4 Lessons From My Biggest Fitness Failures

Yes, it’s the New Year and everything is about goal setting and doing something new, but I’m going to switch it up today.

Instead of selling you on program to help you achieve some desired look or fitness goal for 2019, I’m going to share the most important failures and lessons that I’ve learned in my fitness journey. The failures most coaches don’t want to talk about because hey, failures don’t sell!

Thankfully, I’m not here to sell you on a diet or 12-week program, I’m here to educate you and inspire you to do better.

Here are my top four fitness lessons to learn from:

Lesson #1: Switching Things Up is Fu*king You Up

Switching up your routine every few days or weeks may get you sore and sweaty, but it rarely gets results. What does get results – the kind you can see and feel in your body – is doing a lot of the same exercises for months and years at a time.

In order to put on muscle or start seeing definition, for example, you’re possibly looking at hypertrophy training or a body-part split style that runs in cycles of 8 to 16 weeks at a time.

Boo, that’s just the start. A mere stepping stone into a lifelong transformation process.

Switching things up every few days, weeks, or months is detrimental to your success simply because you’re not sticking around long enough to actually get good at anything.

Switching things up every few days, weeks, or months is detrimental to your success simply because you’re not sticking around long enough to actually get good at anything

In my early fitness days, I used to jump from one fitness class to the next each day. One day it was Barre class, the next was a Sports Conditioning class, and then another day it was lifting in the free weights area. I rarely repeated the same workout and I sure as hell never tracked what I was doing or how much I was lifting. I felt great, I looked decent, and I was very “fit” according to most standards, but I never got the results I was going for.

What changed for me was getting good at one single thing: Strength Training. I stopped going to a million fitness classes, cut back on cardio, and focused on building my strength and skills in movements like the squat, clean, deadlift, snatch, push press and pull-ups.

Here’s how long it took to see results:

  • Three years to improve my barbell squats
  • 1.5 Years of powerlifting to surpass my 200 lbs deadlift goal
  • A year of Olympic weightlifting to see my legs take shape the way I wanted
  • Four years to put on 10 pounds of muscle
  • One year to get one unassisted pull-up
  • Two powerlifting cycles to place in a local meet

See a theme there?

Every small accomplishment took years to build, not weeks or months.

If your goal is general wellness and feeling good then switching it up every few days is fine. However, if you’re aiming for more specific goals (weight loss, muscle gain, new skills or performance) you have to aim for the long haul.

Lesson #2: Recovery Training Is The Training

Long before mobility became a household terminology, most of us treated recovery work as a “nice to have” rather than a “must have”. A quick jog before a workout and a few stretches after training seemed like enough recovery….until everyone started getting hurt.

Like it or not, your recovery work is still a part of the overall training process. You can’t just lift heavy and expect your body to heal itself without some intentional recovery.

How you choose to recover depends on you but I’ve tried everything out there: yoga, foam rolling for 30 minutes before bed, long walks, massages…

Pilates is my preferred method of recovery because after a shoulder injury a few years ago, the method helped me stabilize my shoulder girdle and establish more control around my hypermobile joints. I still stretch and do mobility drills before my training but I know that’s not enough. Intentional recovery is just as crucial to my success in the weight room as the workout itself.

I created Pilates FloWOD for the sole purpose of teaching Pilates as a recovery tool for lifters, because I learned through multiple injuries that recovery matters.

Lesson #3: Training Should Improve Your Life, Not Detract From It

My biggest mistake in training was thinking I had to do more workouts to succeed or get the results I wanted.

In college, a friend of mine used to run six miles every day on the treadmill, and since she looked good (in my eyes), I thought “Hey! I’ll run six miles every day!”

Let me break down how stupid this approach was:

  • I had no idea what progressive overload was and how critical that is if you want to improve as a runner and not get hurt. I literally jumped right into a six-mile run from day one. *Insert face palm emoji*
  • Once I got into a groove, I decided to run my six miles every other day because well, I didn’t want to wash and blow dry my hair every single day #truestory
  • I still did free weights on my non-run days, usually exercises I pulled out of a magazine that had nothing to do with improving as a runner
  • This routine called for six days of training with one complete recovery day, which consisted of me doing absolutely nothing.

Can you guess what happened next?

That’s right kiddos, I hurt myself!

One day, I felt something in my knee give out in the middle of the run, but I looked at the clock and thought “I’m almost at six miles! Don’t quit now!” Not only did I not stop running, but I actually sprinted the last 30 seconds!

I had to hop off the treadmill and to the locker room after that run. A few hours later, I was in the ER because I couldn’t walk, drive, or do anything that involved bending the knee.

See how idiotic my approach was? I did more without thinking about progressive overload, recovery, mobility, or anything else. The only thing that improved physically was that I got better at running six miles over the course of a few months, and then it all went away in an instant because I needed months off of running to recover.

Don’t be like me. Train smart and make sure your training is enhancing the quality of your life, not putting you on crutches.

Lesson #4: Your Body Is Supposed to Change, and Your Training Approach Must Change, Too

Remember being a flat-chested, lanky ten-year-old out on the playground?

Remember evolving into your womanly physique sometime in college or maybe after?

Or how about that time your hips took on a whole new zip code in your 30s?

Yes, my friends, our bodies are a-changing all the time! But rather than get excited about it, many women complain or dread these natural changes. We set fitness goals for a body that existed 10+ years ago and attempt the same methods we did back then even though our bodies, our lifestyle, our hormones, our everything is different today.

Failure Trap: Setting fitness goals for a body that existed 10+ years ago even though our bodies, lifestyle, & hormones TODAY are different.

Look, I get what a mind f*ck it is to have our bodies change seemingly overnight as a woman. I did not expect my body to change as much it has in the last three years, but it has! Now in my 30s, my hormones have changed, my hips are wider, breasts fuller, and I’ve developed food sensitivities that never existed before!

Rather than feel sorry for myself and lament how clothes from 10 years ago no longer fit, I focus on where my body and life is at now, and work around that. This might look differently for you, but for me this requires:

  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Getting quality sleep every day, 8 is my sweet spot
  • Sticking to organic wines when I can due to new allergies
  • Keep sugar and gluten consumption low
  • Workout moderately or intensely a maximum of four days a week
  • Spend more time doing Pilates, walking, and going out in nature to recover
  • All. The. Vitamins. 

Let’s embrace how much has changed in our lives and tailor our training to fit that instead of making your life fit around the type of training you did many years ago. Your body, health, and sanity will thank you!

What is your #1 lesson regarding fitness and training that you learned the last few years? Leave a comment below!

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