Exercise: sweat, just don’t sweat the small stuff


This autumn has seen a cluster of new entrants to the gym where I am a Registered Elite Trainer. Bright-eyed and eager, they turn-up determined to succeed, ready to hone themselves to athletic perfection. However, this very enthusiasm and quest for perfection can sometimes trip us up on a new path to fitness.

Beware the pitfalls of over-complication

Starting out on any fitness journey I have a golden rule: DON’T STRESS. No Targets, Just Routine, right! Yet, this is precisely the trap many people fall into, particularly when it comes to obsessing over small variables to which they can ascribe incredible importance. To give some examples:

  • Is it best to eat carbs pre or post workout?
  • Should I have a protein shake after my workout?
  • If I don’t have a protein shake after my workout, won’t I miss my anabolic window?
  • Should I do cardio before or after my weights?
  • Will weightlifting make me bulky?

I add the final point as a consistent worry amongst women (don’t worry, it won’t) but the overarching issue is that most of these variables are very much on the margin: they are certainly not something to obsess over.

Don’t let ‘perfection’ be the enemy of just getting stuck in

To make a good start to a training regime it really isn’t necessary to address every technicality or to have everything perfectly planned out. It can easily lead to unnecessary over-complication, hesitation and uncertainty and more likely become a hindrance.

Focus on the fundamentals

The foundation of any training programme will not depend upon marginal factors, but upon some straightforward but fundamental training rules:

  • hard work
  • consistency
  • time
  • patience

Embrace these rules and everything else will follow.

Don’t allow yourself to overestimate the importance of marginal variables, or worry about impressing the PT or indeed about anything deflecting from the really hard work necessary to achieve fitness goals. Just embrace the opportunity and take one step at a time. The legendary footballer Johan Cruyff put it best when talking about soccer: ‘Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.’ Apply this to your training regime; once you are capable of performing the simple tasks correctly and they become part of your routine, then you can consider more sophisticated or technical issues. Until then, ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ – just be sure to work up a sweat and enjoy the journey!

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Alex is a registered Master Trainer and Nutritional Advisor with Level 4 qualifications in obesity and diabetes. He is also a strength specialist and a Ni Dan in Shotokan Karate.

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