Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

Common Obstacles to Sustained Exercise Progress, by Matthew Romans

If you ask your friends, family, and coworkers whether they want to be stronger, fitter, and more resistant to injury and chronic disease, they will undoubtedly say yes. The question is whether they are willing to take the actions necessary to achieve these goals. Some are, but many are not. I have written before about the so-called "six week syndrome" that is prevalent in the mainstream fitness industry after the start of each calendar year. Total Results has been very successful at maintaining a loyal and long-term client base; we have many clients that have been with us for over a decade, several that have been with us for over fifteen years, and our longest tenured client has been with us for nearly eighteen years. However, not everyone who comes through our door sustains their initial level of success over the long term. I would like to discuss the most common obstacles to long term participation and sustained progress.

Attitude. There are a lot of things in life that are outside of your control, but your attitude is not one of them. In the book "Man's Search for Meaning", Viktor Frankl (a survivor of four Nazi concentration camps) says that, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." Having the right attitude about exercise means having the mindset of a learner, since the Total Results protocol is something that is new and unfamiliar to most people. This needs to be something that is important to you, so that you will give your best effort in each workout and be accountable to yourself and to your instructor. It also means that you want to set high but reasonable goals, as unreasonable expectations can set you up for disappointment. Attitude is everything.

Excessive physical activity. There is a reason why our clients perform no more than two sessions per week. It is because the body has finite recovery resources, and exercise has a narrow therapeutic window. This means that there is a fine line between getting enough exercise (to stimulate physical improvements) and overtraining. Just like with medication, there is a dose-response relationship in exercise; not enough exercise provides minimal stimulus, and too much exercise can have a toxic effect. We want the minimum dosage of exercise necessary to stimulate improvements without causing harm along the way. If you are performing excessive amounts of physical activity between Total Results workouts, you are setting yourself up for a compromised immune system, a slowdown or reversal of progress, or an overuse injury. We keep detailed records on each client's workout spreadsheet, and if we see that progress is stagnating or going backward, we often will reduce a client's training frequency to one session per week. While there are many benefits to some forms of physical activity (such as getting up and moving, getting outside to get adequate Vitamin D, recreational activities, etc.), no other activity comes close to providing the physical benefits that Total Results does.

Inadequate sleep. According to Matthew Walker, PhD., author of the book "Why We Sleep", most people require between seven and nine hours of sleep per night for optimal function. Common sleep mistakes include not setting consistent sleep and wake up times, excessive exposure to artificial light, eating too late, and sleeping in too warm a room temperature. As far as exercise is concerned, adequate sleep is required to allow the body to repair the muscle tissue that has been broken down during the workout. You cannot perform at your best if you are in a sleep debt, and this leaves you more susceptible to low level infections (colds, flu).

Poor Nutrition. You need to eat primarily whole, single-ingredient foods, eat plenty of protein and saturated fat, and drink plenty of water (stay away from sugary drinks and moderate alcohol consumption). If you are eating too many sugars and processed foods, or if you never take a small break from eating (ex. Intermittent fasting) you will have more glycogen (stored form of carbohydrate) to burn off and a harder time maintaining insulin sensitivity. This can lead to obesity and Diabetes.

Inconsistent schedule. We realize that there are a lot of different things competing for your time (work, travel, family, etc.), but regular workouts need to be a priority as well. If you want to maximize your exercise progress, then this needs to become a part of your routine. We generally recommend that new clients start exercising twice per week. Part of the reason for this is that we want to maximize skill as far as form and speed of movement are concerned, so that we can achieve a maximum exercise stimulus. The other reason is that we want to create good habits; research shows that it takes 66 days to create a habit. In order to maintain that habit and achieve maximum benefit, your workouts should occur at least once per week. We are happy to reschedule your workouts when things come up, but if it happens consistently it may be time to reexamine your schedule and find a better solution.

Inadequate intensity. The body is fairly resistant to change, and requires a very good reason to make physical improvements. Pushing to and beyond momentary muscular failure on each exercise is critically important. This is the stimulus point that sets the table for the body to start making physical changes, such as building muscle and bone, strengthening connective tissue, improving cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning, and maintaining insulin sensitivity. All of these changes require tremendous effort from the body, but they will only be achieved if there is a significant stimulus and adequate rest, nutrition, and hydration. There are only two accurate measurements of muscular effort: zero and 100 percent. While we still do not know what the ideal percentage of muscular effort is to stimulate muscular growth, we do know that zero effort will not accomplish anything of value. Pushing to and beyond momentary muscular failure ensures that we have used up all of the muscles' momentary effort for that particular exercise. That is the stimulus that is required. While going to muscular failure is demanding and uncomfortable, the workouts are brief and infrequent. You are capable of extraordinary things if you have the right mindset.

At Total Results, our goal is to help you to achieve maximum sustainable physical improvements, safely and efficiently, for the long term. Our exercise protocol is the one that is most consistent with the classic sciences, and we continue to improve our knowledge to give you the best exercise experience possible. We want you to realize that you are capable of achieving extraordinary things with the right dedication and mindset. If you can avoid the common obstacles to success, sustained progress is within your reach! Let us help you get there.

Posted February 13, 2020 by Tim Rankin