I was first introduced to the concept of “overprocessing your fitness” through the PN coaching curriculum. It resonated with me quite a bit, because, hello! Overthinker. If it exists, I have already had a chance to overthink it. And yes, I think there should be Overthinkers Anonymous. Amirite?
Few weeks ago I delivered a webinar on this very topic, and want to share few key takeaways with you here.
Let’s start simple. Do you agree with the following statement?
I tend to overthink things.
Are you nodding already? Wait for it, we are just getting started.
You think more than you do. You question everything. You find it difficult to let things go. You are always seeking new information. You feel the need to “figure it out”. You want to know “the why”. You want to get everything right.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Now, take a moment and consider all the questions you have found yourself asking when it comes to movement, fitness and exercise. That could be today, last week, in the last three months, or in general.
Let’s see I can guess some of what came up for you.
What’s the best training program? Is there such a thing? Do I have to do squats? Is cardio the best exercise for weight loss? What body part is this particular exercise for? Why does my training plan tell me to do exercise A, and then exercise B, and not the other way around? Why am I doing the same movement week in, week out? Isn’t variety good? What about CrossFit? I want to try it, but I’m afraid of getting injured. Is it as intense as they say? I hate running, but I heard that’s the best way to lose fat. Is that true?
How did I do?
We all overthink. It is human nature. Few things factor in here.
1. some personality types are more prone to overthinking than others.
If you are an overachieving perfectionist, chances are, you are more likely to overthink and ruminate. Congratulations. And welcome to the club.
2. external sources of information are many, and we do not know who to believe
From bro science to the lady at the vitamin counter – everyone is an expert on health and fitness these days. What you see in magazines, and television when it comes to health and fitness results, is about as realistic as porn compared to actual lovemaking. The fact that many sources directly conflict each other does not help either.
“Here’s why squats is the best exercise for your butt.” “Want to build a better butt? Why you should avoid squats and what your personal trainer is not telling you.”
Let’s press a pause button, and consider the things that matter. And the things that DO NOT.
Things That Matter
Here are few things that matter when it comes to movement for health, and possibly some weight loss. [And yes, we are not talking about specialized training, event prep or high level athletes here. Just… you and I – regular folks, hoping to stick around for a while, and not to throw out our back every time we pick up a bag of groceries].
That you move your body in some fashion most days of the week.
I always aim to exercise seven days a week. You may wonder: “But… what about rest days?”. Well, there is a difference between training and movement, and your body does not need rest days from movement. Movement is good for ya. Also, life tends to happen, and ensure that my audacious seven days a week plan almost never never comes to fruition. I do manage to move/exercise in some fashion five to six days a week most weeks.
That you choose “unprocessed” exercise.
Ok, so this one may be a bit confused. Consider what “unprocessed” food is like – simple ingredients, no fancy sauces or obscure recipes, things that grow and make you feel good. Now, let’s try and translate that into movement.
Here’s the thing – there are not that many ways in which your body can move. When you consider the basic movement patterns, they are fairly limited. E.g. consider a knee joint – it’s a hinge, so… it can bend. And it can straighten. That’s about it.
In other words, no matter what you choose for your movement, the basic ways of moving your body will be present – squatting to the ground, and coming back up, lifting things from the floor to the hip level, pressing things over your head, pulling things towards you.
You can usually spot the fads. Are you doing yoga on a paddleboard? Is your class called Acro Circus Hip Hop Jam? Do you need a very specific manmade contraption to perform prescribed exercises? Are you attached to three elastic bands, while jumping up and down on a ball? Does the word “contrived” come to mind?
That’s not to say that those classes, and exercises are bad (just like overprocessed elaborate meals are not necessarily bad), but I would encourage you to get MOST of your movement from uncomplicated wholesome movements.
That you use good form.
This is officially one of my favorite clips from “Family Guy” – “lift with your lower back, in a jerking, twisting motion”.
Sigh… You know not to do that, right? Yet, sometimes I watch a guy at the gym who performs bicep curls with perfect form, only to lower the dumbbells to the floor with round back, all the while craning his neck, checking out the form of the guy next to him. Movement does not end when you complete all your reps. Keep good form.
It can be difficult at first to know what “good form” is. It comes in time. I promise. If you are starting out, get a coach or a personal trainer show you the proper form, and have a check-in or a follow up in few weeks for tweaks and corrections. Some exercises are also better options for beginners, as they make good form more “obvious”. Consider a goblet squat – a squat while holding a dumbbell at your chest – this exercise tends to be self-correcting. In other words, it’s hard to do that one wrong. More technical movements such as cleans or snatches, on the other hand, are not as intuitive, and will take more practice.
That you do what you can when you can.
This is the trap where most of us find ourselves at some point. “I have this fancy exercise plan, that I must follow exactly!”. “My workout takes an hour, and today I only have half an hour. Well, I guess I’ll have to try again tomorrow”. “I am not feeling well, so I can’t do the scheduled intervals. Off day it is!”.
Something is always better than nothing. Adjust intensity, duration and equipment as necessary. That could mean doing an entire workout without a single dumbbell, or that could mean going for a slow walk on a treadmill. [Some swallowing of the pride may be required here].
Things That DO NOT Matter
Exact rep schemes.
Three sets of fifteen reps? Or two sets of eight reps? Honestly… it does not matter. Perhaps, I will amend this to appease to the purists – this does not matter nearly as much as you think. For example, a fat loss program and a muscle gain program can be nearly identical. If you consume more energy than you expend, AND train hard, you will build muscle. If you consume less energy than you expend, AND train hard, you will lose fat.
What workout program you do.
See the above. For any given situation and goal, there are literally hundreds of training programs that would do perfectly well. Spending tons of time researching WHAT program to follow is a bit like spending tons of time trying to decide which school of language instruction to go with. At the end of the day, Spanish is not going to learn itself. Just pick one. The magic is not in picking the most correct program, the magic is in sticking to ANY program for a LONG time.
What time of day you train.
Just… get it done. Morning, night. Middle of the day. All of the above.
Why which exercise takes place. And WHY in general.
Some people find it helpful to know why they are doing a particular exercise, and why their training program is designed the way it is designed. However, I would encourage you to pay attention to the questions around your training (and nutrition, and health) that start with why. Do you NEED the why right now? Are you sure? Or are you just looking for ways to spend your time, and not DO THE THING?
Pay attention to the questions that start with the HOW. Notice the difference:
Why do I have to do squats? How do I modify squats for my specific knee issue?
Most likely, you don’t NEED the why. If you would LIKE the why, because you are simply the kind of person who gets off on knowing more – awesome. Just make sure that seeking the why does not interfere with your actual damn workout.
YOUR TURN: What are some things that you found MATTER in your training? What are some things that DO NOT matter?