When you first start working out, you will probably be faced with a lot of questions. What is the best training program for you? Should you use a trainer? Should you train at home or in a gym?
But something you may not have asked yourself is what your ‘training philosophy’ is. In fact, this might well be the most important question you can ask yourself…
Essentially, a training philosophy is the ‘why’ behind your training. This is the reason that you’re training, as well as your views on how you should go about it. This is what will drive you out of the comfort of your home and to the gym and it’s also what will make sure you keep going, day in and day out. More importantly, it’s what will allow you to create a convincing set of goals and then find out the best way to actually stick to them…
In terms of motivation, knowing why you do something is incredibly important. Motivation can generally take two forms which are ‘intrinsic’ or ‘extrinsic’. Extrinsic motivation means that you are motivated by outside factors – carrot or stick. For a lot of people, going to the gym is a means to an end and a way to impress other people, or perhaps get a certain job.
This is fine but it eventually gives way. If you are motivated to go to the gym by the promise of finding a partner, then working out can quickly fall by the wayside when you actually meet that partner. Or when you think something else might work. If you just want to win the respect of others, you might well find that this isn’t as much of a driving force as you might have expected.
But when you have a powerful reason behind your training, it becomes rewarding in itself. When you train because you want to be a warrior and because you believe that this is the best way to test your character and to grow as an individual, suddenly it becomes an important part of who you are.
Not only that but you start to inspire others and you’ll find you hit the gym much harder. This can be related to Simon Sinek’s idea of the ‘Golden Circle’. Simon suggested that the best leaders in business don’t focus on what their company does but why it does it. They focus on the mission statement and they that way create a movement around their brand that brings true fans on board.
At the same time, knowing why you’re training will help you to find the best training methods for you. If you take a look at the fitness industry today, you’ll find that there are already a wide number of different training philosophies and movements out there. You have a lot of ‘functional strength’ being preached, a lot of mobility training and then schools such as CrossFit and MovNat. This is in contrast to the likes of bodybuilding, powerbuilding, power lifting or athletic training.
CrossFit in theory is a form of ‘GPP’ training, which stands for ‘general physical preparedness’. The idea is that people should be fit and functional across modalities – you should be fast as well as strong, flexible as well as fit. Since then though, the movement has grown and evolved and become synonymous with gruelling workouts and pushing yourself beyond all reason – for better or for worse.
Bodybuilding meanwhile is about aesthetics. It’s about trying to achieve the perfect male and female forms, as depicted in Greco-Roman statues and paintings. It’s about training for the love of training and pushing for size and symmetry.
Athletic training and powerlifting are examples of training for a specific domain: speed, strength or even jump height.
Once you know the reason why you’re training, then you can work out what the best way to accomplish that is, which will immediately simplify your training options and help you to find the right kind of training and more like minded people. It will help you know which training programs are aligned with your goals and your philosophies and which trainers are best suited to helping you get to where you want to be.
Finding Your Training Philosophy
So what might your training philosophy look like? There are plenty of different possibilities and the whole point is that this should be something completely unique to you. But just to demonstrate the widely different possibilities and how this might impact on the way you train, consider some of these possible motivations, beliefs and training methods:
- You may wish to be healthy above all else. That means you don’t want to be too muscular, or too lean. Instead, your philosophy might be to simply have great sleep, a good resting heart rate and low body fat. That means you’ll probably use moderate training and you’ll probably focus on good nutrition and good lifestyle habits.
- You may believe that we should try and mimic our evolutionary ancestors in our approach to health and fitness. This could mean subscribing to a Paleo diet, while simultaneously trying to train more outdoors and using functional movements.
- You might be a bodybuilder through and through and absolutely love everything that comes with the sport. This could result in a cycle of bulking and cutting phases, a large training split and lots of protein in your diet.
- You may train because you love training and want to push yourself. This might express itself in powerlifting, CrossFit or perhaps something else like martial arts. You may love pushing yourself and see this as a way to test your strength and resolve.
- Perhaps you just want more freedom and more energy. Maybe you’re tired of being tired and just want to get fitter so that you can give more time to your family and get more enjoyment from your hobbies.