It is common for members of a gym, especially new ones, to want to put a considerable effort into their workouts at the outset of a new training plan.
There is usually a strong emotional driver that has pushed the member over the threshold to contact a trainer and start making some lifestyle changes.
We consistently find that as trainers our job is not our job to motivate our clients, standing over them and forcing them to push harder in a workout.
Our role is not really to get people to work harder. It is to coach people through the correct exercise technique and training progressions. To have a program that is tailored to the individual and develops each month and then we help manage the load of the training and the expectation of results over time.
Our members tell us they come for the coaching experience and the progressive programming over time, knowing that they are doing the exercises correctly.
The approach uses a 4-year training progression and coaches you through moving well not just all-out energy-sapping sweaty sessions.
Don’t get us wrong, emptying the tank in a single workout has its place in your overall plan, but, in our opinion, getting the best out of what you can achieve with a Personal Trainer or Coach.
We find our role in the first one to 3 months is controlling the training load, for example, how high your heart rate gets during a session and which weights you lift for how many repetitions.
This is about resetting the expectation for what results are actually realistic over the first 4-8-12 weeks.
We have found members don’t need to give maximum effort in their first month, 50% – 60% effort is ideal.
Focus on doing things well, not doing them really hard, fast, and heavy.
There are also those who undertake a considerable amount of training each week habitually but wonder why every once in a while maybe around every 12 weeks they really struggle with motivation, tiredness, general lethargy, and fatigue.
The harder you work in a single or series of workouts the more it costs your mind and body. Keep pushing and you can end up overstressed physiologically and motivation dwindles.
Don’t push hard enough or take too long between workouts and you lose the benefit.
Pushing extra hard all the time does get quicker results, but it also increases the recovery requirements (time spent preparing food, sleeping, and stretching/massaging) and these results will return to baseline over a short period (3-6 months)
There is a reason why.
The answer is in the weekly training load.
The body can cope with a certain amount of stress.
Often this is illustrated as a cake or pie.
Think of a pie chart and over a day week and month you can take chunks out of the pie to get work done and put the effort in, in any area of your life.
To replenish the pie nutrients must be eaten and sleep taken so the pie can regenerate for more work to be done. Other activities that replicate sleep or sympathetic nervous activity such as meditation or yoga will also aid recovery.
More energy put into the physical activity section of the pie reduces energy for the other areas and puts more demand on sleep and nutrition to recover.
Take too many chunks too quickly or suffer from prolonged poor sleep and inadequate nutrient intake form your food choices and tiredness and fatigue will ensue.
The type of fatigue we are considering here are your workouts. How do you quantify the amount of training stress you are under each week and each month? The chances are you don’t.
Most people are unaware of the amount of energy they put into their physical activity and certainly don’t increase nutrient intake and increase sleep in line with those demands.
This is where a simple heart rate monitor and app can come in very useful.
At Thrive: Optimal Human Performance our members use Myzone. A system that tracks heart rate during a workout and displays the level of effort in real-time and then stores the information on an app so effort over time can be tracked and fitness measured accurately.
The table shows a members MEPS (Myzone Effort Points) score. A MEP is simply how hard a person was working (measured by their heart rate) for 1 minute and then the app calculates this across the entire workout so you have a number that takes into account 1) how long you trained 2) how hard you trained.
The major premise is this.
As the graph above shows we want the MEPS to be in the Goldilocks “healthy tension” region.
Not too low, or nothing improves.
Not too high or you may fatigue and get tired and demotivated and start to become inconsistent with training.
The tricky bit is that the Goldilocks region is fluid depending on other stressors in your life that week.
Be it illness, exams, work pressure etc.
Then what you do to reduce your effort in workouts to allow for increased effort in other areas or increase sleep and nutrients to recover well.
It’s worth mentioning that we regularly notice an increase in strains and sprains with people under lots of mental and emotional stress.
You can then be sure, that the higher the MEPS number for the week, the demand for nutrients and sleep is.
The table above shows tracking for a female member, 23yo over 6 weeks.
The final column “fatigue” is 0= no energy/tired, 5=loads of energy/feel great.
As you can see the MEP score increases week after week up to 773, this is followed by a low energy week. This would be an ideal week for a download and keeping the MEPS to 300-400 so that fitness is maintained whilst allowing for recovery.
The member will find themselves more tired and hungrier around these times of the month. We have found that an awareness of this helps members understand their bodies and how recovery will affect their motivation week by week.
We can advise download weeks to members who train at high MEP numbers consistently. This is a week where they come in and train but instead of the full workout, they get fewer repetitions and sets to maintain consistency but ensure they don’t tip over the edge of the performance curve.
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