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Doing vs. Performing: The Difference Between Exercising and Getting Results


Back when I was young and living on my parents' farm, there always seemed to be plenty of tasks that were reserved for the low man on the totem pole. And you guessed it. That low man was me. Picking up and piling sticks seemed to be one of my dad's favorite tasks for me, and quite frankly, it was one of my least desired jobs to do. Funny how that works. Anyway, every time my dad would tell me to go out and complete one of these undesirable tasks, I would respond with the requisite whining, complaining, and carrying-on that usually comes from a young person who is having to do something he/she doesn't want to do. Nonetheless, I would slump off and begin my task, usually in a half-assed manner. Then I would rush in and tell my dad I had completed my task. He would go out, check it, and 9 times out of 10, he would make me go back and redo, complete, or what-have-you some of aspect of my job. He would always tell me, "It is much easier to do it right the first time." This is a lesson that did not sink in until some years later. Now, however, I fully embrace my father's philosophy, in part, because on a daily basis I see the same issues/attitudes I had as a young person showing up in how people approach their exercise programs.

It seems nowadays people are in such a damn rush to get nowhere. I can see it on their faces when they walk in the door at my facility. They are either still at the last place they were or they are already at the next place they are going. They have already set themselves up for a very unproductive training session. What it really comes down to is that they are just there to "do" their exercise and are not really in touch with their personal reason(s) for being there. They just know that "everyone" says you should exercise because it will help you stay healthy, lose fat, etc. When you just "do" something, 9 times out 10 it will end up like my boyhood projects -- half-assed and in need of correction or finishing. This is when frustration sets in for many people. They just can't seem to understand why they are not getting what they want from their exercise program.

I could train two similar individuals who perform the same exercise with exactly the same form; however, they will not get the same result because one of them is a "doer" and one of them is a "performer". You may be asking yourself, "Troy, what is the difference?" To put it simply, since your brain tells your muscles what to do, there is a connection between the two. This is typically referred to as the "mind-muscle connection"(the mind-muscle connection to put is simply is paying attention/focusing on the muscles that you are using to perform a particular movement. Another way to look at it would be the mentally focus on deliberately contracting/lengthening the proper muscles throughout the entire movement). Although there is little research on this phenomenon, it does exist and has been proven through vast amounts of anecdotal evidence from people who are extremely successful with their exercise programs. I feel there are two main differences between the "doer" and the "performer".

1) "Doers" are not mentally available. They are either thinking about their previous engagement or they are already planning for their next engagement. Either way, they are not focused on the task at hand and have eliminated the possibility of having an optimal training session. "Performers" come prepared to get the most out of their training session. They concentrate on their exercises and utilize the mind-muscle connection to the fullest extent possible.

2) "Doers" do not have clearly defined goals. If you do not know why you are doing something and do not completely commit to achieving it, then there is a very high likelihood that you will never attain it. "Performers" do have clearly defined goals which are important to them to achieve. Thus, they approach every training session with the desire to make progress on reaching those goals.

This is not to say that "doers" are completely wasting their time. They are accomplishing some physical work, which is what training is in its most basic form. Although "doers" may have a murky idea of what their goals are, because they lack the mind-muscle connection, they often become frustrated with their progress and quit altogether prior to achieving their goals. "Performers", on the other hand, use the mind-muscle connection to make steady progress toward their goals. In order to achieve their goals, they learn which exercises are most appropriate to achieve their goals and the proper methods for performing those exercises. They strive to gain an understanding of how their bodies function, not only during their training sessions, but also during their nutrition and recovery periods as well. To put it bluntly, "performers" actually care about accomplishing their goals/objectives and put forth the effort necessary to do so, while "doers" just are there putting in their time.

Tips to Help YOU Become a "PERFORMER":

1. Set goals and then reinforce them to yourself on a daily basis. I recommend using the SMART Goals technique. Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Trackable.

2. Slow down. There is no need to get wrapped up in the "I want it yesterday" attitude of our society. "Rome was not built in a day" and neither will you achieve your goals in a day or even a week. Training/Exercise is a physical skill that has to be learned. Take your time and learn the right way to do what you are doing. You will be amazed at how much more productive your training sessions will be when you are able to do this.

3. Remember that just like any other learning curve, this one varies from individual to individual. Do not get frustrated because it takes you more time to learn something than others.

4. Mentally prepare yourself for your training sessions. There are many ways to do this such as listening to music (personally, something like Metallica suits me) or repeating a special personal phrase. "I am going to have the best workout of my life" is a good one. Anything that will get you in the proper mindset to have a great workout will work.

5. Training does require you to think about what you are doing while you are doing it. Additionally, it is a proven fact that mental awareness during exercise also carries a beneficial crossover to other intellectual activities.

The three main points that I would like everyone to take from this article are:

1) It is extremely important to set goals that are "YOURS" not someone else's. That way you will know EXACTLY why you are training.

2) Training/Exercise is a learning process so just because you do not "get it" after two repetitions of practice does not mean that you will never be able to perform that exercise. If you put the appropriate level of effort into doing your exercises properly, you will be rewarded by achieving your goals.

3) Training does require you to "be there" mentally in order for you to achieve optimal results. If you always bring your "A" game to each training session, you won't be disappointed with the results. My dad was correct. It IS easier to do it right the first time.

Troy M. Anderson, B.A., PES, CPT, is the owner of Integrated Evolution, LLC, in Tempe, AZ. The #1 goal of Integrated Evolution is to help clients and members achieve levels of strength and performance they may have thought were impossible to achieve, by providing the education and support to facilitate those goals. My philosophy is "if given an opportunity, there is always a solution." For more information about training for strength or performance enhancement, subscribe to my FREE newsletter go to http://www.integratedevolution.org Troy maybe contacted at integratedevolution@cox.net or called at 480.227.8090.


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