“Are we there yet?” Four simple words start the interpersonal avalanche that is about to ruin your trip. It doesn’t matter where you are going, this seemingly innocent question from the back seat will shut Dad down immediately. He stops looking around, stops interacting, and pushes the gas pedal down just a little bit farther. Mom moves one step closer to that one-armed comic book swing to biff everyone in the back seat in one stroke. And you just KNOW that the never-ending-slap fight is about to start in the back seat.

But ARE we there yet? How do you know IF you are there? Where in the world is THERE anyway?

Every trip we ever took, Dad drove a minimum of 5 mph over the speed limit, and did NOT stop; not for directions, bathroom breaks, food, sleep, ANYTHING! I’m convinced that the only reason we stopped at the coast is simply because we ran out of road.

As absurd as it sounds, many of us do the same thing with our workouts. Most of us have an idea of where or how to start. (Or we get a Fitness Profile if we don’t) But how do you know where to stop?

On a large scale, it would be ludicrous to continue driving once you’ve reached your destination. Nobody runs through the finish line of an Ironman and keeps going.

So, what is your destination in the gym? Your DESTINATION is “failure”. But this is territory that most of us are unfamiliar with. We don’t like it. It’s uncomfortable. It’s ugly. We don’t LIKE it. We feel like a FAILURE; a weakling. We LIKE being GOOD at something, so most of us don’t push this. But, it is only by going BEYOND your limits that your body responds by getting stronger. It is only by REQUIRING more than you are capable of, that you become capable of more.

Since many never got a map, let me point out a few signs that tell you when you are THERE.

The Rule of 3- When you cannot get through 3 consecutive repetitions while keeping form, you are fatigued. It is time to stop. When you lose your balance 3 times trying to get through 1 repetition of a move, you are done.

The Black & White Break- If the colors start fading, or things start going gray around the edges, it is time to back off. Get some water.

The Lamaze Pause- It is amazing how well a Lamaze class prepares a person for a job as a Personal Trainer. A lot of the job involves getting in the face of someone who is sweating, grunting, REALLY upset with me, and shouting, “Push. Push. Breathe. BREATHE!” Seriously, if you find yourself forgetting to breathe, you are at your limit. Holding your breath while you push will spike your blood pressure well beyond anything ever considered remotely healthy.

Speeding up- Many times as we get tired, we speed up to try to get through the set before things give out. Guess what? If you have to speed up, things have already given out. Slower is stronger.

In the big picture, fitness is a journey. There is no place to “arrive” at. On a smaller scale, your daily destination is failure. These are just some landmarks, so you can look around rather than having to ask, “Are we there yet?”

Mark Carson ACE-CPT


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