Home Blog Why Your Workout Routine Shouldn’t Be “Routine”

Why Your Workout Routine Shouldn’t Be “Routine”

Written on November 4, 2011 at 9:56 am, by Eric Cressey

Last Saturday night, the power went out at our house thanks to a rare October snowstorm in New England. Expecting it to come back on pretty quickly, I went to bed Saturday night assuming I’d wake up to a normal Sunday morning.

Instead, I woke up and it was 49 degrees in my house. And, that wound up being par for the course through Tuesday at about 4pm. No hot showers, no refrigeration, no coffee in the morning: it makes you realize how much you take some things for granted.

It’s not all that different than what you’ll hear from injured and sick athletes. We always just believe that we’re going to be healthy – and it’s that assumption that leads us to put too much weight on the bar and lift with poor technique, have the extra beer, go to bed an hour later, or make any of a number of other small, but crucial decisions that interfere with our short- and long-term health, and the continuity in our workout “routines.”

I wish I’d foam rolled even when I wasn’t in pain.

I wish I’d done that dynamic flexibility warm-up even when I just wanted to get in and lift.

I wish I’d eaten my vegetables even though I was just trying to shovel in as much calories as I could in my quest to get strong and gain muscle.

These are all things I’ve heard from injured people. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Some of these decisions are made out of negligence, but often, they’re made simply because folks don’t know about the right choices. I mean, do you think this guy would really continue doing this if he thought it was good for his body?

Nobody is immune to ignorance; we’ve all “been there, done that.”

Almost a decade ago, I had no idea how much soft tissue work, high volumes of horizontal pulling, and thoracic spine mobility drills could do to help my shoulder. It’s why I stumbled through fails attempts at physical therapy with that shoulder back in 2000-2003, only to accidentally discover how to fix it with my own training in time to cancel my shoulder surgery.

Back in that same time period, nobody ever told me how eating more vegetables would help take down the acidity of my diet, or that Vitamin D status impacted tissue quality and a host of other biological functions. I never knew most fish oil products you could buy are woefully underdosed and of poor quality. Now, I crush Vitamin D, fish oil, and Athletic Greens on top of a healthy diet that’s as much about nutrient quality as it is about caloric content and timing.

In short, I didn’t know everything then, and while I know a lot more now, I still don’t claim to have all the answers. Nobody has all of them. So what do you do to avoid taking important things for granted?

Get around people who have “been there, done that.” Ask questions. Follow workout routines they’ve followed, and consult resources they’ve consulted. I touched on this in my webinars last week.

I also discussed this topic in a blog about strength and conditioning program design a while back. The best way to avoid making mistakes and taking things for granted is to be open-minded and learn from other people.

With that in mind, let’s use this post as a starting point. What mistakes have you made when it comes to taking things for granted? And, what lessons have you learned? Post your comments below.

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16 Responses to “Why Your Workout Routine Shouldn’t Be “Routine””

  1. Mark Says:

    Early in my baseball career, I worked with a personal trainer during the off-season. Little did I know, this guy was training me to be a football player. He was telling me that bigger was better. I went to spring training and I lost 10mph on my fastball. It took me two months to regain my velocity to where it should be. I trusted this guy and he assured me that I was going to throw harder and have more stamina. Over the next two years, I didn’t trust anyone when it came to working out. My story also applies to instructors. Many of the professional level instructors are stuck in their ways and a young player can loose his way when it comes to figuring things out, whether it’s hitting, pitching….ect.
    What I’ve learned over time is that you have to surround yourself with good people, people that you trust, that have your best interest at heart and stick with them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Look at the guys who are successful and find out how they do things. There is no secret to success, it’s just a matter of which road do you want to choose.

  2. gregory Says:

    I thought that was the girl from the original
    Exorcist movie. What a video.

  3. Shane Says:

    What is that guy in that video? Is he in a wheel chair yet? Horrible

    I have learnt not to look to far ahead and stay more in the momment. Life and also in training. Great post as always Eric. You are a true star in our industry.

  4. R Smith Says:

    The list is long when it comes to mistakes I’ve made in terms of taking things for granted, but a few that immediately come to mind…

    1. Not appreciating the need for more calories on the road to getting stronger

    2. Disavowing the notion of needing to eat lots of veggies and lean protein

    3. Thinking looking better trumped moving and feeling better–it does NOT.

    4. Not appreciating the role of sleep

  5. B Brookshire Says:

    I believe one thing I learned in my training this year is to be more open minded. In the past I would have never attempted, much less recommended, a box squat. Squatting onto a bench or box had to be a bad thing since I read it somewhere. When I decided to sign up for my first powerlifting meet, I learned how to use the box squat as a tool to help me transition from high bar to low bar squatting.

    So many things which we take for granted as being wrong or bad are typically just used improperly or out of context due to our own ignorance.

    Thank you for your articles.

  6. eugene s. Says:

    Very thoughtful and well presented, good flow, logical. On the downside, you speak a little too quickly generally. Some things I can replay five times and still not understand what you said. Phrases you tend to pack the words together and it’s hard to understand. But then I’m from NYC, so what do I know. 🙂
    Thanks, so much Eric, great stuff as usual. Your dedication shows. I did buy Show and Go and am always talking up your website and Maximum Strength book.

