I've been hitting the gym three times a week every week for the last 6 months for resistance training (check out my routine here), with a bit of cardiovascular exercise thrown in on top of that probably twice a week. I'm delighted with my discipline and I can honestly say my exercise routine has become a habit now which was a goal I had set for myself. This might sound like I'm patting myself on the back here but that’s not the case at all because overall I'm a little disappointed with my progress. The blame for my slow progress, I believe, can be laid at the door of my ‘comfort zone’ (and the fact that I'm not getting out of it!).
I was reasonably pleased with progress and gains over the first few months of my resistance training programme and I still feel really healthy and happy with my exercise habit and current level of fitness. However, in recent months I feel like I've got into a bit of a rut and haven’t been making significant gains. Initially I thought the issue was that I hadn't changed my weights workout enough since I started (only a few minor tweaks every 8 weeks or so). I've read that you should always include squats, bench press and deadlifts in a resistance training programme plus I kept a lot of the compound exercises in my routine so I could work more than one muscle group at a time. The result of course has been a fairly similar workout routine for the last 6 months.
While I'm quite sure I need to change my routine more than I have, I don’t think that’s the main reason I haven’t been making the progress I would have expected. I think the reason I'm not making big improvements is because I'm not challenging myself enough during my solo workouts. I'm not getting out of my comfort zone. My will power has been really strong in getting me to the gym three times a week before work for the last few months however it’s been found wanting in pushing myself that little bit harder while working out on my own. The same can be said when I go for a run. I know myself how beneficial High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is compared to standard running/jogging, I even mentioned it as one of my favourite outdoor activities! Do you think I go high intensity when I'm out for a solo run??? It’s usually easier to just go for a normal run – that damn comfort zone again!
In the gym I have been increasing the weights that I've been lifting over the weeks and months however very slightly and not with any great frequency or to a specific target. If I'm being honest I already knew I should have been pushing myself to increase more however I never really admitted it until a friend of mine started working out (in a separate gym) and from a similar starting position to myself has made huge gains in only 6 weeks and is already lifting weights a lot heavier than I currently do (he has one session a week with a personal trainer and two small group classes with the same trainer).
I've come to the conclusion that I need a workout mentor. Be it a personal trainer, a workout buddy or an instructor in a class, I need someone challenging me while I work out. I know there are people that can push themselves really hard during a solo workout and that’s a great strength to have, I just don’t think I'm one of them!
I can see so many benefits to having a mentor or workout buddy in the gym:
- It’s easier to get out of bed to make a gym appointment if you are meeting someone there
- You can get advice and instruction on proper form for each exercise
- It’s more of a challenge working out with someone else watching you. It’s human nature that you don’t want to appear weak so you’ll probably push yourself harder
- You can lift heavier weights and take more risks as you have someone to spot (and encourage) you
- You can share knowledge. Different people have different areas of expertise
- It’s more enjoyable, social and fun when you’re exercising with someone else
- You can discuss lessons learned, mistakes and areas for improvement with someone that knows your routine and your goals
- You are accountable to someone
- If you have a personal trainer, you can seek advice on your exercises and nutrition and have the confidence to ask any other questions you may have without being embarrassed in front of others
I've seen how having a mentor can be a huge benefit in the business world and I think it’s the same for exercise. No matter how many qualifications you have in health related fields there is always room to learn something new.
Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Can you relate? Have you been in this situation before? What did you do to move to the next level?
My new goal is to find a mentor or workout buddy and see what improvements I can make when I really challenge myself. I will keep you updated as to my progress!