I am a creature of habit. Not sure if that is a guy thing or just a “me” thing, but I (and a lot of people out there) are comfortable with familiarity, continuity and things that are predictable.
When I drive to the gym I take the same route every time; I get gas at the same gas station and I grocery shop at the same grocery store. I even buy the same soap, toothpaste and shaving cream, and when I find a restaurant I like I drive my wife nuts by always wanting to go there and almost always order the same damn thing. It’s a comfort thing. Have you ever missed your turn while driving the same route home and you get anxious until you can get back on your predictable route home? I do.
Though familiarity and finding comfort in the predictable are not always bad things, if you take this approach with your training or even nutritional plan, good luck with not only progressing well over time, but good luck with learning and gaining knowledge based on experience with trial and error — you know, the only REAL way to learn anything of value.
Learning and acquiring knowledge through experience means you cannot go down the same paths that you are used to traveling. These familiar paths offer little in the way of learning how something works or how your body works and responds. We have all seen the circle and the arrow pointing out of the circle saying something to the effect of, “This is where the magic happens.” These words are truth.
It is easy to get into a groove of using a diet protocol that has shown to be effective in the past. In fact, this isn’t a terribly bad idea, but because something works well certainly doesn’t mean it will work well forever or even for very long. It turns into a bad idea when you stay on the same path even after signs are starting to show that things aren’t working as well as they used to. This is where getting out of your comfort zone is a necessity if continuing to progress is important to you.
Training is the same way. Most of us tend to get caught up in doing the same exercises but even if we switch up exercises as far as sequence, the core group of exercises usually stays quite constant. If you take an honest look at your training right now, you would almost certainly find that you are rotating your chest workout around maybe six exercises, tops. Maybe you have found that other exercises just simply don’t work that well or they don’t fit your body well or they just plain cause pain. If that is the case and you have recently explored other options for your training by getting off of your beaten path, great for you. The large majority of people reading this will not be able to say that. Even rep ranges and total sets is something of a familiar path for a lot of people. How many times have you said to yourself, “I did 12 sets for chest so I need to do 14 or 15 sets for back”? These are patterns that our psyche holds us to because we have had success with doing something in the past.
Those of us who have been training and dieting for years or even decades are worse with this than most. Our brains justify and explain away that we do the things we do based on our years of experience, but just because something worked or didn’t work years ago does not mean it will have the same result now. I personally made a shift last year to go back to the drawing board and revisit almost everything I knew about training, including exercises I had ruled out years ago due to pain or simply just not feeling they were very effective. In doing so, I have added 10 to 12 new exercises to my training that have ended up proving incredibly effective and helping me to progress after training for over 32 years.
Keep in mind that the best way to progress whether in the gym building muscle or at the table getting leaner is to keep the body off balance. The body loves to find a balance or homeostasis and will gladly sit there and be very content. This will not in any way feed your goals or your progress so take a closer look at your current path and “familiar” routes and ask yourself if what you are doing is in the best interest of your goals or if you simply find comfort in predictability. Comfort zones are for pussies – never mind the fact that I will continue to drive the same path home and freak out if I miss a turn. Just Sayin’.