  7. Mike Says:

    “[…]nobody ever told me how eating more vegetables would help take down the acidity of my diet […]”
    This is quite controversial. Check out this, for example: http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/DSH/coral2.html

    Have you thoroughly researched that topic? Unfortunately I don’t know enough about nutrition to tell which side of the discussion is right. Clarification would be greatly appreciated.

  8. Damian Says:

    Hi Eric
    I am on my way to South Carolina to my best friends moms funeral. I was so happy to read your post in the airport as it bought a great amount of laughter and reflection when I needed it! There are to many mistakes to list that I have made as a coach/business owner and a 47 year old athlete. The 2 that come to mind are not having nutrition education and information to give my clients. We have had great success with our athletes and adults, but the one thing that holds them back is the lack of knowledge and implementation of a sound nutrition plan. For us we have seen that sound nutritional plan can take anyone to the next level not only in their workouts, but also in their performance. Especially, adults because many of us have to perform 12-16 hours a day. As for myself I remember speaking to a coach who ask me who trains you. If your a performance coach someone other than yourself should be writing your programs. I never did this before and always wrote my own programs. What I noticed was I wasn’t always doing what was right, more than what i enjoyed doing in the gym. Since I now have other coaches write my programs, my workouts are now tougher and they have become more beneficial. At my age the mobility, soft tissue and flexibility have become as important if not more important than absolute and explosive strength.

    Hey would love to get your ideas on how I could get some nutrition help for my clients.

    Damian Cotto
    Athletes In Training

  9. Damian Says:

    Hi Eric

    I apologize but I wanted to give you kudos, i bought your show and go product so i could you write my program for me over the next 16 weeks. Looks great and I am enjoying the workouts, thought I would give you a plug, LOL.

    Damian Cotto
    Athletes In Training

  10. Amy Says:

    Speaking of taking things for granted, I injured my lower back/hip flexor two months ago after a year of consistent training. I had finally broken through some barriers of my own. Now I am going to physical therapy once a week and finally getting back to regular training. I forgot what it was like to work back from an injury since it had been 5 years or so since I had one. Also, now I have a new found respect for my clients with low back issues. Never want to go through that again!

  11. Risto Uuk Says:

    I agree that Eric talks a bit too quickly. But I’m a foreigner, so what do I know! 😀

    When it comes to taking things for granted, the 3 most important things in life are relationships, health, and knowledge. Whenever you take one of these for granted, your life quality worsens.

    I’m just 21 so I’m pretty happy that I’ve realized how important health is before getting sick. Generally you don’t appreciate peace until you’ve been to war.

  12. Daniel Ashman Says:

    Great link.

    “I wish I’d eaten my vegetables even though I was just trying to shovel in as much calories as I could in my quest to get strong and gain muscle.”

    Could someone please explain how vegetables will prevent injury or enhance athletic performance? Thanks.

  13. Zachariah Salazar Says:

    Yeah the acid alkaline thing as it relates to diet is a hoax. Even if you could change your blood chemistry with an acid/alkaline/nachos/whole grain or whatever food (which you cant) it is respiration that regulates blood pH cuz you can only survive in a very narrow pH range. Not in that range=you dead.

    cool article Eric. I’ll be forwarding it along to client and athletes…

  14. Adam Says:

    I can relate very well to this article as I possess a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science as I was planning on using it to fulfill the pre-reqs for a Physical Therapy program in Graduate School.
    The summer after my junior year of college, I was 21 and now am 32, I was involved in a very serious car accident, resulting in a Traumatic Brain Injury(TBI), being comatose for 15 days with a 60% chance I’d never wake up, and hospitalized for two months. Because of my brain injury, after I finished my undergraduate studies, which took me two years, plus a summer session, to complete, I decided not to pursue Graduate school and got into personal training.
    I became American Council on Exercise (A.C.E.) certified and started work as a personal trainer for gyms. I did not like the fact that they hired regular people with no background in how to build muscle/get into cardiovascular shape, to train their clientele. One of the members would ask my opinon on if they were performing the exercise correctly, and I would correct them if needed. They would tell me more often than not, “[So and so] never told me that” or “That isn’t how [so and so] showed me.” This upset me because the way they were doing the exercise could have led to a debilitating injury.
    In my recovery efforts I used, and still use, the knowledge I gained in college of Exercise Science to help my physical recovery and physique.
    I have since left the training world of gyms and have a regular 9-5 job because the training hours were not conducive to the life I wanted to live at 26, so I left training and got a job, though out of training, with more regular hours.
    I still love training though. I am going to start getting myself, as well as my fiance, into shape for our wedding coming up in June.
    I love your articles and keep up the good work. Sorry about the legth of the comment.

  15. Chaz Says:

    Any words of wisdom on Flameout vs Krill oil? Taking both or rotating through them seems like the two best options, but expensive at the same time.


  16. Rozin Says:

    Sorry, Eric, but I think this is the worst exercise ever: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWzBAILASzE&feature=player_embedded#!

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