to general fitness. To add, if you’re a person that considers yourself to be an “all or nothing” individual, you have to stop applying that approach to your workouts.

I’ve been in the fitness industry for almost 10 years. An “all or nothing” approach tends to look like this:

2-3 Months; 4-6 workouts per week

2-3 Months; 0-1 workout per week

2-3 Months; 4-6 workouts per week

2-3 Months; 0-1 workout per week…

And the cycle repeats…

What to do:

-Move at least 5 days per week for at least 30-45 minutes

-Add variety so you don’t get bored

-Your workout doesn’t need to be structured, you can also do unstructured workouts like yard work or other types of manual labor

-Create an accountability system (get a coach and/or a training partner)

2.) Don’t crush yourself

To add to the point above, you don’t need to crush yourself on every workout you do. This also means that you don’t need to put your maximal effort into every training session. The reality is max effort bouts of training are not sustainable and lead to longer recovery times.

Sure, testing your fitness periodically (such as a heavy squat or 500m row) is important to measure your progress, however, we can’t approach our training like this.

For the most part, we should be training on average at 60-80% or in other words, we should feel like a 6-8 out of 10 on an RPE scale (RPE=Rate of Perceived Exertion).

If we are constantly pushing our limits or doing things well beyond where our body has adapted, it’s going to take longer to recover from those bouts. Now, this is relative. Someone who has been consistently training for longer periods of time should be able to do more opposed to someone who is less conditioned. Also, if you do anything enough that you haven’t done before or in a long time, chances are you are going to be a little sore, it’s kind of how your body works!

The reason why we love CrossFit and our approach to this methodology is that someone who is 50 years old who is working out for the first time in a year, can feel the same as a 30-year-old who has been doing 5+ workouts a week for the past 5 years. The effort and volume they might do in that workout will differ but how they feel should be relatively the same.

So don’t search for the soreness all the time, it’s not necessarily the best measurement for your production that day or the days following your training session! 

What to do:

-If you’re working out in a group, identify a pace that you can sustain to give you the desired stimulus.

-Compete with yourself, don’t worry about what the person next to you is doing. In the words of Coach Abby, “mind your own fitness!”

-Log all your workouts and write how you felt in the notes in Wodify. Indicate how you paced so you can always refer back to it.

-Ask the coach to give you an idea of what you should feel like or strategies on how to pace.

3.) Non-Negotiable Mentality

When it comes to both consistency and managing your intensity, we have to approach our training with what I call a Non-Negotiable Mentality or Mindset (NNM for short). If you’re reading this and have done any training with me, a consultation, or a goal review session, this may sound familiar!

A NNM is simply a constructive way of thinking so you don’t allow yourself to work your way out of doing what you planned. An easier way to think about it is to imagine you’re trying to get your son or daughter to brush their teeth before they go to bed. They may whine and scream, say “no”, ask “why do I have to?!”… basically do anything they can to avoid brushing their teeth. At the end of the day, you don’t break and it’s a non-negotiable for them to brush their teeth.

When it comes to exercising, we as human beings, tend to negotiate our way out of doing it. “I’m too sore today, I’ll skip my workout”, “I have a late-night tonight so I’m not going to workout today”, “I worked out yesterday so I can skip today”… I can go all day with these!

A NNM doesn’t allow you to get out of doing what you need to do. It will positively impact your consistency and your results, you just need to apply it.

What to do:

-Start with small non-negotiable tasks. For example, workout every Monday and Tuesday every week, no matter what. This is non-negotiable.

-Block your schedule off in your calendar so nothing can get added to it.

-Create some non-negotiables that are for your enjoyment such as a date night, movie night, 30-minute block to read…give yourself permission to do these things but they have to be non-negotiable and you can’t miss them!

4.) Leverage your workouts for your brain and your body

 As we go through life, we can find ourselves in positions of high stress, especially now. Remember, exercise also adds stress to your body so if you already have a lot of stress, how you approach your workout that day may be what you need to get your mind right.

I find that 80% of the time I’m working out for my mind over the results I will get for my body. At the end of the day, our mind is what dictates our decision making. If we can leverage our workouts to improve our mental game, our physical game will only get better!

Different types of exercise, and different levels of intensity, can deliver different results. Our desired outcome is to optimize your day. Ideally, we want to achieve the “flow state”. But the path to optimal performance depends on where you’re starting today. 

If you’re: Distracted, unfocused, or having trouble prioritizing…You need longer-duration, lower-intensity aerobic work. Take a long bike ride or jog for 30 minutes. Stick with an exercise that doesn’t require concentration so your mind can wander.

If you’re: Feeling unmotivated, or just can’t seem to get started? You need a task-based exercise. You need to feel as if you’re checking things off a list, or at least completing one thing. Your exercise could be a “chipper”-style workout, where you do several reps of a few exercises until they’re completed, or it could be manual labor. Cutting the grass won’t elevate your heart rate much, but will give you mental traction.

*If you feel unmotivated AND distracted by an interpersonal problem, though, stay away from long-duration aerobic work or manual labor, because you’ll just spend another hour stewing on your big problem. In those cases, you need a distraction.

If you’re: Stressed, frazzled, or frustrated: You need a full reset. You need exercise that demands your full attention. These workouts MUST be done with a coach because you’re probably using up all of your willpower reserves trying to deal with the problem. You won’t push yourself hard enough, and you don’t need to.

Here’s where our training works best for everyone: it’s an hour off from thinking. Your coach will tell you exactly what to do, and the workout will demand your full attention. There’s no opportunity for your stressor to creep into your subconscious. You’ll walk away with a clear mind. 

What to do:

-Identify how you feel that day and how you want to feel when you’re done.

-Manage your intensity to get the desired outcome you want.

-If you’re consistently stressed, invest in some personal training so you have one less thing to think about so you can perform at your best.

5.) It has to be fun

If something is fun, we’re more likely to do it more than once. This is a natural thing we do as human beings! If your training isn’t fun or enjoyable at all, forget about everything we discussed above as it’s irrelevant. 

Your motivation to do something will be at its highest if the activity you’re doing is both beneficial and enjoyable for you to do.

The best approach here when it comes to your overall fitness is to have variety so you don’t feel like you’re doing the same monotonous tasks on a daily basis. You need to balance your conditioning with strength training for general fitness and health purposes, however, you can accomplish this in a variety of formats.

Additionally, things are more enjoyable when you do them with others or in a community. Group training isn’t for everyone, but having a workout partner or a coach that you enjoy spending time with, makes the activity you’re doing a lot more fun!

What you can do:

-If you’re working out on your own, you need to mix it up. Don’t be afraid to mix in different exercises or interval training methods to add variety.

-Try working out in a group environment. We have found that building amazing relationships increases accountability and makes working out more enjoyable.

-Hire a coach. If you struggle with accountability or you just don’t enjoy working out, you need another set of eyes and another perspective.