This past weekend, we had an awesome garage sale. We were ruthless, combing through every room in the house to see what we could stand to part with. We kept the really important things, the furniture we liked, and pitched the rest. We ended up with more stuff than the driveway could fit. At the end of the day, we sold a ton of stuff, and donated the rest.
I remember, five years ago, when we moved from a junior one-bedroom apartment in Toronto, to our 3-bedroom house in Guelph, thinking “we will never, ever, in a million years fill this house with stuff”. It took less than five years, probably less than three. It’s so easy to accumulate things when you aren’t even trying. Between gifts and well-meaning relatives, my house ended up full to the brim with things I didn’t even know were there.
Training can be the same way: It’s easy to accumulate a bunch of exercises into your workout, without really thinking about what they are doing for your body or where they came from. We draw from all sorts of places; youtube videos, friends workouts, cool things we see on TV or in magazines. Each time we see something exciting we want to incorporate it right away, until we go to start a workout and have more exercises than we can possibly complete in the time we’ve set aside. Maybe you don’t do it with individual training sessions, maybe you do it with programs – shortening your lap speed with powerful bursts, but also working on your endurance so you can survive that 4-hour practice, but also building muscle mass so that you can look great in those new compression shorts. Goals, exercises, equipment – whatever your particular method, we’re all really good at letting the clutter build.
Maybe it’s that you don’t know where to start. Maybe the clutter is there because you don’t know what the important pieces of furniture are. Here’s a starting point for a Decluttered Training Program. As always, if you’re just starting out, I recommend having a coach or personal trainer assess you, look at your form, and guide you along (*full disclosure: I’m a personal trainer – I’m always going to recommend you have a personal trainer look at your form, that’s just smart business). Resistance can vary from bodyweight up for any of the basic movements below – use your judgement and your goals as a guideline and apply appropriate rep ranges, sets and timing.
The Important Furniture (for Strength Training):
1) Squat: Quad-dominant, works your glutes, legs – front and back, core. Some ideas: front squats, back squats, goblet squats, box squats, prison squats
2) Bend (or hinge): Hip-dominant, works glutes, hamstrings (primarily but other parts of the legs are involved too), shoulders, forearms, core – front and back. Some ideas: conventional deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, rack pulls, kettlebell swings
3) Unilateral Movement: Training on one leg, works your glutes, legs – front and back, core. Some ideas: split squats, reverse lunges, lateral lunges, walking lunges, Bulgarian split squats, step-ups, one-legged squats, pistols, 1-legged RDL’s
4) Horizontal Push: Works the chest, arms, shoulders. Some ideas: push-ups – incline, decline, weighted, suspended; bench presses, floor presses
5) Horizontal Pull: Works the back, arms, shoulders. Some ideas: seated rows, bentover rows, chest supported rows – play with grip and resistance
6) Vertical Push: Works the arms, shoulders, core. Some ideas: overhead presses, military presses, push presses
7) Vertical Pull: Works the arms, shoulders, back, core. Some ideas: pull-ups (Ladies! – learn them, do them, love them!), chin-ups, lat pull-downs – various grips
8) Core: This is a whole post on its own. Focus on anti-flexion, anti-extension and anti-rotation. Some ideas: planks, pallof presses, farmer and waiter carries
While you can’t necessarily work on all of those things at every workout, you can organize your time to get rid of some of the things that might be cluttering up your current schedule.
Here’s the thing: We like to be distracted. It was really easy to read through old letters while getting things ready for the sale. It’s really easy to hear about a new training style or exercise and get excited about it. It’s really easy to decide that your current program isn’t yielding the results you want and to try something new. Jumping from program to program or trying the newest, sexiest thing we saw on an infomercial takes us away from doing the hard work to get to our real goals.
Dan John says: “The goal is to keep the goal the goal.” You need to declutter those goals too – focus in, and work hard. If what you’re doing is working for you and your goals, fantastic – keep at it. If you’re just starting something new, give it time (at least 4 weeks) and then decide if it’s getting you closer to what you want to accomplish. If you just can’t see the forest for the trees (or the counter for the clutter) and want somewhere to start, go with your basic movements above and keep it simple. Maybe you won’t be doing one-legged BOSU squats with a Shake Weight, but at the end of the day you’ll have appreciable results.
Garage sale day was a challenging day, but totally worth it to walk into some newly streamlined living space with a little extra cash in our wallets. That’s what decluttering your training will do too – give you a streamlined focus when it’s time to train, and give you some extra result-cash in your goal-wallet.