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Training Principles: Adherence and Effort

Fundamental Movement Performance Training Personal Training

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When it comes to fitness and nutrition, there are two priorities that stand above all else, adherence and effort.

Adherence is what keeps the aeroplane flying, it’s the driver in a race car. Without it you fundamentally get nowhere. It underpins any successful endeavour we undertake.

It’s often an area of behaviour that is assumed by coach and client, yet so often becomes the pitfall in the plan. 

In my experience, this is the biggest factor between those clients that have achieved goals and those that have failed. When collectively, as coach and client, we’ve been able to create an environment that removes barriers to adherence, amazing changes occur in health, body composition, fitness and performance. 

The most basic measure of adherence is simply are you showing up when you’re expected. This can be in the literal sense, if you have a class or session booked, do you make every effort to ensure you get there. Or the more indirect sense, are you sticking to the plan that’s in place.

For example, if you’re following an 8-week training block and you miss a session to meet with friends, and it quickly becomes a weeks worth, is it realistic to expect the same outcome that the programme was designed for?

If you’ve worked with a coach to develop a nutritional programme to change body composition in time for an event, and you go out each Friday and Saturday night, burning through a weeks worth of calories that go untracked, is it realistic to expect the same outcome?

It would be upsetting to detail the number of training programmes I’ve developed for clients both in-person and online that have failed simply because of adherence.  You can lead a horse to water and so on….

Once the initial inspiration for change fails, people too often lack either the motivation, intent or discipline to run the course. Maybe it wasn’t the right time to make the change they desired, maybe it was too big a change to encounter, or maybe it was a goal that simply wasn’t meaningful enough.

A reminder I will make to clients regularly is that half the battle is in showing up. Once you’re at the gym, we can modify if needed to meet you where you at that time, but just getting here ticks that adherence box for another day. if you truly have to cancel, have a plan in place already of how you will get back to it as soon as possible. 

Once you’re here, this is where effort counts. There are no shortcuts to a place worth going. 

For an individual who want’s to alter body composition whether it be fat loss or muscle gain, there will be times when things don’t feel enjoyable. We may experience hunger during a caloric deficit, or a need to eat to a point of discomfort when aiming to increase mass. 

To make a change in our strength or performance, we may need to push beyond what we thought capable of at times, or add another set to an exercise when we already feel it may be enough. 

In the same way that there is a minimum expectation for adherence, we must also have a minimum expectation for effort.

This for me is the biggest difference between simply working out, and those actually training. Many people workout, not many people truly train.

If we attend a few general classes a week and occasionally watch what we eat when we feel the scales start to change for the negative, we’re probably in a good place to maintain some degree of basic health. This is absolutely fine for the vast majority of people, and likely a lot better than most are currently doing. 

However, training is far more deliberate.

In training we set out our intentions and we execute methodically. There are timescales, minimum expectations, high degrees of execution and and a clear outcome in mind in which all other aspects are focused. 

This is a huge part of not only why I started IFT, but where I intend to take it in the future. No stone left unturned. 

The intention is to provide a service in which an individual comes with a goal, and the capacity is there to provide true behaviour change through exercise and movement, nutrition, sleep and relaxation, and stress management. 

The recent lockdown and changes to normal living circumstances has provided an interesting social experiment of adherence and effort. Without the relative ease of gym attendance and classes, an increase in sedentary behaviours and likely caloric intake, some people will thrive in spite of the changes. They will have found solutions to maintain focus. 

Others will have inevitably fallen by the wayside. Not through lack of knowledge, but through a willingness to maintain behaviour choices… adherence and effort.

An average plan in the hands of someone willing to adhere and apply genuine effort, will far outstrip the best made plan undertaken by someone unwilling to meet these minimum of standards.

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