If an hour of lifting weights at the gym is good, then isn’t two hours better? If 5 miles of outdoor running is good, then why not run 8 miles? Or how about just running a faster time? “Better”, of course, is a matter of perspective and depends on how you approach your goal. It’s easy to get caught up in the “more is better” thinking. Many ads, fitness products, and even some trainers lure you into thinking that exercising 2X as hard in the gym will help you achieve your health and fitness goals in 1/2 the time. Mathematically, that sounds all well and good, but the human body is a dynamic system and doesn’t necessarily work that way. Long duration training and high intensity workouts may increase the likelihood of injury. Stress fractures, for example, are common for long distance runners, while many weight lifters, who train heavy, may experience muscle strains/tears in their biceps, back and shoulders. In addition, there’s the loss of momentum and possible derailment from their goal. We also have to include the time, effort and emotional investment involved in recovery from an injury.

In the long run, it’s about training smarter — and not harder — that will not only get you to your goals, but help you to maintain and improve. How can you train smarter? Start by keeping a food and exercise journal. This will allow you to Target, Track and Trim.

Target: What are you aiming for? Identify your short and long-term health and fitness goals.
Track: Monitor your progress. Write down what you eat and drink and what exercises you are doing. This will help you identify what is or is not working for you.
Trim: Be more efficient and effective by trimming away the excess or unnecessary in your diet and workouts. Hindsight gives you insight.

Imagine your favorite basketball player practicing free throws, tennis player serving, or baseball player pitching. These activities are about developing and reinforcing positive habits and technique . . . not brute force. With each practice, muscle memory is developed. New neural connections are actually being created in the brain. That’s why seasoned coaches and trainers like to end practice on a high note, so the athletes develop a positive feel.

A power lifter is a good example of an athlete who pushes their body. You might think he/she just goes into the gym and picks up the heaviest weights they can, but an experienced power lifter follows a specific training plan. Not only do they perform specific lifts during a workout, but they “build in” light days and recovery days. Talk to any power lifter and they’ll always emphasize recovery, rest and proper nutrition. I’ve worked out with power lifters before. One was a world record holder in his age and weight division. When he was tired or sore from a previous day’s workout, he would train lighter or even take a day off. Smarter training yields longevity in his sport, and the same is true with your health and fitness goals. You’ll learn, have fun, get in shape and be injury-free.