Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

March 2024

The Most Common Mistakes That People Make When Training On Their Own

We have had many long-term success stories here at Total Results. Off the top of my head, I can think of at least three current clients who have been with us for over 20 years. I believe that is a testament to the dedication and determination of these clients to incorporate our exercise philosophy into their lifestyle for such a long period of time. We would love to have all of our clients stay with us for that long, but we understand that life happens and sometimes priorities and situations can change. There can be many reasons why clients leave us: they move, their financial situation takes a turn, or they simply get bored and want to try something else. I have had several clients over the years decide that they would like to take what they have learned at Total Results and attempt to apply it in a different exercise setting (either in a traditional gym environment or at home). Sometimes these clients return to us and sometimes they do not. Through talking with the clients who have left and then later returned, I have compiled a list of the most common mistakes that people make when working out on their own. Some of these might surprise you, while others may not.

They do not exercise with a high enough level of intensity. I discuss the concept of intensity during an initial consultation with a prospective client. Intensity can be defined as muscular inroad/time. Since the body is fairly resistant to change, you must provide a strong stimulus to induce positive physical improvements. Working out intensely is uncomfortable, and most people simply will not put forth the requisite effort without someone to teach them, monitor them, or hold them accountable. Left to their own devices, most people are satisfied with "just good enough." Don't be okay with just being okay! Pushing (or pulling) to muscular failure and then performing a thorough inroad is the best way to ensure you have given the optimal level of effort.

Trainees use too fast a movement speed during exercises. If you have ever walked into a gym, you have likely seen what amounts to throwing and catching of the weights. Even standard Nautilus protocol ( two seconds lifting and four seconds lowering) would be a vast improvement over typical gym behavior. Most people will move much faster than they should, even if they have been a Total Results client in the past. It is very difficult to self-monitor speed of movement, pace, and turnaround technique on your own, especially if you are trying to have a meaningful workout in a place fraught with numerous distractions.

Not moving quickly enough between exercises. Most people will sit around for several minutes between exercises, look in the mirror, chat, play on their phone, or stall in a multitude of ways. Even those with good intentions can be thwarted by having to wait several minutes for a machine to become available. This will diminish not only your systemic inroad, but also impede a quality metabolic and cardiovascular experience.

All that is available is poorly engineered equipment. I have talked about this at length in the past, but most equipment found in commercial and home gyms is utter garbage. It is poorly designed and inherently dangerous, especially if it contains independent movement arms. Strength training equipment should be designed to conform to the exercise protocol, and most commercial equipment has poorly engineered cams (or none at all), which translate into a less than ideal stimulus. Barbells and dumbbells are difficult to control and use safely. MedX and Super Slow Systems equipment (which we have at Total Results) help you to achieve a safe and effective stimulus.

Most people overtrain. This ties in nicely with my first point about intensity of effort. Since most people are simply not willing to put in the degree of effort on their own that is necessary to maximize results, they try to compensate with a greater volume of activity. They would much rather perform a greater number of exercises more frequently to feel good about themselves and avoid the temporary discomfort that is associated with intelligent exercise. The false reasoning is, "If some is good, more is better." I would also suggest that a mistake people make is to try and incorporate too much additional activity into their lifestyles. We must understand that our bodies' recovery ability is much more fragile than people realize, and if you try to do too much you can, at best, short-circuit your progress, and at worst, encounter injury and illness. Don't fall into the bodybuilder or exercise enthusiast mentality. Nothing beats high-intensity strength training in a clinically-controlled environment on specially engineered equipment.

Not listening to your body. I just finished discussing overtraining, and overtraining is a likely recipe for an overuse or acute injury. The human body is a wonderfully intuitive and logical organism, and nothing happens without a reason. If you feel sharp and/or sudden pain, there is a good chance you are experiencing an injury. However, it is important to differentiate that from the dull ache that is representative of normal exertional discomfort. If a sharp pain continues for a few days, a layoff from training is likely in order, so do not try to be a hero. At Total Results we make modifications when necessary to work around joint problems or injuries.

