Training intelligently, listening to your body and having workout flexibility
by Dan Eiden
One of the best lessons I have learned over the years with not just my clients training programs but also my own training programs is the ability to listen to the body, have workout flexibility and vary workouts accordingly. What exactly do I mean by this? Say you have your set training program that you are doing when you go into the gym. It is important to stay consistent with a certain training program and work to progress in it to reach the goals you have in that program.
The problem is there isn’t a straight linear path to success in any fitness or sports performance training program. You aren’t going to get stronger and be able to increase the weight, sets, reps, etc. every single workout. In theory that works great but the reality is there are always going to be blips in the radar so to speak with days and workouts where you are not at your best.
You may feel not as strong as you normally do, you may lack energy and have less focus, you might not have had enough sleep the night before, your nutrition might be inadequate that day, you may have had a very stressful day or been under a lot of stress lately. All of these things can impact your workouts and training program. This is when knowing how to listen to your body and adjust your workouts accordingly comes into play. This is called having workout flexibility.
So what types of adjustments and changes to a workout program can you do to fit how you are feeling that day and to allow for workout flexibility? You may need to adjust the total volume (total amount of reps in a workout or training program) you are doing in a workout that day. You may need to cut the amount of sets you are doing for a particular exercise, especially if your reps are dropping significantly from what you normally do at a given weight. You may need to cut an exercise out of your workout that day. You may need to allow for more recovery time in between sets or exercises. You may need to change an exercise or two. Pushing yourself and powering yourself through a program without listening to your body and making adjustments when your performance is so submaximal compared to what you normally do doesn’t do you much good and can actually be counterproductive and possibly put you at risk of an injury.
Now I must mention that there is a difference between listening to your body and training intelligently and mentally just being lazy and quitting on a workout. If you are skipping out on a workout, an exercise or sets and reps in a workout because you just don’t feel like doing it (as can be the case in tough leg workouts) that is being lazy and is different than listening to your body. There is a distinct difference. If you learn how to listen to your body, are flexible and not rigid in your training programs and adjust your workouts when necessary you will have a lot more success long term.