Why Going Too Hard, Too Often Is Dumb
(And What to Do Instead)

Call them “Lost Warriors.”

They go too hard too often and end up sabotaging themselves. I know all about Lost Warriors because I used to be one myself.

But I found the cure — and so can you.

Lost Warriors are anything but lazy. They know a lot about training and nutrition and are often highly disciplined. They have plenty of ambition but struggle to correctly align goals with actions.

Lost Warriors go hard for a while, then back off due to injury or discouragement when the PRs stop arriving like clockwork. That was me.

Maybe you’re a bit different. Maybe you’re new to training and are going hard right out of the gate. You get crushed. But oddly enough the endorphins kicked in, and you love it.

You’re still motivated. A few days go by and you realize you can’t do this every day because you’re too sore. It’s been several days now and you decide to try again. This time BAM! You tweak your back and now you can’t work out for a month.

Sound familiar?

If it’s any consolation, I was still making the rookie mistake of going too hard too often after years of training and hundreds of hours of what I called “research.” Take a look at a free download the older and wiser me created to help you exercise the right way called The 4 Pillars To Transforming Your Body.

Anyway, I approached every workout with reckless abandon. It didn’t matter how I felt, how much sleep I’d gotten, or, hell, even if I’d been hungover. I had a mindset that intensity was king and that I had to go in there and “win” every workout. If I wasn’t lying on the floor in a heaping puddle of my own sweat and drool with my shoes knocked off, did I even work out?

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Well, that kind of mistaken thinking can only lead to a frustrating plateau. Then comes something even worse: burn out

It happened to me. I got hurt and burned out. So I stopped working out altogether.

Spoiler alert: The big takeaway here is:

Consistency beats intensity every time. More about all that in my free guide

Time For Some Common Sense

You can’t work out at peak intensity in every workout six to seven days a week.

A smart and SUSTAINABLE program needs to alternate between High and Low days, which is a training concept developed by Olympic sprint coach Charlie Francis.

The idea is simple. You alternate days during a training week that are higher intensity and lower intensity.

High intensity days can involve resistance training that is higher in central nervous system demand. Examples include heavy back squats or energy system work that is anaerobic in nature like 60 second Assault Bike intervals at a very hard effort that need at least five minutes of recovery. These days should focus on high effort and maximum intensity.

Low intensity days can involve skill development work like gymnastics training if you practice CrossFit-style mixed modal functional fitness, structural balance work, and sustainable aerobic work. The day should be approached at 80% or lower effort level.

Alternating between the two types of sessions ensures that you get the most out of intense days because you’re able to recover better instead of being constantly fatigued from intense session after intense session.

What Bob Learned — And You Can, Too

Meet Bob, a composite character I created because he shares the characteristics of many of my clients. Bob is a 35-year-old business professional who wants to get strong and build muscle while losing fat. He also wants weightlifting PRs and to master new skills like getting his first ring muscle-up. Bob played sports and hit the weight room in high school and college, but he became inactive while pursuing success in his career. This might be how a typical week looks like for him.

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Bob’s been doing this for one year. He made beginner gains in the first six months. He lost ten pounds, PRd all his major lifts like the back squat and deadlift, and made some progress in learning higher level skills like kipping pull-ups.

But now he’s plateaued. Bob is not getting stronger. After the initial ten pounds he lost, his body is staying the same. He doesn’t have the athletic, muscular physique he wants. He’s doing more work, but his technique is not improving as fast as he wants. He’s constantly getting injured and he’s always tired.

Bob is doing intense and unsustainable work all the time. He’s not even considering the amount of work stress he has, how poor his nutrition is, and the fact he’s only sleeping five hours a night.

Can you do this for a little while? Sure. Can you do this long-term?

Been there, done that and I’m here to say: no, it can’t be done because it’s not sustainable. Now I help my clients avoid the same mistakes I used to make. If you download my 4 Pillars To Transforming Your Body guide, I cover those mistakes in more detail.

Here’s What To Do Instead

Here’s what a week looks like implementing a High/Low method:

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Bob would be in the gym 60 minutes or less three to five days a week. This allows him to do solid resistance training, skill work, and sustainable mixed modal sessions.

