I’ve recently started teaching weight-training classes for some of my clients who want to work out with a “techie” on hand. We do a pretty good mix of simple and intricate exercises.We focus on activating the trunk stabilising muscles (aka core) through simple push and pull strategies. The technology is basic, but the technique is complex. Time after time, my clients struggle to get the exact muscle(s) working that the exercise is designed to stimulate. Who would have thought the toughest part of an exercise class was the exercising of our minds – firing a signal to move down the right channels?

Consider it: what thinking do you do to move a finger? None. It happens by what we term instinct. Except it isn’t instinct. It’s a process of careful programming of neural pathways; a process that starts from before we’re even born.

Riding a bike

If you know how to ride a bicycle, you might remember what a tough time it was initially to learn. If you were like me, you were all over the place. Trying to get arms, legs and gravity heading in the direction you intended! And then stopping – argh! That panic at seeing the end of the street approaching fast and trying to remember which lever was the brake. At some mysterious point, and after sufficient practise, you stopped thinking and started simply doing. While your bike and body went on their merry way, your brain went into processing other essentials: what’s for supper, what you should wear to Chloe’s party on the weekend, whether or not your dog could ‘eat’ your homework again for the 3rd time this week…

So this is what I aim to do with exercise coaching. Break the routines down to the basics and then repeat, repeat, repeat until – voila – one day you’re just doing it!

You have to do it

There are a couple of bug-bears in the process though. They’re the same bug-bears that keep popping up in the nutrition work I do. You may even find them present in the work you’re doing. The thing about riding a bike is this – unless you’re riding tandem, YOU have to ride the bike. It’s you that decides how fast the pedals turn and what direction the bike should go. No-one else can ride it for you.

Many people think that the ideal state to get to, in exercise work, is to develop a routine: for example, upper body on odd days and lower body on even days; 3 sets, 8 reps, push, pull, jump, squat and repeat. The routine will deliver the six-pack.

When it comes nutrition, the ultimate goal is a set agenda for eating – that Holy Grail called a diet. If only you could find the right one, the right formula, those kilos will go marching off the scale. Once we have our exercise routine and our diet, we’re good to go – just apply discipline and guilt.

The hamster wheel turns….

No six-pack? The kilos have returned with a vengeance? Must be the routine, or the diet, or a lack of discipline, or the trainer, the gym, the training buddy, the… on and on the hamster wheel turns.

We end up breaking our hearts and bodies. We want a formula for success. And a want a hook that will lift us up by the seat of our pants and just do ‘it’ for us. Those are the bug bears: our constant search for the formula to good health and the hook that will leverage it into place. A recipe, manual, pill, person, map etc. That ONE thing that will make it all happen.

Except, riding a bike doesn’t work like that. Your dad shouting instructions is useful to a point, but eventually he let go, and so did you – you let go of the need to listen to the expert and you took over.

Only one person can do it

A happy, healthy body can only be the work of one person, you! While a formula and other motivators will get you heading in the right direction, they don’t know you and they don’t know the terrain. Even if your trainer knows you well, you’re the one riding the bike, bug-bears and all.

So go out there, stop listening when you’ve got what you need, and let go…