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  • Writer's pictureKourtney McCullough

What It Means To "Train Smarter Not Harder"

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

The truth is, I’ve been slowly overhauling my entire approach to teaching over the last several years.

When I first started training clients almost a decade ago, my goal was to be the toughest instructor, the one who clients thought gave the most intense workout "leaving them dripping in pools of sweat" feeling absolutely wrecked and sore for days (and I was for a while). Truthfully, that was before I knew anything about biomechanics and functional movement/mobility when all I had to set me apart from other trainers was how hard my class was.

At this point in my training career, after years of continuing education in anatomy and biomechanics with an amazing mentor and physical therapist, I couldn’t be less interested in pushing people to the point of muscle failure for the sake of making them feel wrecked afterwards. Being mildly sore from a workout and consistently pushing yourself until you’re unable to walk for four days on a regular basis are two very different things. More intensity doesn’t equal more results. And from what I’ve seen, it usually has the opposite effect.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, trying to change a workout culture of people who are programmed to think they need to prioritize intensity over all else including form OR think that they will eventually “rep” their way to good form without starting over and mastering the basics is exhausting, go figure (fyi, It doesn’t work that way). Plus, we really need to ask ourselves what that chronic physical stress is doing to our systems day in and day out in terms of excess cortisol, adrenal fatigue etc. I digress..

I’ll tell you what my training style does include these days:

1. Short bursts of physical stress (anaerobic training). It means taking a break when your muscles start telling you they’ve had enough for one exercise or when your neck or lower back etc. start hurting. Take a moment, pause, regroup, and start again. I promise it doesn’t mean you’re a quitter or that you’re not working hard and won’t see results. It just means that you’re also starting to work smarter. #levelup 💁🏻‍♀️

2. Helping you create better habits. If you plan to mentally check out and simply "go through the motions" of a workout, you will never permanently change your body, aesthetically or functionally. Period. The only permanent change is creating new and better movement patterns/ habits through mind/muscle connections (which also means being aware of how you're moving the other 23 hours of your day when you're not working out).

3. RESULTS! People somehow assume prioritizing form and function over pushing themselves harder and faster with bigger movements will somehow equal fewer aesthetic results. On the contrary, this will give you even more tone and definition (with the added benefit of also decreasing your neck, lower back and hip pain etc).

It’s our responsibility as fitness instructors to educate our clients on how and, equally important, why we’re doing particular movements in a workout. At the end of the day, I believe people should feel better and more balanced in their bodies when they leave a class or workout instead of like they just got beat up. I want clients to workout because they respect their body and want to understand it better, not because they want to punish themselves. When you shift your mindset to focus on function over aesthetic, your tighter and more toned body will get to be the cherry on top of how amazing you feel ;)

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