Challenge yourself – a very easy principle to think about, yet often a difficult one to accomplish. I have seen a lot of this recently: being given three options and choosing the lesser of the three. I realize often those three exercise options are based on the band system we use. However, it never happens that we have a band restriction in every station with every series of exercises. Obviously, pain can be a factor – I understand and fully appreciate that.
Getting better, stronger, and healthier involves a need to challenge yourself. If you look at a set of exercises and always choose the easiest one, even when you could realistically do all three, you will not get to where you want to be very quickly, if at all. This pattern may be a sign. If you aren’t willing to challenge yourself while exercising, then you may be less willing to challenge yourself by breaking other unhealthy habits.
Make no mistake – when it comes to being healthy, there is no halfway. If you eat super healthy but never exercise, you will have problems. In the same way, if you come to training 4 days a week and go running or spinning the other 3 days of the week, but eat junk food and get no sleep , there will be issues as well.
Improving the body’s ability to exercise, whether its strength or endurance, is based on mechanics known as “progressive overload”. Not to get into the science too deeply, but it boils down to this: you challenge yourself, your body responds to that challenge for next time. If you do 2 or 3 more squat thrusts than you did last time, your body adapts to be able to do those 2 or 3 more every time (to a certain point, of course).
Let’s say you’ve been picking up 45 pounds for squats every time for the last month. Well, you aren’t progressing, your body is staying stagnant. If you step it up to 55 pounds, its going to be more challenging the first time. But your body learns how much effort it takes to lift that weight and adjusts accordingly, either by increasing the strength of the muscle fibers or by increasing the signal strength from the brain. That can’t happen if you never pick up something heavier…if you never push it a little longer…if you always leave 2 or 3 in the tank.
You are all capable of more than you give yourselves credit for. So…challenge yourself! Don’t pick the easiest exercise just because you can, even if you can only do 2 reps of the more difficult exercise compared to 10 reps of what you would normally do. The more you work on that more challenging pattern, the more you will progress and the more you will eventually gain (or lose, depending on your goal). So don’t sell yourself short. Challenge yourself and make it happen!