It’s All in Your Head – Owning Your Subjective Experience of Exercise

What’s the different between doing an exercise and owning it? To us, that’s one of the most important questions in fitness.

In sport and fitness, we loooooove numbers. We keep score. We keep stats. We count weights, times, and reps. And that’s a good and useful thing, but it’s not everything. One thing we haven’t traditionally had good ways to track is our subjective experience of our sessions and of each movement.

And that used to make us sad, so we changed it.

This episode is about how we’ve set quality and awareness as core components of each rep of every practice. We’ll share how we measure the subjective experience, track it, and learn from it so you can truly own your abilities.

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Some of the resources mentioned:

3 Ways to Measure Progress with Bodyweight Exercise Avoid Exercise Burnout: 3 Steps to Autoregulation TrainingWhy 100 Push-ups is a Terrible Goal

Transcript of It’s All in Your Head – Owning Your Subjective Experience of Exercise

Andy: All right. All right. All right. Welcome to the God’s Most Beautiful Podcast. And we are God’s most beautiful, or something like that.

Ryan: Yes. Got to tell the story.

Andy: I hate to start this episode off with a bold face lie like that. But-

Ryan: But let’s tell the story quickly about where this comes about. So we are in San Diego, and we have the entire GMB staff there. And Stacey, our lovely, lovely person who sets everything up for us, rented this big ass long white van so everybody could ride in it. And, she had a magnet logo created so she could put that on the van. And so, we were driving around this in this big white van with this blue GMB logo on there. We pull up to this restaurant and like a gazillion people get out of the van. And someone comes up to Stacey, and says, “Oh, are you guys a church group?” And Stacey says, “Yeah. We’re God’s most beautiful.” So that’s kind of where that came about and I thought was pretty fricking good. A good one so we’re going to stick with that.

Andy: Good improvisation. Stacy’s good at that stuff.

Ryan: So, we’re no longer whatever we were before, I don’t even remember. It was just so long ago. We’re now God’s most beautiful.

Andy: I will say if you are coming out of a restaurant, and you see a plain white van with a magnet sticker on the side. Don’t just go walk up to people and ask-

Ryan: Yeah, that’s a little dangerous yeah. Especially with us. I mean, look at us? Why would you want to do that?

Andy: Right. That’s kind of what I meant.

Ryan: Right. That’s dangerous.

Andy: Yeah.

Ryan: So what are we talking about today besides like creation and the world?

Andy: So today, we’re going to talk about … Well, we’re going to talk about something that I think is really important and it’s subjectivity, which sounds like not something that you would normally have on a vaguely fitness-related podcast but bear with me because subjectivity is really important. I think that well, when we hear from our clients who have used our programs, one of the things that they say is that working with GMB and doing Elements or doing some of our programs … and this is not my words, this is what many,
many people tell us … is that it changed the way they look at exercise.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: It changed their experience with exercise. It gave them an appreciation and enjoyment of the details of movement and it gave them fun and a feeling that something is effective in their actual lives, not that they’re just sweating for no reason. And these are all subjective markers. And I think a lot of times in fitness and in physical activities, we tend to focus, over focus, on objective measures. How much do you bench? How fast can you run? How high can you jump? And these are all good things. How much do you weight? It’s nice to know these things. It is good to be able to measure and track progress and things like that. But I think most of us, the real reasons that we train really do come down to subjective measures. How do we feel about ourselves?

Ryan: Yeah. Improved quality of life. Yeah.

Andy: Yeah, what’s our quality of life? So we’re going to talk a little bit about subjectivity but I’m not going to just try to talk for 40 minutes here about why it’s okay to just get in touch with your feelings and … this isn’t a wishy-washy thing because these are real results people get but at the same time, we want to tell you how you can use subjective measurements to also track your progress. Objective measures of weight, time, duration, reps are useful for some things, but they’re not the only way that you can track your progress and continue to make progress.

Andy: So we’re going to talk a little bit about this thing broadly and then we’re going to discuss how we specifically track subjectively in GMB programs and in our own training, how we make improvements and how we know we’re getting better. And I think that if you’ve seen any of our videos or looked at our stuff and looked at the people that are using our stuff online that tag us and things, you can see that people are improving. You can see that Ryan is pretty okay at stuff. You can see that our trainers are pretty okay at stuff. So clearly, some of it works a little bit.

Ryan: Yeah, a little bit. Just a bit.

Andy: Right? Yeah. First, yeah, let’s just talk about … Let’s talk broadly about this because I think it’s important to understand that numbers are very useful but they are not everything. Right? So Ryan, how many pushups can you do?