In this example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are our “high” resistance training days. These days optimize strength training and muscle endurance that support how he wants to express fitness. We alternate that with Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday as our “low” days prioritizing skill work, structural balance, recovery, and sustainable mixed modal aerobic work.

Now Meet DQ — And Learn from His Mistakes

My client DQ is a former athlete who loves playing basketball. His athletic background and personality made him fall in love with intense workouts. He naturally gravitated toward something like CrossFit-style mixed modal functional fitness because it was so competitive. It was a way for him to go ALL OUT.

Unfortunately, with a busy travel schedule, DQ was unable to train consistently. When he got to a class, he went all out but still wasn’t improving or seeing the results he wanted. He wasn’t recovering well because he was always getting his ass kicked in class.

When we started working together one-on-one the first orders of business were to:

  1. Bring down the intensity. We slowed DQ down and focused on good movement mechanics, technique, solid resistance training, and sustainable aerobic training.
  2. Create a consistent workout schedule DQ could adhere to whether he was traveling or not.
  3. Create nutritional and recovery guidelines that allowed DQ to ditch the “all or nothing” approach and be more consistent.

The result? DQ got stronger and improved body composition.

Learn From My Mistakes

I used to make the same mistakes as DQ. I’m a former athlete and I’m competitive. I was immediately drawn to mixed modal functional fitness as popularized by CrossFit back in the day because it was intense and competitive. I got to throw weights around as I’d never done in the past.

And I had my mind set: I’m going to be competitive at this thing.

I wanted to be a Regional Athlete vying for a spot at the CrossFit Games. I did what anyone else would do and ADDED MORE! More workouts! I was doing two workouts a day five to six days a week.

Here’s where my excitement led: a physique I didn’t like, burn out, and three surgeries.

This isn’t a knock to high intensity workouts. There is a time and a place where intensity can be beneficial, especially for elite-level athletes.

The point is that being able to consistently do something is what leads to long-term results versus the short-term results that intensity may provide.

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When you’re starting out in fitness, maybe strapping on your shoes and walking for 10–20 minutes every day might be better than attempting to run a 5K.

Choose something that’s easy, doable, and that you can consistently do. Consistently doing that eventually leads you to be able to do more intense things once you’ve built it up.

Just because intensity is available for you to do doesn’t mean it needs to be done every day.

Consistency is what allows you to stay disciplined even when things get hard.

The Three Secrets Of Consistency

  1. Recognize that intensity provides only short-term results. Know that real and lasting results take time. Consistent and sustainable action in exercise, nutrition, and recovery cultivate results. Training three days a week every week of the year trumps 30 days of intense exercise that leave you feeling burned out and hurt.
  2. Know why you’re working out and trust the process. Fall in love with the process of consistently working out. Results are a product of doing the entire process.
  3. Recognize that intensity has its place. Intensity isn’t always bad or something that should be avoided. It becomes an issue when every day has to leave you on the floor in a sweat angel. Learn how to become consistent and sustainable first. Then learn how to blend low, moderate, and high intensity for lasting results.

Finally, A Bonus Secret

Get help.

No one can do it alone. You need support to stay consistent in the pursuit of your goals. In fact, it’s so important that human connection is one of the pillars I talk about in my free 4 Pillars To Transforming Your Body guide.

It’d be harder than it looks to create and implement a consistent training, nutrition, and recovery plan.

So don’t get overwhelmed and make mistakes as I did; get help instead.

You will learn how to use fitness and nutrition to improve performance in every aspect of your life so that you look great with your shirt off and harness the improved confidence to dominate everything, everywhere from the boardroom to the bedroom

The key? Start by managing your stress and recovery. Stop making stress consume your life and then add to it by overtraining, dieting unsustainably, or neglecting sleep.

Download the free guide I mentioned throughout the article here.

Written by

Erwin Regidor is a scotch-loving personal trainer and online fitness coach living in Shanghai. He loves the Dodgers, Lakers, French Bulldogs and Filipino food.

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