Fear is good

Posted on April 4, 2011. Filed under: Exercise | Tags: , , , , , |

As I have been experimenting with my routine I was reminded of something.


Training for strength hurts.


It’s not the same kind of pain you get from high rep work, or pushing for the “pump,”  My body is sore but not the same kind of sore.  It’s good though, it keeps me mindful of when I am training a hard gainer who is trying to add muscle.  I often hear people say it’s harder to lose weight than it is to gain muscle.  Trust me, they are both challenging just in different ways.


It was also good because it gave me that feeling of fear, anxiety, before starting my sets in week five and six.


Not overwhelming, but just that mild kick you need to have in order to break through to your own personal next level.  If your workout doesn’t scare you a little bit, you’re not working hard enough.  This is a concept that it takes a while for some to understand.  But it is key to seeing the best results possible.


When you are training your body, you are purposely taking it out of the comfort zone.  As was mentioned before in the S.A.I.D principle, you are imposing demands and forcing your body to adapt by getting stronger, leaner, faster, whatever the goal, YOU are making it happen.  And that does not happen doing the same thing day in day out.  This doesn’t mean you run your body into the ground, because if you don’t allow for recovery you won’t change for the better either.  But it doesn’t mean you should be talking on your cell during a work out either.


In times of stress your body releases Catecholamines, which are sympathomimetic “fight-or-flight” hormones that are released by the adrenal glands.  Common names you might be familiar with are epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine.  These can be manifested by jitters, butterflies in the stomach, muscle tension, different ways.  At first you don’t like this feeling.  But as time goes on you learn to welcome it.  You recognize that this is not a bad thing, it’s a signal that your body is getting ready to accept the challenge and transform.


I find with clients who used to play a sport that they were passionate about,adapt to this quicker.  As they are already used to dealing with those feelings.  They understand the reward that comes with embracing that small nervous energy spike, and using it to fuel their efforts.


It’s always fun when a client finally gets it.  Because than my role as a coach changes.  Instead of having to push them, now I have to hold them back a bit so they don’t hurt themselves.  Which is what a professional coach does, provides the proper balance for the client or athlete to get the best for themselves.


I am often annoyed when I see ads for fun and easy weight loss.  I believe in fun, but easy is highly misleading.  Mechanically speaking stability ball side planks are easy, but I would not call them an easy exercise.  And it’s only truly fun when a person embraces the challenge, and mentally commits to pushing themselves.  Sure there are those who do just enough and see some results, but I have yet to see anyone at their best who didn’t put in work.  And those who only half way commit, eventually get exposed.  In fact this actually brings a story to mind.


Years back when I still worked in commercial gyms like Ballys, or 24, I was hanging out with a fellow trainer, we’ll call him John.  We were discussing our personal workout goals, and John was talking about how tomorrow was leg day.  He talked about how he was getting himself mentally ready, the usual love/hate relationship with leg training.  Around the corner comes another trainer we’ll call him Chip  🙂


Chip hears John griping and says, “oh man I love training legs, that’s the best workout,” and begins to ramble about how he loves training legs.  Without making any eye contact with Chip, John said bluntly yet calmly, “you’re doing it wrong.”

Chip stops, “what?”

“Your doing it wrong.”

“I’m doing what wrong?”

“Training your legs.”

“Have you ever watched me train legs?”

“Don’t need to.  To truly train legs you have to hit it with an intensity you can’t get training any other muscle.  So any one who says they enjoy training legs is either lying, crazy like Tom Platz, or doing it wrong.  And I can tell you right now, you are doing it wrong.”



At this point Chip walks away, not wanting to argue.  And John simply goes back to our conversation.  One might say John was a bit rough on Chip, but I agreed with him, and soon enough John’s view was validated.


A few months later a childhood friend of mine came by to visit.  I have known her many years, and love her like she was my own sister.  So I will call her ‘Sis.’  Sis is an amateur figure competitor and a coach who has been lifting as long as I have.  She is 5’4″ 116 lbs.  She came by the gym I was working at because we were going to hang out later that day.  She came in early, and said she would workout and shower, and then as I got off work we could leave together.  And here comes Chip.


“Oh are you going to work out right now, me too, what are you working on.”

“Back, maybe some bis and shoulders”

“I could work on my back, want to work out together.”

“uh . . . ok, why not.”



Now I must say that the mentality I was talking about earlier.  Sis bought in to that years ago.  And it shows. She has a strong fitness body she has built over 10+ years, that will not go away.  Seriously, she actually experimented and didn’t work out for over 6 months.  Nothing changed.


What makes it deceptive is that Sis does figure/bikini competitions and with that she can’t allow herself to get bigger.  In order to maintain her body she challenges it more in terms of power or strength, as opposed to volume.  And Chip let Sis dictate the workout.  😉


After 30 minutes or so I notice a small group of staff are gathered around the front desk, and focused in on something.  I walk over to see and they are watching Chip and Sis, while trying to hold in their laughter.  Sis realizing early that she is stronger than Chip, is trying not to embarrass him.  So whatever weight he chooses to lift.  She chooses something 10 or 20 lbs lighter.  But to the staff it’s pretty obvious as Chip is struggling to lift the weight with a jerky short-range of motion (ROM).  Where as Sis is lifting the weights slow, steady, full ROM, with a facial expression you would expect on someone doing a crossword puzzle.


At the end Chip is gasping for air, I told Sis I was done early and asked if she still wanted to shower, she said, “no need.”


I ❤ my sister 🙂


I can not think of a greater example of the contrast between one who has accepted the power of a little fear, and one who has let the fear limit them to their comfort zone.  Not to mention the mentality of a trainer as opposed to a coach.


In order for there to be a birth there must be a combination of intensity, sweat, tears, heart, pain,  and joy.  If you are trying to create your own body’s rebirth.  How could anyone expect any difference?


Accept a little fear.

Embrace the challenge.

And transform.

And if you are not sure how to do it properly find a coach who does.



Best Health,

Coach W


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