The following is Matt Davenport’s first guest post on the WARRIORS blog. In this article, Matt discusses 3 strategies that can be applied to personal improvement, both in and out of the weight room. Enjoy! –Schuyler
By: Matt Davenport
Most people are continually looking for ways to improve themselves. While there is great diversity in what they want to improve upon, the overall concept is the same—everyone is striving to become a better person tomorrow than they were today. The ideas of self-betterment may range from the desire to become more wealthy to improving health and fitness, but the process of achieving these goals is the same: ask good questions, be consistent, and make your goals achievable. Because I work as a personal trainer, I’m going to apply these 3 basic “rules” to training smarter, safer, and more efficiently.
1. Ask good questions. As a trainer, I get asked a lot of different questions, ranging from using a deadlift vs. a rack pull to examples of ankle mobility drills. Regardless of the question, I always answer the same as Sam Zangooi and Stu McGill, “It depends.” I don’t answer like this to mimic two awesome people or to brush the question aside but because the question wasn’t clear. For example, the cliché inquiry, “How do I lose weight?” is a very poor question. Since there are many factors that affect body mass, what did the person actually want to know? Is she/he concerned with body fat or is she/he a competitive boxer who needs to “make weight” for an upcoming fight? The trainer only has the words he has been told to generate an answer with. Thus, when asking a question, inform the person answering with as much detail as possible. Let the trainer know about that sore knee, how much time you have available to exercise, and how you drive to school every day when you could be walking. An example of a good question would be, “I’m 22 years old and weigh X amount of pounds. I have 4 hours per week to exercise, and I would like to lose body fat to look good for summer. Can you give me some training and nutritional advice so I can reach my goal?” From this, a trainer can estimate how many calories this person should be eating, what type of workouts she/he should be doing, and what her/his true goal is. Asking good questions results in better quality answers and less chance for bad advice due to lack of knowledge of the circumstances. Remember, there are many smart people in the world who can help you to become a better person, but these people can’t help you if you ask them a vague question. A simple question will usually warrant a simple response.
2. Be consistent. As the saying goes, “There are many paths that lead to the same destination.” I’m always asked about different training and diet programs and my opinion on them. Should I do P90x to lose weight? Should I do conditioning during my strength phase? Should I eat strictly Twinkies to lose weight, since it worked for that one guy? These questions are very hard to answer. Well, not the Twinkie one, but almost any type of training will yield some benefits for the first 6 weeks of training. There is no “one size fits all” in the training world. What works for one person may not work for another. So how do you know what you need to do to reach your goals? Start off slow and be consistent. Going for a 30 kilometer run and burning five thousand calories one day, then being out of commission for 3 weeks because you hurt your knees isn’t going to be very helpful in the long run (no pun intended). Sure, you burned 5000 calories, but you also lost the chance to exercise for the next 21 days. Give your body time to adapt to new training routines and diets. The main reason New Year’s weight loss resolutions never work is because people go way too hard at the beginning, don’t see immediate results, and end up burning out in two weeks. Listen to your body, and don’t beat yourself up. Eat that piece of cake if it allows you to maintain a caloric deficit for another week, skip your workout when you are sore and go tomorrow if it allows you to heal up and keep training. Success isn’t built over night. Long term, small, positive changes which can be maintained are the key.
3. Make goals attainable and attack plans that are maintainable. Some of the best advice Ben Pickard ever gave me was to make every method maintainable. What does this mean? Take the “eat 3 jelly beans and do 5 hours of cardio” to lose weight program, for example. Yes, weight loss will occur, but this plan isn’t maintainable, and clearly should not be used. The more maintainable route is the one I suggested earlier, start slowly. Let’s take drinking water as an example. You’re only drinking 2 cups of water a day, and you should be closer to 8 cups. Rate your confidence on a scale of 10, with 1 being not a chance, and 10 being I can 100 % drink 8 cups of water per day. You choose a confidence rating of 4, which means that you more than likely aren’t going to drink 8 cups per day. Instead of choosing 8, you choose 5 cups a day, which you rate as an 8 on the confidence scale, meaning you’re much more likely to actually do this. This is now your starting point. As times progresses, more cups of water can be added, but in the meantime, you’re still going to become more hydrated today than you were yesterday. The take-home message? If you aren’t 80-90 % sure you can accomplish something immediately, start off smaller and work your way towards the goal. “Ain’t nobody got time for quitters.”
What will you apply these 3 tips to? Do you have any other tips on becoming a “better you?” Comment below and remember to “like” us on facebook!
Matt was formerly very involved in sports and training through out high school, which gradually developed into an interest in Kinesiology. He works as a personal trainer and volunteer strength coach at UW and spends a very large amount of time at the gym. If you see him at the gym feel free to say hi or talk about anything to do with fitness!