September 17, 2020
The Pitfalls of Fast-Tracking Your Fitness Journey
WRITTEN BY Amanda O'Brien

For most people, setting a new goal is exciting. It’s motivating and gets them to take action toward something they want. Often it’s the impetus for people to begin their fitness journey; they want to lose a certain amount of weight, qualify for a marathon, compete in a CrossFit competition, etc. These are all worthy initiatives! However, the problem starts when trainers or group classes fast-track workouts to make their clients happy. When the process is rushed, the coach misses the opportunity to help the client develop a deep understanding of what needs to be done—and how to set realistic expectations. In the best-case scenario, shortcuts lead to disappointment; in the worst-case scenario, they lead to injury.

This is why Central Athlete focuses on building a broad foundation for each client that is individualized for their specific goals and based on quantitative data. There is no guesswork! If someone wants to compete in CrossFit but can’t do a muscle-up, or doesn’t have the recovery protocols in place to train upwards of 8x per week, it’s doing them a disservice to jump right into an intense training regimen. Similarly, if someone wants to compete in Olympic weightlifting, but can’t perform a full bodyweight squat without pain, they don’t have the ability to fully express their strength in a meet setting. In the examples above, slow and steady truly does “win the race.”

So how can coaches set their clients up for success, no matter the goal?

Build Sustainable Habits

It’s common for people to put all of their energy into reaching a goal when the motivation is high in the beginning, but too often this leads to burnout and then failure. For beginners, it’s essential to start slowly and build sustainable habits over time. The goal is to improve 1% every day. It seems small on a daily basis but in the long run the change is astronomical. At the end of a year, the person who focused on small changes is in a significantly different place than the person who tried to change everything at once, seven different times in the last twelve months!

For intermediate and advanced athletes, the protocols may look very different but the process is still the same: improve 1% every day! A nutritional protocol for a beginner may include adding protein at each meal, whereas an advanced athlete would adhere to a macronutrient diet with a strong nutritional foundation. The same ideas apply to fitness! Different individuals need different prescriptions; the idea is small, sustainable changes over time. The plan that works is the plan that the client can adhere to for YEARS, not weeks.

Coaches need to guide clients in how they can achieve long-term success. Generally, it requires slowing down and creating a plan of attack for how they can both reach their goals and sustain them, one step at a time. Central Athlete’s initial assessment and consultative processes ensure that each client is building sustainable habits that meet them where they are and move them forward based on their own personal goals and needs.

Avoid Overuse Injuries

An initial assessment is an integral part of building a sustainable training plan. This is how the coach gains a deep understanding of where the client is starting and what needs to happen in order to reach their goals safely and efficiently. Without a proper assessment, everything becomes guesswork, and overuse injuries and nagging pain become common. An individual who can complete a weighted pull-up with 25% body weight and 15 strict dips will have a drastically different training plan than someone who can do three strict pull-ups and zero dips accompanied with shoulder pain.

Moving too quickly through the strength continuum will lead to injury so it's essential to know what needs to be developed in order to prevent a setback. A common example is bypassing strict pull-ups in favor of kipping pull-ups. Injury can occur here because the connective tissue of the shoulder has not been adequately developed to support explosive pulling movements. Connective tissues such as ligaments, tendons, and cartilage take the longest to recover and strengthen. Whereas muscle takes days to recover and strengthen, connective tissue can take up to weeks or months to increase stiffness. Another example where common injuries occur is when individuals move too quickly into Olympic lifting, a strength/speed movement, before adequate absolute strength has been developed. Both examples increase the potential for injury and hence can result in stalled progress.

Set Realistic Expectations

To avoid disappointment, it is essential for a coach to know where the client is starting and what it will take to reach a specific goal. This information is necessary to create a realistic timeline for the client. For some individuals, a specific goal (like mastering a muscle-up) can take years to accomplish and for others, it may take only a few weeks or months.

Coaches need to be honest with their clients and set milestones for accomplishments along the way. Want a muscle-up but have no strict pull-ups? The first milestone is to complete a sixty-second chin over bar hold followed by 6 strict supinated pull-ups and 6 strict dips followed by false grip hangs and so on and so forth. This is crucial so the individual can feel, physically, that he or she is moving toward their goals and improving their strength. If the goal takes years, setting goals along the way will avoid disappointment and facilitate a process-driven approach.

Support Long-Term Success

In addition to managing expectations and building a personalized plan based on the client’s assessment, one of the best ways to build a strong foundation to help a client reach their goals is to ensure they have good Basic Lifestyle Guidelines in place. It’s been mentioned in past blogs that BLGs allow clients to get the most out of their day and thus, their training. While it’s possible to qualify for a competition or run a marathon with shaky BLGs such as poor sleep and hydration, one will perform (and recover!) better with these habits in place. Through the consultative process, Central Athlete coaches work with their clients to identify the habits with room for improvement that will make the biggest impact with the least psychological resistance. As discussed at the beginning of this post, even a 1% change every day has huge implications at the end of the year!

The broader the foundation an individual develops, the more breadth of fitness they will be able to accomplish. Rushing results is a quick fix that will lead to disappointment. The disappointment may not come tomorrow or next month or even next year, but over time such shortcuts will catch up. If someone truly wants to understand their maximum physical potential, they have to play the long game and improve their weaknesses in order to come out on top. Just like there are no shortcuts in diets, there are no shortcuts in fitness.

If you are tired of playing the “get fixed quick” games and find yourself falling for the sexy diet plans and new fitness fads without gaining results that last, it may be time to try something different. If you’re ready to commit to a process that supports YOU and ensures you move objectively toward your goals without all the guesswork, click the link below to talk with a Central Athlete coach. We have been specializing in individualized fitness without the fluff since 2015. If you're ready for a change, let's talk! We look forward to hearing from you.

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