Overcoming Inertia (and Revisiting the 2020 Goal Setting Workbook)

Action, based on purpose, is the most meaningful step toward re-upping your training habits. Change lies in setting goals in a way that maximizes your likelihood of success and gives you a plan of action, one that is not only clear but can be immediately implemented.
July 2nd marked the exact middle of 2020. “These trying times” has become the hackneyed slogan of an entire year, and the idea of meeting your 2020 goals has become meme-worthy. Below, we talk about ways to overcome the inertia of an interrupted life. At the end of this article, we link to the 2020 “Goals Setting Workbook” that we sent out at the beginning of this year. If you want to link straight to the workbook, you can do so by clicking here. We hope you find the revisiting of your goals, the examination of your core values, and the Three Good Things exercise useful.

Overcoming Inertia

Sometimes, training can seem far off and far down on the list of priorities as life gets hectic, news distracts, and the state of affairs seems to take another one on the jaw. Mike Tyson famously said that “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” It is the jarring interruption to what you thought would happen, that can leave you dazed and confused, wondering what to do next and what is important. One of the things we may lose when life plows through our well-thought-out plans is the priority of training. Taking care of your physical health should always be a priority, but it can also be a struggle when you lack or have lost the habit of training.

Training itself, the process of improvement, and your struggle with the barbell is a metaphor for overcoming the inertia of intervening events, those things that took your 2020 goals and smashed them to bits.

There are some steps you can take and things to consider to help you regain momentum and rebuild your training habits as you get back under the bar.

You Can do Something, or You Can do Nothing

Good coaches know that when it comes to a change in routine, the first choice a person makes is not between one method, program, or goal and another. The first choice anyone has to make is between doing something and doing nothing. And doing nothing is always a more comfortable choice.

This is why habit-forming is at the heart of meaningful change. A new habit represents a change in the status quo. When you train, eat right, sleep well, and stay active out of habit, you are not making constant eat-this-not-that types of decisions; you are living. And, if your habits align with your goals, you end each day with a net positive movement in the right direction.

Illnesses and emergencies, changes in jobs or family life, and global pandemics all have the power to change your habits. For many, the recent lockdowns interrupted their schedules enough that, as they return to lifting, they are making daily decisions on whether to train and when. If that describes you, the first choice you should make is not whether to train, how much to lift, and what program to use. The first choice is to do something.

Create the routine first, and meaningful training will follow. String together two, four, then six workouts. Start to feel the difference in your physique, in your strength, and in your confidence, and strength starts to become the new status quo. Inertia becomes your friend, and any future readiness-plan-for-disaster can now include the preservation of your good habits as a top priority.

Action Over Motivation

Try not to rely on motivation. Motivation is a fickle, blind guide, leading by sense, sensation, and whim rather than by purpose. Whereas the momentum of good habits can withstand flagging inspiration and the harsh realities of life. Motivation is easily blown from pursuit to pursuit, hoping for progress, but not really expecting it, and certainly not demanding it. As with any undertaking, a reckless, headlong plunge back into lifting or other types of physical training may lead to frustration; too much weighing and considering, however, only increases one’s comfort in the status quo.

Action, based on purpose, is the most meaningful step toward re-upping your training habits. Change lies in setting goals in a way that maximizes your likelihood of success and gives you a plan of action, one that is not only clear but can be immediately implemented.

Have a Plan

A few weeks ago, we wrote about getting back under the bar after a long layoff. Below is an excerpt from that article. To read the full thing, CLICK HERE:

Whereas your ability to train—the work capacity that helps you survive heavy, hard workouts—is most closely tied to the volume of your training, readiness—your physical and mental ability to produce force under an external load—seems most affected by the intensity of your training. How you structure your training after a layoff may depend on the degree to which you have lost your work capacity or whether you are lacking some of the springiness in your lifting that denotes readiness. Likely, it’s both.

Start Back with the Novice Linear Progression

For significant layoffs, the starting point is usually going to be the same. The novice linear progression acts as a baseline program to gauge your current abilities and on-ramp you back to your previous training loads. (For more about the many uses of the novice linear progression, download the free ebook on the novice linear progression, “Why it Works and What to do When it Doesn’t.”) The simple, full-body structure lends itself well to rooting out work capacity issues—training three big lifts per day at moderate volumes and intensities will quickly bring your intra-workout recovery and your ability to adapt to training up to speed. If you start light enough, any soreness from a return to training is easily overcome without changing your schedule, and the ability to add weight at large or small intervals to suit your progress is key adjusting for your individual needs.


Play with Your Rep Ranges

One of your goals in returning to training is to re-up your readiness to lift heavy. While sets of five are more traditional for building muscle mass and strength, training with fewer reps per set is a useful strategy to improve your lifting readiness. Moving to sets of three, doubles, or singles will allow you to rapidly increase the weight on the bar, reacclimating your brain and body to the feel of a heavy barbell and the regular need to exert force quickly.

Whereas a more traditional end to a novice linear progression will employ a top set of five (1 x 5) followed by back-off sets for the squat and deadlift, you may consider using a range of fewer reps per set such as two sets of three or three sets of two (2 x 3 or 3 x 2). Running out the program and moving into a four-day split that uses 2 x 3 on intensity day to really ramp the weights back up.

In that article, we also laid out a sample program from linear progression to a four-day split. If you have trained for any length of time before a layoff, then you are likely familiar with a linear progression. Starting there gives you a basic, easily adjustable starting program.

If you want to take a deeper dive into the novice linear progression, here is a direct link to our ebook: “Novice Linear Progression—Why it Works and What to do When it Doesn’t.

Revisit Your Reasons for Training

At the beginning of 2020, we created a “Goal Setting Workbook.” While your best-laid plans may have gone awry, we are now exactly halfway through 2020. It is time to revisit not only your physical goals but your reasons for them. In this book, we included some useful exercises to help reclaim 2020.

Download the 2020 Goal Setting Workbook




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