Learning the value of focus
Staying focused used to be a relatively simple concept. In my day, one would go to the gym, train a body part or two, maybe do some cardio afterwards and then head home to eat and get on with the day. I grew up wanting to be a bodybuilder - I fell in love with it back when I was 16. It was the story you’ve heard many times before: I bought a weight set for my basement, did the exercises on the included chart. After a few months I bought a book on working out, subscribed to Muscle and Fitness and started reading about the world of bodybuilding and training. The magazine would come out once a month, giving me time to try the new program of the month and see if I liked it and if it worked.
Putting in the time, for years
When I was feeling I was ready for the next step, I joined the local hard core gym and followed the workouts of the big “muscleheads." These were very simplistic routines, but the actual work involved wasn't simple. When you trained, you trained hard. It was challenging, it was brutal, and it was extremely rewarding and fulfilling. Months and months of discipline and hard work started to pay off. I followed this “routine” for years and years. As time progressed, so did my body.
During this time, I went to school to increase my knowledge. My passion at that time was looking for ways to improve my physique. I never would have guessed that this same passion would spill over into a profession that would allow me to help others improve too. My career was set, as I transformed into a certified personal trainer and coach.
We are not machines
I touched on my background very briefly to show what I mean by “staying focused.” I learned from a very early age that results take a long time to be recognized. I was satisfied with this, as it was the journey that was the main focus, not the outcome (that came later when I would eventually compete as a natural bodybuilder). In fact, it was 17 years after I first picked up a weight that I was truly satisfied with the image of how I wanted my physique to look. Seems like forever, right? That’s what staying focused is. It goes with any type of goal you want to achieve. You stay the course, work hard, make sacrifices, and continue this process until you achieve your goal.
Not every workout is going to be phenomenal. You’re not going to be strict with your diet all the time. What matters is consistency and persistence. To me, consistency and persistence are the two factors that make the difference in achieving your goals. We aren’t machines. We will have up days and down days, but we must embrace whatever type of day we have. That entails staying focused.
Why do most people “flunk” in the gym?
Again, focus seems like a relatively easy concept to follow. If all the gurus tell us so, then why is that most people “flunk” in the gym? Why such a huge drop out rate for gym goers? Why do more people seem lost and confused than ever before? I can sum it up with two phrases:
- Instant gratification
- Social media
I definitely think this has caused more attention deficits (myself included) than even television. With the advent of social media, everyone becomes instant celebrities, instant armchair experts and, my favorite, instant fitness experts.
Social media’s fitness experts
Let’s focus on these so called experts. Being very general:
- Genetically Gifted: You have the ones who are genetically elite and walk around with ripped abs all year long. They are the ones that most people will listen to because nothing says fitness expert more than a great set of abs.
- Fitness Scholars: Then you have the “scholars.” They seem to have the science to back everything up but yet they don’t look like they have ever lifted before or even played a sport.
- On top of that, you have:
- Instagram Pretend World where things are edited and filtered
- Old cut and paste motivational sayings that are recycled around and around but without any credit to whom originally said it because most probably don’t know
- Trainers that continually contradict each other
- Trainers selling their fat loss secrets that guarantee fast results if you follow their program.
- Trainers promising fast muscle gain, etc, etc, etc….
It’s overwhelming and you wonder why people have a problem staying focused! I got dizzy even typing that! It’s information overload, bombarding you over and over. For a person who is trying to stay healthy and get fit, it’s scary and confusing. I still can’t believe some of the myths that I still hear that people believe that I have to correct them on.
Silence the noise and be patient
So what does one do? First, they need to silence all the mumbo jumbo out there. I still keep my routines simple, even though I am a fitness professional who is certified and has a degree in Physical Education, I attend 3-5 summits and workshops every year, I’m constantly reading new material, books, listening to lectures and also has been in the trenches for over 33 years. I keep my routines simple so I don’t get overwhelmed with trying to do too much in a day or a week. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t think you have to do every single exercise in a day.
I recommend you follow the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. A basic fitness routine should include exercises that include the 8 foundations of movement:
Depending on your goals, different exercise will serve different purposes. Don’t include exercises that may be different but still work the same movement pattern. There’s no need for redundancy.
The biggest factor you must remember is to be patient. The problem with social media and fitness is that it usually shows results but not its journeys. This causes anxiety and uncertainty because there is no clear path from where you may be to where the person on Instagram is.
Success in any field needs to be earned, not given. Fitness is the one area where you can’t really fake it long-term. You have to put in the work. It’s tedious at times, it’s boring at times, it’s fun at times and it’s extremely empowering all the time. It’s a lifestyle change that doesn’t happen overnight - it takes years. If more fitness professionals would be honest, you might not have “Get Fit Yesterday” programs. It’s like those “Get Rich” programs: they only work for the person selling them. In my 33 years of working in fitness, I have yet to meet someone who has stayed fit beyond a couple years in one of those accelerated programs.
Your only competition is yourself
Bottom line, stop comparing yourself to others. As corny as this may sound, your only competition is yourself. You can compete against others, but compare yourself to your former self. It will make things easier. Don’t be so hard on yourself, the body works with a delayed timer. You will put time in and nothing may seem like it’s happening on the surface, but don’t think things aren’t getting done. Stick with it and if you put the desired energy into improving, I will guarantee that changes will happen.
If you need advice, hire a qualified trainer. Ask about their background and credentials, question their philosophy on fitness. A qualified trainer will ask questions on what you want to achieve, your goals and aspirations and then give you the blueprint for achieving your goals. With a plan in place, you will have much more strength in staying focused!
Ready to start? Try these workouts from Cybex.
The Cybex Research Institute developed 16 goal-oriented workouts, including size-and-shape and performance training. Following these progressive programs will help you reach your goals, while challenging you to get more from your time at the gym.
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