Friday, November 6, 2009

Stop obsessing about your training

I read this in an article by Doug McGuff. It reminded me of something Skyler wrote the other day.


Several non-training circumstances seem to offer the millieu in which proper training can be most productive. While non-scientific and anecdotal at best, these factors were universally present during my own periods of rapid progress as well those of my clients. Personally, I was able to make these observations because my growth seems to occur all at once on a very intermittent basis. It usually occurs in the early morning and will actually awaken me from sleep because I can feel it occurring. It can best be described as “feeling like rice crispies sound when you pour milk on them”. I’ve had as much as 3/4 inch arm growth overnight. Such results never seemed to correlate to the previous workout, but several factors over time can be noted in my journals.

1. Happiness-in general I was not elated or extremely happy. Rather, I was simply contented with life in general and had a sense of peace. There was no current issue that was troubling me or occupying my mind.

2. Lack of preoccupation with training-universally I was involved in activities that precluded me from thinking about my training or progress. I hadn’t looked at a muscle magazine in months or read any books, articles or visited any internet sites related to training.

3. Busy Professional Life-usually I was fairly busy with my professional life and absorbed in it. However, I was not overly stressed by this absorption…it was truly immersion rather than anxious rumination.

4. Laziness-it seemed I retained the skill of being able to lay around and do nothing for at least an hour each day.

5. Sleep-in general I was getting about an hour and a half of extra sleep per night during a period when I was on the same shift rotation. In addition my sleep seemed to be filled with pleasant dreams.

6. Lack of body awareness-in general I had recently spent very little time assessing my appearance in the mirror or taking measurements. My only impetus to do so was after the sensation of sudden growth had occurred.

7. Season-gains seem to occur in early Spring and late Fall. I seem to be dressed in such a way that my body awareness is less, and I also think the lack of heat stress is more conducive to growth.

8. Hydration-this is without exception the strongest correlate I have found. I originally noted this when I tried Ellington Darden’s recommendation for superhydration (drinking at least a gallon of water a day). My largest growth spurt ever took place while superhydrating and every subsequent improvement has occurred during periods when I used this technique. Recently one of my clients began superhydrating and added an entire minute to her TUL’s for every set of her workout.

In general I think the best most concise advice (other than superhydration) that can be offered to most HIT enthusiasts is the following: First, stop obsessing about training. Stop spending hours on the internet discussing and debating training. Stop having arguments with people. Stop visiting all the web sites and calling the facilities around the country on a daily basis. Second, decrease your level of body awareness. Take some time off from tape measures, skin fold calipers and scales and wear clothing that conceals your body from your concern. There is truth in the old saying “a watched pot never boils”. Finally, be content and happy with the hand that nature has given you and achieve within your capabilities.

It is an important point. Sometimes I spend so much time reading crap on the internet that I do not get enough sleep. It is totally self defeating. Training is simple - push it hard, rest and recover. There is only so much to learn....

In Body by Science Doug talks about Training angst:


Doug McGuff, MD said...


Thanks for posting these quotes. Of all the things I have written about, I think this is most important and a "rate limiting" factor. You can tweak your workout all you want, but unless you have the proper recovery (especially the mindset discussed above) it will all be wasted. Paralysis by analysis is real.

Doug McGuff

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the response. My perspective wasn't from recovery, as Doug is mentioning, but from how you fill the recovery. Really here is the question that you should ask yourself during recovery:

1. Did I get better during the last workout?

If yes, stop being so damn neurotic (hence favorable path).

Tangentially, on one of the coffee/espresso forums I visit (I roast coffee at home) there was the statement: "There ain't no cure for upgraditis." Which is to say, people wanting to improve their already fantastically expensive espresso machine for something 0.000001% better and a new steep learning curve. The answer is, "Don't visit forums" for both upgraditis of espresso equipment and routine swapping.


Marc said...


I don't have the knowledge or expertise as compared to Dr. M or Skyler, but I can share my experience. Most make WAY to big a deal out of all of it. (The same goes for the whole eating issue. Eat REAL FOOD and keep doing it.)

Here's a simple part of the exercise routine, walk one hour every day. Yest this simple "exercise" is overlooked because it's too simple ;-)
Cheers, thanks for the good post!

pieter d said...

Chris, Doug and Skyler,

I totally agree! But it is so darn interesting to read and study about it, isn't it?

Good quality exercises and good quality recovery, that's all you need. Simple, but not always easy...

cheers and thanks

Chris said...

I think this is where the internet is a problem....there is an information overload. It is so easy to get distracted. Rather than keeping things simple and straightforward, the novelty of new moves and approaches becomes beguiling. We hop from one thing to another seduced by the new.

As pieter says it is all fascinating....but lets not it distract us from the truth.

Rannoch Donald said...

Spot on. Just do a little often. Don't worry about the details just get the intensity sorted. All that reading and research needs to be directed towards your practice. Anything else is window shopping. Commit to achieveing simple goals rather tha huge commitments to personal bests. Can you do 15 straight BW Pull ups? Can you bang out 50 crisp push ups?

If it's not to both of these. Put downthe heavy shit and get with the basics!


Kennedy said...

I read Body by Science recently and thought it was terrific, some of the speculation about evolution wasn't jiving with me but that is very minor and couldn't take away from the quality of the book. Great great book!

I bought it after the interview with Doug McGuff and John Little here, and reading in a comment on Dr Mike's blog recommending the Ultimate Exercise way. Will probably grab a copy of Slow Burn at some point too.


Chris said...

Kennedy - glad to be of assistance. BBS is a great book. I have SlowBurn too. It is good but be aware that it is focussed on a different audience - the general fitness crowd. Still well written and explained though.