End Your Cherry Picking Cycle
Have you ever cherry picked a workout? You know, you look ahead at the upcoming programming and decide which days you will show up and which exercises you will purposely avoid like you dodge that smelly guy at work that always has to stop you to talk. No don’t worry, I’m not asking to shame you and I won’t tell your co-worker you think he stinks. I’m just curious as to why you may have cherry picked. In my mind, there are two possibilities.
You are avoiding workouts/exercises because of the suck factor
You are avoiding workouts/exercises because of pain
Either way, there tends to be a negative stigma around cherry picking. If you are picking and choosing what to do in the gym based on what is easy/hard I totally understand the negativity that might surround that. Nobody roots for the guy that takes the easy way out. If that’s you listen to your buddies when they give you shit. They are just trying to make you better. However, that negative stigma still seems to fall on those who decide to cherry pick workouts because of pain. When really they are being responsible and just looking out for themselves. If that’s you, feel free to ignore the immature influence of your friends pestering you to jump into a workout when you know your left shoulder is going to be throbbing later that night. From this point forward let’s not jump to such a negative standpoint when you or someone you know cherry picks. Let’s instead use this as information to get better. Whether that means learning how to lessen the suck factor, or getting out of pain so you no longer have to avoid certain exercises or workouts.
I want to touch on the first point made above to start. Avoiding workouts or exercises because they suck likely means it’s an exercise you could benefit from. You are avoiding it because you don’t enjoy it, it’s challenging, or it hurts. (not injury pain, more so muscular soreness/fatigue) If you are gonna skip out on things that can help you improve in the gym, be sure not to complain about not making the kinds of gains your buddies are that show up on the days you skip. Otherwise, find ways to make these types of workouts/exercises more manageable for you.
Lessen the suck factor of movements and workouts you tend to avoid in the gym.
Check The Ego
Used to going RX? Always trying to PR? Always pushing the pace in the workout? Maybe try taking a step back on the days these workouts or exercises pop up. Don’t come out of the gates so hot, dial it down to a level you can better manage. Don’t worry, Harry Go Hard won’t care that you didn’t send it in that workout, he will be happy to have you there on a day you usually ditch.
Pay Attention To What You Cherry Pick
This can be valuable information if you pay attention. Understanding the movements or workouts you tend to avoid can provide insight into areas you may need to work on. For example, if you find you tend to ditch heavy deadlift days you may want to play around with building better hinging abilities. Not necessarily specific to the deadlift or heavy weight, but building more strength and endurance through a hinge pattern.
Ease Into Things
When you first started going to the gym you probably gravitated towards a very specific set of movements because they were easier for you, fun, or just came more naturally. You most likely dreaded seeing some of the more complex movements or workouts you knew would be more challenging for you personally. Everyone has certain exercises that are more challenging for them than others. You build comfort and confidence with these movements just like anything else. Start slow and build with time.
Ok, point number two. Are you avoiding workouts because of pain? First of all, avoidance of painful movements likely isn’t going to solve anything. Luckily knowing what movements cause pain allows you to have a better understanding of you, your body and the adjustments you can utilize to help resolve these issues. In the short term, some movements may need to be avoided. Mainly if this movement and variations of it all cause pain. In this situation, it’s ok to make adjustments or avoid specific exercises if it is going to help guide you along as you work to get out of pain and back to being able to comfortably perform these exercises.
Tools To Get Back In Action
If you feel you are stuck skipping workouts or exercises because of pain, here are a few tools to help get you back in the gym.
Adjust The Load
Start by scaling back the weight you are using. If your knees hurt when you squat 300 pounds, see how 200 pounds feels, does 100 pounds cause pain, what about 45 pounds? If you can adjust the loading down to a range that doesn’t bring about any pain symptoms, you want to start there.
Adjust the Range Of Motion
If a full depth squat is painful, how does staying an inch or two higher feel? What about even less depth? You don’t have to live and die by full ROM. Especially if it causes pain. If moving through a smaller ROM allows you to continue to train while limiting discomfort, there is nothing wrong with that.
Find A Similar Pain Free Stimulus
If adjusting the load and ROM offers no relief, it’s time to experiment with different movements. Can you replace the squat with a low step up, or a split squat? Pivot to an exercise that offers a comparable training response but produces pain no flare ups.
The combination of the above has a single goal in mind. Allow you to continue training while working to resolve the issues that may be causing pain. Flat out avoidance and fear of movement won’t fix your problems. The objective is to be able to continue to train while managing discomfort, building confidence, and working your way back to non-cherry picking, pain free fitness.
Use what you avoid in the gym as information and understand the reasons behind why you may be skipping out on certain things. Don’t let it slip by and go on as something insignificant. Whether its due to the challenging nature of a movement or workout, or pain, it’s valuable information you can use to get better.
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