Sport and Exercise Psychology


Fitness and Strength Training: It's A Process

I am in the process of transferring some old posts from the old "GUStrength's Blog" to here. This post was written in August 2009 and like many of the posts over there was never really seen. I think it is a good one and worth having more visibility, but I'll let you be the judge. It concerns a subject that we often discuss here at GUS, which comes down to the question of being a "task-oriented" or "outcome-oriented" person. This has been mentioned in numerous forum discussions and articles, so we must think it is a fairly important distinction. Here, I am trying to clear up just why that is.

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The Rudy Effect: How Fitness Goals are Really Reached

Sometimes I get myself so busy with writing about how to strength train, getting all down and dirty with the technical stuff, that I forget something very important. The same thing with dispensing advice.

You see, something that I sometimes forget but that is always in the back of my brain is a sad fact: The majority of people who find my articles or ask my advice will not be training a year from now. Or even a few months from now. In fact, it is quite likely that one of my articles is the first and last thing they will ever read about strength training or any other kind of "fitness pursuit". And the same is true of anyone who does what I do.

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Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome

When Hans Selye was experimenting on rats by inflicting stress them either by injecting them with hormones or chemicals, making surgical incisions or exposing them to extreme temperatures, he noticed that the rats were all displaying the same group of symptoms. At first he believed that he had discovered a new hormone1; however, several years of further testing by injecting the rats with other substances, such as formaldehyde, revealed the same results. Even exposure to cold, cutting their spinal cords and forced exercise produced the same effects. The effects occurred in a predictable sequence that is now known as the General Adaptation Syndrome2 (GAS).

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Fitness: All Encompassing Means Paralyzing?

In my previous post I presented the talk by Dr. Barry Schwartz regarding “The Paradox of Choice”. Also, I've lately been speaking about having specific goals in our training and making specific choices about the direction our training should take.

If you read my piece on the concept of fitness you’ll see that I don’t think much of the word. Yes, I use it on occasion for brevity or convenience but depending on your perspective it’s either to vague or too all-encompassing.

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The Paradox of Choice by Dr. Barry Schwartz

Confession. I'm a real geek for Ted Talks (although they sometimes present some real crap). I particularly love this talk by Dr. Barry Schwartz. If you don’t relate to most of the things Schwartz talks about in this video then you may have already discovered the secret to happiness!

Schwartz is a sociology professor at Swarthmore and author of "The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More". In the talk he makes a great case for how the abundance of choice in our affluent Western society is making us miserable. The story Dr. Schwartz relates about buying a new pair of jeans made me laugh because that is ME. I want that pair of jeans too…the kind that used to be the only kind.

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Self-Control: Not all its Cracked Up To Be

More and more, everyone is learning that "diets" don't work. Sure, people drop weight on diets but they fail to make a lasting change. I don't need to go into this, you know all about yo-yo dieting. Despite this there are still plenty of judgmental folks (who probably wouldn't know a problem if it bit them in the tuchus) who will say stuff like, "jeez, whatever happened to old-fashioned self-control?"

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Focus and Pick A Program: Training to Fail Pt. 5

The last few posts in this series on failure were specific, technical, and practical, I hope. But I did warn you that some of the posts would be more philosophical and general. This is one of those posts. The next one will be chock full of sciency stuff, I promise. I think the subject of this one is just as important, though.

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Strength Training, Pain, and the Regressive Fallacy

You're going to wonder why there is a psychology lecture on a strength training blog, I'm sure. Well bear with me because I'm not even going to talk about psychology, even though that is an interest of mine. Listen to the lecture by Dr. Paul Bloom of Yale University and get with me on this because it relates to some of the points I've been making in my posts here and many comments and articles throughout the site.

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Strength Training Motivation And Goal Setting

Why do you strength train? Are you even clear on the reasons? Do they change from week to week? With so much emphasis on goals perhaps we are missing something even more fundamental and vital. Motivation. What good are goals when you are not even clear what motivates you to do what you do?

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Static Contraction (Isometrics) Transfers to Full Range Strength? A Post on Pseudoscience

This was several years back, but still a great example of the kind of thing that goes on in this industry, which is just as plagued with pseudoscience as any other. Did I just state the obvious? I think I did.

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Going to the Heart of Things: Break the "Advanced" Mess Down to Its Essence

I complained about the misuse of quotes in fitness articles in my first Bad Fitness Article post. While writing the last post in that series I was thinking about the mess of programs and so-called advanced training techniques and this caused me to go all philosophical. So I wanted to see if I could use quotes in a useful and legitimate way to illustrate some of my ideas in this area. I called on two of my favorites and went from Bruce Lee to Emerson.

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Getting in the Zone V: Relaxation

Part IV of Getting in the Zone described arousal regulation and the effects of anxiety and anger on performance. At the end of that post I left you with this:

"There are those who will need to focus on energizing techniques. Rather than controlling excessive arousal, they will need to develop strategies to increase arousal. But in my experience, most lifters have more of a need to control anxiety, apprehension, and anger, and thus regulate excessive arousal. Therefore the next post will focus on regulating over-arousal."

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Breathing Exercises for Relaxation

This article is a simple explanation of several breathing exercises for relaxation. It is meant as related companion to the Getting in the Zone series of blog posts or for anyone interested. However, before we get into the breathing exercises you should have already read Paradoxical and Diaphragmatic Breathing which will have introduced the basic concepts and techniques of correct diaphragmatic deep breathing. That article contains an exercise meant to help you practice deep breathing but it should also have you well on your way to achieving a relaxed state through breathing.

I also encourage you to read the Getting in the Zone series which will provide a broader context for what we are trying to achieve. The benefits of proper breathing are obvious but many strength trainees may not see the point of "relaxation". The Zone series provides that point of context and much more.

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Fight Or Flight: Lift or Die?

Have You ever heard someone say that in order to lift a very heavy load they imagine they are "doing battle" with the bar? Of course the real hardcore lifters don't say the word bar, they say "iron". "It's just me and the iron in a battle to the death," they say, or some such similar nonsense.1

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