Workouts are more fun when you succeed

As a trainer, I spend a lot of time trying to convince people how amazing training is. I like to think I’m convincing. I also like to think that the awesomeness of the workouts I put together and my great coaching skills seal the deal for people once they come to give me a try. Or that they think I’m hilarious and can’t wait to come for another session to spend more time with me. But in reality, there is a bit more to it. Here’s something I’ve come to learn: For many people, working out is not actually fun. And for these people, there are actually things they’d rather do than workout. Shocking, right?

But here’s the secret that can hook even these weirdos who don’t love working out: Making progress is awesome. And when you work out for a while – usually it only takes a few weeks – you make progress. And hopefully you realize that you’re only on the first few steps of a long path filled with a lot of progress. And that means lots of feel good moments in your future.

I’ve been experiencing this again myself. I’ve been working out regularly for a very, very long time. I went through a period about a year ago when I kind of lost momentum. I still worked out, but not as often as I usually do. Full disclosure here: part of what kept me working out was knowing I had to be fit enough to demonstrate exercises to my clients. I was going through the motions, looking for a reason to want to train again. The thing was, I had no goals. I had always had performance goals in the past, but I had run out of them. So I actually get why some people don’t like to work out. They probably lack physical goals. That is, working out has no concrete return for them.

Now I’m back to loving working out. And I think I know why: I’ve started progressing again. I’ll be 40 this summer, but I’m getting personal bests in some lifts. Not just one, but many. And I love it. Success is really, really fun. I hit 205 pounds for sets of 6 Romanian deadlifts (RDLs) a few days ago. Prior to that, I had done 195 in 2005, and hadn’t been back to that level since. This week I also managed a set of 4 rear foot elevated split squats with 110 lbs (40 pound vest + 35 lb DB in each hand) and 125 lbs for sets of 6 single-leg RDLs. It looked something like this:

Notice the smile at the end? It’s called feeling great. You can’t fake that.

I’m excited to see how much stronger I can get. Now the really cool part; the more important personal best: I feel great all the time. And you know what? I’m older and I train less now than I used to. So why am I hitting personal bests now? Because in addition to spending time getting stronger, I spend time working on moving better. I often only have 30 minutes for workouts, but I still spend 10-15 minutes of that time working on movement quality: stretches, foam rolling, muscle activations, dynamic movement, and corrective exercises. That means I may only have 15 minutes for “real” training. But it also means that my body is ready for the real training. My body is firing on all cylinders by the time I start lifting that heavy metal. More fibers working together, means more strength, more power, and improved performance. And that improved performance leads to more enthusiasm for working out. Vicious circle. :)

I think I may have found my new convincing argument to get more people working out: Feel great outside; feel awesome inside. Working out for the win.

Elsbeth Vaino is a certified personal trainer in Ottawa, Canada.

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