In the past I have talked about the need for progressive resistance so that you are overloading muscles to make them adapt to the heavier loads or more repetitions. This works for a while but unfortunately your body becomes accustomed to doing the same exercises, and of course your own capacity for effort can be limited along with your ability to recover. Don’t get me wrong I am not advocating that you opt out of the progressive resistance camp, but you might consider a couple tweaks to get your body to react by building larger muscles and gaining strength. Here are a couple of tweaks that can help put you get back on track, making those muscles adapt and avoid plateauing.
Tweak 1 – Reduce rest time between sets
During my chest and triceps routine I was resting about 2 1/2 minutes between sets and while this allowed me to do one set after another of push-ups, in some ways it made it too easy. Without even adding any reps I took the rest time down to 2 minutes between chest exercise sets and 1 1/2 minutes for triceps exercises. I know this doesn’t sound like much, but it made it more difficult to do the sets with less rest. So without adding weights or repetitions the intensity was increased simply by reducing the rest time.
Tweak 2 – Alternate routines
Because your body can get accustomed to doing the same exercises, your muscles adapt but growth begins to slow down. You might consider having two different routines and either rotate them using one routine on week 1 and another routine on week 2. This causes a bit of muscle confusion and will help you avoid hitting a plateau as quickly. The changes don’t have to be huge for instance:
Week 1 – Chest/Triceps Day
- 4 sets push-ups
- 2 sets of triceps dumbbell kickbacks
- 1 set triceps dips
On alternate weeks perform this routine.
Week 2 – Chest/Triceps Day
- 3 sets of dumbbell chest presses
- 2 sets of dumbbell chest fly’s
- 2 sets of dumbbell triceps extensions
Hopefully by limiting the rest between sets and using a bit of muscle confusion by alternating routines you can spur on continued growth, making your workouts more difficult and at the same time a bit more interesting. In addition to these tweaks make sure you are using the principles of progressive resistance to add sets, repetitions, and weight. I would love to hear about any tweaks you use to increase muscle adaptation or make your workouts more fun.
The question I have asked before is how long should you meditate? There appears to be no right answer, because it can depend on how quickly you can rid yourself of a busy mind. I was sitting this morning and set my timer on my cell phone for 20 minutes, but after only a couple of minutes I had cleared my mind of all thoughts and just listened to my heart beat and breathing. I only meditated for 10 minutes because I was able to reach a calm and peaceful state so quickly.
Then there are other times where I sit for 20 or 30 minutes and may never reach a calm state, and my mind is overwhelmed by thoughts that I just cannot escape. Much of the literature I have read says the optimal time is 20 – 45 minutes, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot benefit from 10 very good minutes as I did today. If you are new to meditation I suggest you start with 10 minutes a day for a week, and then add 5 minutes each week until you get to 20 minutes. Maybe this will not be sufficient on some days and you may need 30 minutes. You need to adjust the times according to how you are feeling and how quickly you reach the desired state of mindfulness.
I am just beginning to add an evening session in addition to my morning meditation, so I cannot really speak to the benefit of this until more time has elapsed. My hope is that I will reap even greater benefits from mediation with a twice a day regime, but we will see.
References that expand upon my own opinions:
To me the word introspective means realizing your own behavior and actions, in essence analyzing them sometimes even in real-time. The definition of introspection from Merriam Webster is as follows:
“a reflective looking inward : an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings”
Here are a few synonyms for introspective that are related to this post:
- inward looking
- self analyzing
True interpersonal growth is hard to come by without introspection. It is increasingly difficult to change behavior when you don’t even understand its existence. I often observe myself being critical, or engaging in some negative behavior either as it is occurring or immediately after it occurred. These are learning moments, and although it sometimes takes repeated observations, these observations almost always result in a change of behavior. Maybe the the introspection identifies a trigger that is creating the behavior. For instance every-time I come into contact with a particular person they talk about politics or religion and that in turn triggers a critical response from me and I become argumentative. Knowing the trigger that is causing my own undesirable behavior, I now have a choice to either avoid the individual or choose to react differently to them. If I choose not to analyze the behavior, I will repeat it again and again, always with the same result.
Next time you become critical, angry, abusive, judgmental, accusatory, or exhibit any other negative emotion, stop and think about why you feel this way. Analyze your thoughts and determine if these feelings are justified in any way, what is my perception of the events leading to these thoughts, what might be triggering them? If you cannot be introspective you will forever be repeating the undesirable behavior, making yourself and everyone around you miserable. I like the quote above by the Dali Lama as we often seek to blame others for the way we feel, when it is the way we perceive the events and interactions that brings us sorrow.
The question is can we change ourselves by controlling our emotions?
Can we be accountable for the way we feel?
Can we ultimately change our response, perception, and behavior?
I just noticed that my first blog post was exactly a year ago on 1/3/2014. It was called the The Joy’s of Walking focused on the benefits of walking. It seems like only yesterday, and is a great reminder of how time passes so quickly. Many of my initial posts were focused on health and fitness, and I still write on those topics from time to time, because I have become even more focused on physical fitness and nutrition during the past year. If you read my blog you know I also like to write about mediation, mindfulness, productivity, and other more philosophical topics. I am grateful that I am alive and the blog lives on with me, but I am most grateful for you.
Many thanks to all of you that follow my blog. I don’t write for recognition or notoriety, but I do appreciate the fact that there are people who enjoy reading at least some of my posts.
Don’t let the past define your future, start living in the moment and make 2015 a great year.