The new year is upon us and that means, New Year Resolutions. I know, new year fitness resolutions have almost become cliche, because every year you state, “This is the year I…(insert fitness goal here)”. Fast forward 2 to 4 months after stating your resolution, to that moment you realize that all that enthusiasm you had on New Years Eve (maybe it was just the alcohol talking 😉 ) is fading away, you realize that your fitness goal is slipping away (again), at that moment you begin to realize who you really are, you realize your true self. At that moment a decision has to be made, the right way or the easy way. You know you choose the easy way when you stop working and start making excuses. It’s true, for some of you, the only thing you have ever done well or done consistently, is make excuses!
But no matter how much New Years Resolutions are mocked in the fitness world, I actually love them, to me there is something powerful, something very inspirational about starting a new year, and I believe if you don’t have a game plan for the new year you will once again fail to reach your potential!
It no secret that the most common way to get results is to work hard on a consistent basis. That means coming into the gym, giving it your all, 3 to 4 times a week, each and every week. If you can do this you will be healthier, you will have more energy, look years younger and will be a hell of a lot stronger than you are now. So if you are new to fitness, have general goals (not yet a fitness addict) or are happy with your progress I recommend following a consistent training model. But if you have been at it for a while and are beginning to struggle with motivation and/or boredom, or you feel like you have hit a plateau there is another training method. The Periodization method!
What is periodization? It is a very organized training plan that focuses on specific goals for a specific amount of time! In other words, think of a training camp for football players or MMA fighters, or training for marathon or bodybuilding competition. The idea is to start out slow, working on different aspects of your “game” while increasing the intensity each week and then by the end of “training camp” you should be in the best shape of your life peaking in all various aspects of your “game”. Then once the event or goal has been achieved there is a rest/recovery period, then a new “challenge” is accepted and the process starts again.
Sounds great but what if you don’t have a big event to train for? Most of us are not professional athletes and many of you may not even want to compete in a big athletic event and there is nothing wrong with that. Of course if you are competing in a big run/triathlon/bodybuilding/fight and you want to do as well as possible – you should be really be using a well thought-out periodization training plan! But for those of you with no wish to compete you can still benefit from periodization method by doing what we are calling the, Work Hard – Play Hard Plan!
Work Hard – Play Hard periodization plan (The real 80/20): Is 8-weeks “on” with 2-weeks “off” (or something similar). If you are a math wiz this fits perfectly in the 80/20 principle. In very simple terms, you go hard for 8-weeks and go light for 2-weeks. But before I go on any further, I must first talk about rest–without proper rest you will never reach your potential. When we workout we break our body down, we then rest and the body repairs and rebuilds slightly stronger. If you never get proper rest your body never gets the chance to properly repair, you will miss a lot of the benefits of your hard work, not to mention that if you are always sore and tired your risk of injury goes up very quickly. But rest is the most complicated and most difficult aspect of training, some people rest way too much and some people don’t rest enough. “Over-resters” take too many days off and make very little if any progress. “Over-trainers” workout non-stop because of a traumatizing fear that a missed workout will set them really far back, and as a result, tend to suffer from overuse injuries and even illness.
We have all heard the fitness motivation of “No days off” and “I’ll sleep when I am dead” but the reality is that even the pros have rest/recovery periods. Your body is like a race car, it can go very fast and perform very well but without the proper care and maintenance the wheels will eventually fall off. The Work Hard – Play Hard plan is perfect because it gives the “over-resters” a set amount of time to push themselves and the “over-trainers” a set amount of time to rest and lower their intensity (guilt free).
Below is a graph that shows how the Work Hard – Play Hard plan works: You start slow, increase your intensity for a given amount of time (8 -weeks) and then lower the intensity for a shorter amount of time (2-weeks) and then begin to increase the intensity again.
How it works:
- Set a goal – 40 in 40 challenge, personal training for 2-months, CINCO, 10 dead hang pull-ups, lose 30-inches off your body in 10-weeks, lose 5-percentage points of bodyfat, etc
- Set a time – Most training camps last anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks
- Train hard – Start light and increase the intensity and volume as the weeks go on.
- Reward yourself – This is the most important part of the training plan! Seriously, what good is all this training if you can’t enjoy yourself. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Plan a vacation or a 4-day weekend to Vegas right after the end of “training camp” and relax guilt free. Have a spa day and treat yourself to the best package they have. Have a TV marathon over the weekend and watch all episodes of Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones (guilt free). The idea here is to do something fun, something extravagant and reward yourself for completing training camp. But here is the catch – training camp must be completed. During the 8 weeks of training there are “no-excuses”, there are no “days off”, and there are no “cheat days”, you have to train like you will be on national television in a swimsuit in 8-weeks! 🙂
- Rest – During the 2-weeks “off” is when you reward yourself and also recover. Now this does not mean don’t do anything for 2-weeks, a good rest period should be 3-4 days completely off and then workout at a lower intensity with lower volume. Stay active during this time just scale back the intensity and volume.
- Repeat and become a badass!
Always remember life is not about instant gratification! Anything that is precious or anything that is priceless requires commitment, it requires ambition, and it always has to be earned, it can never be given, remember, nothing worth having comes easy.
So I challenge you to come up with a game plan, I challenge you to break the cycle of excuses and I challenge you to actually finish what you said you were going to do while being three sheets to the wind on New Years EVE! I challenge you to train smart, to divide the year up into multiple training camps, to reward yourself upon completion of each and every grueling training camp. Summer 2014 is about 6-months away! Now is your time to shine! This year ask yourself WHY not?