What does an average weekday look and feel like for you? Take a second to actually think about it (bear with me – there’s a point to this!).
Chances are you’ve got a pretty demanding work schedule. You’ve probably also got your fair share of daily stress from employers, employees or colleagues. If you’re lucky you get some family time in during the workweek, but for most of us, that’s what Sundays are for. Thank goodness for friends – having a social life seems to be what keeps time-starved people sane. Without even considering the pursuit of personal interests, you probably already barely have time for exercise. It’s not hard to see why people are drawn to gyms that provide short sessions.
Short, intense sessions are really effective, and that’s why our training at Ritual is built around the concept of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). The tough part is helping busy, driven clients understand that (A) there’s more to ‘intensity’ than doing faster reps at all cost and (B) consistency, above all, is what will bring you positive change.
It’s easy to yell at people to push harder, faster and heavier. It’s hard to help clients find the appropriate dose of HIIT. Responsible training is logical, safe and sustainable. To achieve this, you need sound exercise programming and good coaching. Responsible training is the focus of our coach training program, and it’s also where our coaches put in most of their effort in their day-to-day interactions with you. It’s not about restricting the number of times you train at Ritual – it’s about helping you understand how you can vary your approach to sessions across a week or month.
Sometimes the most difficult part about HIIT is that once you mention it to someone and they grasp the gist of the importance of intensity, they stop listening and start frantically gyrating like maniacs. Intensity is important, but does this mean you should try to do 530 squats in 45 seconds? Not really. Intensity can be measured in many different ways. A lot of you who are reading this are currently clients at Ritual, so you’ve probably had your form corrected by a coach, followed by a quick chat after your session that starts with something like: “You know, you’ll get more benefit from slowing down and doing 5 push-ups perfectly than 15 push-ups with poor technique”.
Take a second to think back to the times when you had the mental capacity to slow yourself down and try for the 5 perfect push-ups instead of banging out substandard reps. That 5 reps was really tough, wasn’t it? It felt like it put more ‘good’ stress on your body than the 15 lousy ones, didn’t it?
The conversation on why the 5 is better than the 15 is pretty technical (mechanical tension, muscle fatigue and central nervous system stress) so I’ll save it for another day, but for those of you who remember what the 5-vs-15 difference feels like – you already understand why. When you manage to take your ego out of the equation and focus on form over reps, you know it’s better to do the 5 properly, simply because it feels more effective. That is intensity, and a wiser way to approach intensity. Instead of focusing on “do as many as possible”, choose to “make this rep better than the last”. This will lead to a deeper understanding of one of our mantras: Train movements, not muscles. The inner dialogue of “how fit am I?” changes from “how many can i do” to “how well can i do them?” – which opens you up to a whole new level of appreciation for physical activity based on high-quality, purposeful movements, not a competition of who can do more.
Athletes don’t always get to enjoy the luxury of safe training, but you do – and you can get great results doing it in a safer manner. In the long run, focusing on quality over quantity allows for gradual, sustainable progress. There is no glory in how many substandard push-ups you can do. What’s important is that you show up and put in consistent, purposeful effort. It’s less about how much you can do today, and more about whether you can create a sustainable habit – a ritual – that helps improve the quality of your life in general. Good training can be appreciated like your morning coffee. If you do it right, it makes everything else in your day better.