How to train for life

Chris Shugart, creative director of T-Nation:

The best motivator is fear. Yes, yes, I know you’re not afraid of anything and you flaunt a washed-out ‘No Fear’ T-shirt from the ’90s in the gym. But I also know that every person who has come to success has been haunted by some kind of fear or even a couple all their lives.

We’re not talking about pathological phobias, of course, but things that really bother and make you act, such as:

  • fear of ruin,
  • fear of letting down loved ones,
  • fear of turning into your parents (if they are problematic) or that schoolteacher-torturer
  • fear of not fulfilling their abilities,
  • fear of living up to the expectations of the haters.

If we talk about our sphere, we can reflect on the following:

  • fear of getting fat (backwards),
  • fear of being weak,
  • fear of going to the beach,
  • fear of suffocating while climbing stairs,
  • fear of sagging buttocks.
    These fears make us get up early and go for a run, work out with iron, diet and generally take charge of our lives. From this ‘scare’ we falter in the right direction.

Christian Thibadeau, strength and conditioning coach:

1. Don’t skip training

If your motivation has waned and you want to skip the gym, be aware that it will be harder to resume classes. Even the great bodybuilder Milos Sartsev, when asked why he works on a seven-day split (which, incidentally, I do not recommend), replied: “If I do not train at least one day, then I will not make myself return to the gym.

For most people, taking breaks is not helpful, it’s detrimental. Continue according to your plan; if you don’t have the energy, lighten your workout – reduce the intensity or volume, substitute exercises, etc., but be sure to go to the gym.

2. less is better than nothing

We’re all adults, we all have jobs, families, mortgages and other stuff to do, so there’s vanishingly little time to work out. But. Even 20 minutes carved out for iron is a million times better than none. Do you have “only” 10? And that’s better too!

Very often people get hung up on fitness because of the stupid stereotype that a workout has to last an hour or two or three, otherwise there’s no point. When my son was born, I was only able to work out for half an hour each for a few weeks. And I even progressed a little bit. But the most important thing was that my motivation did not fade.

3. Prioritise.

This is the most clichéd advice, but still effective: training should be one of your top priorities in life. I train professional athletes, bodybuilders, crossfitters, but my favourite client is forty-five-year-old Joe, who has six children and his own business. He works 60 hours a week and is always flying around on business trips, yet he always finds the opportunity to work out 3-5 times a week. He was bench-pressing 55 kilos when he came to me. Six months later he was 140.

4. Set up a gym at home

Another problem for busy people: the long commute to the fitness club. You’ve got half an hour to work out, but no two hours to get there. In this case you can buy a barbell, a bench and racks and do loads of exercises at home: bench press, bench press, standing press, squat with bar on your back and chest, lunge, squat on the ground, normal lifting, Romanian lifting, sumo lifting, bent over, biceps curl, arm curls for triceps, barbell on the chest, snatch, push-down, etc. etc.

5. Read!

The more you read about training, the stronger the desire to exercise. Look for interesting articles, visit thematic forums, buy books by good trainers.

Dan John, strength and conditioning coach:
Firstly, find your trainer. I was very lucky – I got into the sport early and met Dick Notmeyer. He remains my Mentor (with a capital N) to this day. When he turned 87, Dick shared his sadness: “You know, Danny, I can’t train with iron and ride my bike every day anymore. I’ll have to choose one thing or the other…”
So now Dick works out three days a week and rides the other four. I think at 87 you can relax a little bit.

Thanks to him, I learned in my youth the importance of training and many other things. For example, I ask my mentees stupid questions: “Did you brush your teeth today?” If not, you don’t have to brag about your bench press. I’m certainly not against record presses, but I want them to take care of all aspects for health and training longevity.

Here’s what else helps:

1. Your (home) gym.

Here are my recommendations for what it should ideally be. But maybe you already have one and you didn’t even know you had one – a rolling bar under the bed and a deadlift bar in the doorway, for example. Buy a dumbbell or weights and you’ve got all you need for a good workout.

Almost all fitness fanatics have some equipment at home. I have a gym membership, but I also have a pair of barbells, 26 weights, a barbell, bars and a rowing machine. Not to mention chains, harnesses and a bunch of different things that are fun to push, drag and carry. Sure, it all takes up space in the garage, but I can train whenever I want.

2. the same kind of crazy friends

I can always rely on my training partner Mike Brown – he and I are ready to rock every day. If you get the whole gang of roommate buddies together, you get a gang of almost half a dozen. We work out together, then grab a bite to eat, and we’re constantly chatting, having fun, sharing our experiences and helping each other out.

The programme is determined by the mood. Sometimes we are going to pump our biceps, but someone asks us to assess technique of kettlebell lifting or Romanian snatch – and that’s all we do. That’s how I get the best workouts of my life.

3. not a very, er, stupid goal.

I, for one, have one: to dance at my granddaughter’s wedding. My grandparents died before I was born, my parents before my children were born; and I’m breaking that sad pattern. Now Josephine is four, I just have to keep doing what I’m already doing and avoid doing anything stupid.

I’m 61 and I’m still competing. And a lot of friends have already died because they were aiming for the wrong thing. Make the right choice and go towards your goal all your life.


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