Not accurately tracking progress or machine settings. For people who train without an instructor, I have found that progression is mostly guesswork or done "by feel." What is the point of putting in meaningful effort if you have no idea what you have accomplished? Early in my career, I worked for a man who kept no charts on his clients and made things up as he went along. He claimed that it was all in his head, but that was a joke. Knowledge of results is the only way that one can progress and improve, as it provides reinforcement. On top of that, if you don't write down your machine settings you could set yourself up for injury and waste valuable time.

Total Results takes the guesswork out of exercise. I believe that exercise instruction is as much an art as it is a science, and in order to make your exercise experience meaningful you need to be a learner, focus on giving your best effort, and allow your instructor to handle everything else. Don't fall into the traps that have derailed the casual exercise enthusiast. Get it right the first time with Total Results.

Posted March 21, 2024 by Matthew Romans

Be Present

Life is full of distractions. We are constantly bombarded with emails that need to be read, flooded with social media posts and advertisements, and have family and professional responsibilities that must be met. With all of these different stimuli floating about, it is enough to make your head spin. This makes time management and defining your values incredibly important, especially if you have exercise goals that you want to achieve. Most people want to achieve great things, but are they truly willing to do what is necessary to accomplish these goals? Striving for and attaining excellence means that we must sacrifice some comfort. Sure, a warm bed on a cold February morning feels comfortable, but is that extra half hour of sleep worth canceling your workout? Sometimes you need to step outside of yourself and see the big picture. Time is the commodity that seems to always be in short supply, and in order to maximize not just our workouts but all the wonderful things that life brings us, we need to be present.

What does that mean? I can't remember the famous quote verbatim, but it is often said that a large part of success in life is about just showing up. I believe that to be true, but I also think it goes beyond that. If you simply show up and don't give great effort, or if you show up but your mind is elsewhere, are you really striving for excellence? Sometimes people are physically present, but they simply go through the motions. If that is the case, you are really cheating yourself. I am amazed at how many people float through life without a sense of urgency. Complacency is the enemy of excellence! Nobody ever said a Total Results workout was either easy or comfortable, because it is not. Sure, there are other places that you might want to be other than a chilly exercise studio, and you might even have some fun activities planned for after your workout. Part of being an adult means delaying gratification. You have control over the choices that you make, and what matters is right now. Nothing can be done to change the past and while the future is important, if you do not take care of business right now the future will hold far less significance. All that will eventually happen is directly affected by what you do at this moment.

What are some strategies you can implement in order to be present in mind, body and spirit?

  • Arrive a few minutes early for your workout. It is very difficult to be present and focused on the task at hand if you are running late. Leave early for your workout. Think about what you are about to undertake, and try to shut the rest of the world out for the next half hour. Visualize success. This can be done in your car or even in our lobby.

  • Silence your phone. A ringing phone is the perfect instrument to break your concentration and lose positive momentum during a workout. It is also a distraction for your instructor. Please silence your phone before entering the workout area. The only audible sounds should be the breathing of the client and the cues of the instructor.

  • Focus on the main exercise objective. Contrary to what most exercise enthusiasts believe, exercise is not about lifting as much weight as possible for as many repetitions as you can complete. It is about inroad - fatiguing the musculature deeply enough to bring about a stimulus. Proper form is the key to every exercise.

  • Embrace discomfort. Yes, high-intensity exercise is challenging and does involve both localized and systemic discomfort. Remember, positive change is never comfortable! The fear of the discomfort is far worse than what it really is. As uncomfortable as workouts are, they are also brief and infrequent. Do not lose sight of the significance that the discomfort is a sign that you are achieving something meaningful.

Shut out the rest of the world for 15-20 minutes once or twice per week so that you can focus on yourself and what is important to you. Do not worry about the next exercise, the next workout, or even the previous workout. All that matters is right now - this exercise, this repetition, this positive or negative excursion. Break time down to its smallest element; every second counts and you don't want to waste a moment. Develop this mindset and it will pay dividends not only in your workout, but in other aspects of your life. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit." Those are words to live by.

Posted March 07, 2024 by Matthew Romans