This article is a follow-up of sorts to My Battle with Disordered Eating.
Believe it or not, the approach I took my workouts was a huge contributor to my recovery from the disordered eating habits. I forced myself to approach my workouts in a different way and it helped me overcome my poor relationship with food and negative body image.
Something I didn’t mention in the Disordered Eating article was that at the peak of my disordered eating habits strength training became a chore and form of self punishment. I once loved lifting weights, but at that point, it was something I “had to do”.
Whenever I was in the gym my only concern was burning as many calories as possible. I would do endless circuits of squats, chin-ups, push-ups, Romanian deadlifts, and other exercise combinations. The workouts were nothing less than brutal. My lungs would burn, my muscles and nervous system would get extremely fatigued, but I would keep pushing harder and harder. I loathed every moment of it and finished each workout utterly exhausted.
Once I began recovering from my disordered eating habits, I decided it was time to simplify everything – nutrition and training. The entire time I battled the disordered eating, my workouts were fueled by negative motivation – I didn’t like how I looked and all I wanted to do was burn as much fat as possible and improve my physique.
Time for a Focus Change
I was desperately in need of a mindset change. My workouts could no longer be driven by negative motivation.
I committed to going back to the basics of barbell, dumbbell, and bodyweight training. I focused solely on improving my performance and getting stronger. Nothing else mattered – no more focusing on burning calories or working myself into a puddle of sweat – all I cared about was getting stronger and do a little better each time.
Admittedly it was tough as first. My workouts were much shorter in duration (no more than 45 minutes) and I finished my workouts feeling fresh and energized, and not completely exhausted like I usually was. It was during this time that I also completely cut out all of my traditional cardio work on elliptical machines, bikes, and treadmills.
My only training consisted of weight lifting three to four days per week and walking my dog. I was tempted to do more each training session, but I managed to stick with the plan and focus on nothing but improving my performance in a few basic exercises.
I started to enjoy my workouts again. I actually looked forward to going to the gym. I was finally driven by positive motivation – to beat my previous performance; whether that meant adding more weight to the bar or squeezing out an additional rep. My love of lifting weights was returning full force and was no longer a dreaded chore.
I completely changed my strength training perspective; lifting weights was a positive activity and I was always motivated to train hard. Changing my view and approach to lifting weights was a big contributing factor to my disordered eating recovery, and led to positive changes in my body composition as well.
You can check out a great sample workout similar to what I did that’s all about Minimum Training for Maximum Results.
Even though I wanted to lose the excess fat I’d accumulated, fat loss was never the goal. The goal was getting stronger and improving my performance, but that focus did lead to positive body composition changes. I lost fat, sculpted some extra muscle, and started to look better.
Fat loss was just a side-effect from training for performance. It was a win-win.
Keeping it Simple
Nowadays I’m a stickler for keeping everything as simple as possible. Actually, as Sane and Simple as possible without sacrificing results.
If you want the best results in the least amount of time, you have to focus on the big, basic exercises. Here’s a list of primary exercises I use with my clients and in my own training:
The Basic Beautiful Badass Exercises
- Squat (back squat, front squat, goblet squat)
- Deadlift (rack pulls, trap bar, sumo, RDL, single leg deadlifts)
- Single leg exercises (reverse lunge, rear foot elevated split squats, pistols)
- Push-ups & parallel bar dips
- Inverted rows & chin-ups with various grips
- Horizontal and vertical presses (with dumbbells and barbells)
- Various rows (chest supported, cable, dumbbell)
- Hip thrusts (glute bridges, back extensions, single leg back extensions)
The exercises used in a program depend on the equipment you have, your injury history, and your goals. For instance, the Beautiful Badass programs revolve around barbell, dumbbell, and bodyweight exercises. The Beautiful Badass Bodyweight Workout Guide is all about bodyweight training and is the perfect solution for those with minimum time to workout.
In the end — your workouts should consist primarily of those exercises and their variations.
Don’t Chase Fatigue
The popular mentality in the fitness world is “train ’till you drop”. If you don’t finish each workout totally exhausted and lying in a pool of sweat, you didn’t work hard enough. Or so many people believe. Heck, I used to do it, too.
But here’s the reality — finishing each workout exhausted is not an indicator of a successful workout.
Sure, you may be worn out, but did the workout lead you closer to your goals? How do you even measure fatigue? Does that mean if you almost passed out last time you have to puke this time?
The only thing that really matters is doing a little better than the time before. That is how you know you had a successful workout.
Nowadays my clients and I finish our workouts feeling great. We have more energy. Some people scoff and think we slacked, but, and here’s the important thing — our motivation to come back and train hard again is elevated.
You’ve gotta work hard; there’s no question about that. But don’t push so hard that you can’t recover quickly and come back and do it all again.
Work hard. Recover hard. Have fun. And repeat.
If you’re addicted to achieving maximum fatigue with your workouts, do your mind and body a favor and switch your focus to improving your performance.
What YOU Should Do Now
Have a positive reason for going to the gym. Get in there and get strong, and then after that get even stronger. Make the goal of improving your performance the only focus of your training sessions. Yes, it may be intimidating to “only” spend about 40 minutes in the gym three to four days per week, but that’s all it takes as long as you work hard.
Forget about the number on the weight scale, burning calories, or working yourself into a puddle of sweat. Pick up some heavy weight via loaded barbells and dumbbells. Work your way to a 1.5 times your bodyweight deadlift. Work your way up to dominating your bodyweight and bust out sets of parallel bar dips, chin-ups, inverted rows, and push-ups.
If you’re used to marathon workouts or being fueled by negative motivation to train, it could take a lot of work at first to focus only on your performance and finishing a training session feeling energized. Stick with it for at least eight weeks; your workout will be more rewarding and motivating.
And finally, don’t forget to check out Beautiful Badass Nutrition Principles.
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