If you came here looking for the latest faddy detox diet or juice cleanse that promises to burn fat, cleanse your aura, and give you the glowing complexion of a baby’s bottom… you’re in the wrong place.
Fun fact #1 – Detox diets are scams. You don’t need a juice cleanse.
Fun fact #2 – Toxins are not just things that you eat or drink. Toxins can be habits that mess with your progress. So detoxing goes beyond drinking lemon-honey-ginger-unicorn-feather concoctions and praying for miracles.
And the only kind of detox you actually need : are these workout habits wrecking with your progress?
What are ‘toxic’ habits?
I started my training journey as an athlete being trained by a coach, as part of a larger team. Years later, I became a coach myself and now train fitness athletes as part of large group classes. Through my years of being an athlete, watching my teammates, and now watching my own trainees, I’ve noticed certain attitudes repeat themselves. Irrespective of age, gender or training goals, these attitudes lead to behavioural patterns and habits which derail training progress. I’ve seen too many people (myself included) struggle through unhealthy thought patterns when it comes to working out.
As someone who’s been through most of these totally sucky mindsets and found a way out of them, I hope this will help others who are stuck. So hopefully this doesn’t come across as a holier-than-thou kinda post, but a “I made these mistakes and I don’t want to see you go through the same shit” kinda post.
Toxic habit – Compensating for failure/lack of progress elsewhere in life through your workout
How often have you walked into the gym wanting to make up for something else that has not gone well in your life? How often have you viewed the gym solely as a place to get your adrenaline fix, when life is bringing you down? I don’t mean the one off incident that’s mildly pissing off; I mean a constant source of worry that plays on the back of your mind through the day and doesn’t let you sleep at night.
Frustrated with your job? Cool, just squat a ton of weight.
Upset about a failed relationship? Show the world how well you’re dealing by setting a new squat PR.
Not seeing results at a project? More burpees!
While it is healthy to channel your frustration and hurt elsewhere (and get healthier in the bargain), the problem arises when this overshadows all the other reasons why you workout. No matter what, health and safety should always, always be your primary goals.
I’m going to repeat that just because I had a total Jedi-in-training moment when Raj Ganpath (kickass strength coach, real life Yoda) broke it down for me.
Whether you want to lose fat, build a 6 pack or run a marathon – your primary goal in the gym is better health and to achieve better health in the safest manner possible.
And when you walk into the gym already frustrated about something else, you are never going to be able to pay enough attention to your workout. What happens when you try squatting a truckload of weight while thinking about how much you want to stab your ex, instead of thinking about keeping your back straight? Hello injury!
Working out is a legit source of pleasure and that’s entirely fine. Just don’t chase overly ambitious goals in the gym because your goals are failing in another avenue of your life.
Treat your workout routine as an ongoing process; a happy place that is not dependent on you pushing yourself hard every day.
Toxic habit – Comparing yourself to other people
Comparing yourself to other people in the gym gets you nowhere.
If your primary goal is to be a healthier, stronger version of yourself, then how does it affect your progress either way if the person next to you is squatting double what you are?! And conversely, being the strongest person in your gym doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting stronger and fitter. Maybe you’re just in the wrong gym.
Back when I used to sprint with a club, I would choose to run with guys who were faster and stronger than me. Running with more advanced athletes meant I finished bottom of the pack, but with a faster timing than I had ever clocked before!
Use the stronger/better/fitter people around you as inspiration. Speak to them about their journeys; understand what they did to get where they are today, and see what you can take out of that. Just because they may be further along in their fitness journey doesn’t make them better than you.
Toxic habit – Pushing through pain
This is by far the most self-destructive habit, and naturally the most common one!
We’ve been conditioned to think that “no pain = no gain” and we’re fed a continuous diet of stories about people who pushed through pain, injury and other murky things – like all 239473847 seasons of The Bachelor – to come out on the other side. While I’m in no way undermining these achievements without understanding the choices that these people had or didn’t have (though if you’re watching The Bachelor you may need an intervention other than your workout regime) that attitude has no place in the gym.
A lot of people argue that they are “sucking it up” and acting tough and pushing through pain and not being weak. A lot of people also wind up having to give up their sport/workout routines when their bodies finally quit on them, and are stuck with a sedentary life that gets them unhealthy and weak. Hmm, funny how that works.
And while we’re at it – no, you are not a delicate flower for listening to your body.
Understand that it is not normal to feel any kind of joint pain through an exercise. Feeling muscular soreness is different and this is not something to freak out over. Pain on the other hand? We don’t freak out enough about it. If you have any kind of chronic pain, speak to your coach or go see a physiotherapist pronto!
Toxic habit – Being impatient with your body
Assuming you are not an Olympic athlete, or training to be one, you are not working on any timeline other than sustainable health that will last you through a lifetime. That’s right, a lifetime. Not 2 months, not even 2 years, but an entire fricking lifetime. That’s a whole number of years, months, weeks, and countless workouts!
So what does it matter if you had a week of average workouts because your workload was heavy? Or that you didn’t hit your marathon target? The only thing that matters is consistent effort and progress. Slow progress over the long term always trumps inconsistent big wins in the short term.
Set achievable goals to keep yourself motivated and on track. But don’t flip out if you don’t reach all these goals. If you’re working with a coach, speak to them about setting realistic goals based on your ability.
Moral of the story : sometimes your attitude towards fitness can do more harm than good. It’s important to identify these habits and fix them.
My life has become about 300% (that’s a totally accurate measurement based on like, actual Math and stuff) better since I ditched these habits. I’ve not only gotten stronger and healthier, but I’m much less of the anxious-owl-type person I used to be about getting results. I’ve learnt to chill out and embrace the journey 🙂
What are some habits that you have conquered? I’d love to hear them; Comments section right below!