Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

Build Strength And Improve Your Life

I can't believe it. I'm finally doing strength training consistently.

My commitments to exercise in general have had less than sterling outcomes. I can definitely relate to the woman who said, "I decided to take an aerobics class. I bent, twisted, gyrated, and jumped up and down for an hour. But, by the time I got my leotard on, the class was over."

But this time, I've done something differently. Four months ago, I hired a personal trainer. I've been working with Margarette West at my gym, Anatomies, and it's been a great experience. Not only has my body seen the benefits (Are those actually muscles I feel??), but I think I'm learning some bigger lessons. May I share them with you?

Do You Want To Get Stronger?

Is there a person among us who does not need to become stronger in some area...to do something more effectively or more consistently? Maybe there is a work competency that you want to perform more skillfully. Perhaps it's a health and wellness issue...nutrition or fitness. Maybe your spiritual faith could use some strengthening. Or, is it your negative thinking you'd like to change? Would you like to be more organized, or quit procrastinating? If I go on naming these, I'll run out of space and we won't have time to get to the points.

Anyway, you get the picture. Focus on what you'd like to strengthen as you consider these observations I've made while huffing and puffing and sweating and, yes, sometimes moaning and complaining...but not quitting.

6 Personal Improvement Lessons From the Gym

1. You have the raw material you need; it just has to be developed.The day you were born, you had all the muscles your body would need. However, they have to be developed and strengthened by use.

Don't discount what you have to work with. You've improved things in your life before, so you can draw courage from past successes. If you have a genuine, persistent desire (not a passing "it would be nice") to do something, the strong likelihood is that you have the innate abilities that will make it possible. You have what you need to make your work profitable.

2. Strength is built by resistance.

The power of resistance is a basic principle in strength training. Pushing past that resistance is what makes the muscles grow.

Yet, in life, when resistance comes, we often back off from our goals. Maybe the resistance comes from others who would rather you stayed in the roles they prefer. More often, the resistance comes from the force of your own comfort zone, time constraints, and habits.

"Push! Keep going! You can do a little more. Don't give up!" Margarette West

3. Educate yourself on the right way to do it.

I have learned that good form is essential to good strength training. Doing it wrong brings poor results at best and injury at worst.

What are you doing to gain knowledge in the area you want to develop? Reading books, taking classes, doing online research, listening to teaching tapes or CD's, consulting with a professional? However you choose, take the initiative to become informed about the most effective ways to accomplish your goals. Don't risk putting in the effort, then leaving "injured" and disappointed in yourself. Don't practice doing it wrong, ingraining more bad habits that are hard to unlearn.

Remember, there's nothing wrong with making a mistake. Just don't respond with encores! Learn to do it right.

4. Repitition is your friend.

When it comes to building the strength of a muscle, the muscle has to be challenged over and over, with gradually increasing weights. It's not enough to give a Herculean effort once or twice. The results-producing regimen is built on repetitions within the session, as well as multiple sessions over time.

Unfortunately, most of us have been guilty of concentrating intensely on a goal...briefly. Then life gets in the way.

New habits, good or bad, are formed by repetition. To establish a good one, you first have to think about it, make a practical plan, and do it consciously. After you have repeated it many times, it simply becomes "the way you do things." You have a new habit. Congratulations!

5. Rest is essential.

My trainer has taught me that it is important to let the muscle rest, not working out the same muscle group on successive days. That's because the hard work you do exhausts and actually "injures" the muscle. It needs time to heal and build itself back up before you tax it again.

Tackling new skills and goals can be exhausting, too. The uncertainty, the psychological stretching, and the inevitable setbacks are breeding grounds for tension, irritability, and stress.

Give yourself a break! I'm not talking about breaking your commitment to your goal. I'm talking about taking care of yourself: getting plenty of rest; taking "mental mini-vacations" throughout the day; pausing to take deep, relaxing breaths. If you do, you'll be better able to concentrate and perform, and you'll stay the course longer. Don't burn out.

6. Build in accountability

The skillful instruction and coaching I've had from Margarette has been so valuable. However, knowing myself, I believe that the accountability of appointments, measurements, and reporting has been a key factor in my success.

How can you build accountability into your own improvement plan? How will you track your progress? What measurements will you take on a regular basis to help you know how you're doing and stay on course? The familiar saying, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it," applies here. Can you find an accountability buddy? That's someone who knows your goals and will meet or talk with you on a regular basis about specific intermediate achievements and your progress toward your goals. Can you join a group that focuses on the improvements you want to make and attend it regularly, reporting on your progress?

Anne Byrhhe wisely said, "Every action we take, everything we do, is either victory or defeat in the struggle to become what we want to be."

Are you ready to begin? If not now, when?

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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