Ryan: All of them.

Andy: Right.

Ryan: I can do all of them. And yeah, pushups, yeah, just to get right in with this. This is something that we get a lot. It relates back to that big question, “How much can you bench?” When a person says, “Hey man, do you workout?” I’m like, “Yeah.” Or better yet, let’s just say whenever I’m on an airplane or something and somebody asks me what I do and I say, “Well, fitness related.” I try not to mention that but when that comes up. They say, “Oh yeah. So you workout?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” And they’re like, “How much can you bench?” No idea. But it also goes back to the pushups. How many pushups can you do? And so, there’s different ways of looking at this and I think if we’re simply looking at numbers, and if I were to tell you that let’s say I can only do 10 pushups, then that is kind of limiting us in our scope of what we’re looking at when we’re trying to talk about pushups.

Ryan: So many people will say, “Yeah, I’m working toward being able to do 100 pushups.” Great, okay. How well can you do those pushups? And I think that’s the main thing that we’re after here is the quality of what we’re doing, not just the numbers. And I’m not saying that doing 100 pushups is bad. But let’s try and do 100 quality pushups, because if you’re doing, let’s say, just 20 solid pushups but the remainder 80 pushups are crap, then great. You’re doing 80 crappy pushups and that means that you’re creating a bad habit. You’re training bad form, and that’s not good.

Ryan: So rather than doing that, let’s look at the quality of what you’re doing. So increasing those numbers but first focusing on a single repetition of that particular movement done in high quality in order to increase not just the strength but the quality of the entire workout, not just one thing.

Andy: Right. So there’s a great book … well, I say great … it’s actually really hard to read called Thinking Fast and Slow.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: Daniel Kahneman. I mean, he won Nobel Prize for some of his work related to what’s in this book. But the just of it is that humans have two kind of thinking systems. We have System 1 and System 2. And the way it is is these are basically the emotional feeling processing that’s based on our autonomic nervous system. Things that happen in less than half a second. Impressions that we get. And then, there’s our thinking logical system which is what we think of as thinking. This is our slow thinking when we’re using logic, when we’re deliberating, when we’re considering, when we’re trying to figure out the right thing. But what happens a lot of times is that we … our fast thinking, our less than half a second thinking, is already made up our minds. You see something and you either like it or you don’t. And then, your brain makes up a logical story about why you like it or don’t.

Ryan: Yeah, yeah.

Andy: And we trick ourselves into thinking that we are using logic to make decisions but what’s usually happening is we’re just justifying the impression that we’ve already got. So with that … and I’m not saying that this absolutely the way the mind and the world work … but this is-

Ryan: Majority of the time.

Andy: … a good model of current best understanding of cognition. So with that said, if you’re listening to this, you probably have seen videos of Ryan on the internet. And you probably thought that he was doing something pretty cool or you would have closed the video and moved on with your life. So all right, let’s say we have hypothetical. We have Ryan and then we have another guy who looks a little bit like Ryan, maybe takes his shirt off more and shaves.

Ryan: And shaves and is ripped, absolutely ripped.

Andy: He’s Paleo, of course, because you have to be Paleo. So, let’s take Ryan as … GMB Ryan versus Paleo Ryan. Now what if we told you that Ryan can do 100 pushups. Would that impress you more or less than what you already know about him? And then, what if we told you that Paleo Ryan can do 105? Would it make any fucking difference? And I’m pretty confident that the answer is no, it doesn’t matter. The reason that people come to Ryan for training is not because of the number of pushups that he can do. It’s because they see the way he moves. They see that he’s strong. You can tell Ryan’s strong. He’s doing handstand freaking pushups and he’s doing all these things. He can do pull-ups and levers and all this stuff. You know he’s strong. So does it matter if he can do 65 versus 75 pushups? It’s completely irrelevant at that point.

Andy: And I think that this is what’s really important that there’s a subjective thing that we all get subconsciously before we start thinking about the numbers. And the numbers, even though we know logically that they’re important, we’ve been told you have to be able to measure things to know that they’re true. Right? But that’s just not the way the world works, it’s not the way the brain works, and it’s also just not fact. I can tell that Ryan is good at many physical things without counting his pushups.

Andy: And so, that I think is the most important thing. So yeah, we talked about 100 pushups and like you said, Ryan, if 80 of those are crap, you’re really just getting really good at crappy pushups.

Ryan: Exactly. And so, yeah, I was kind of waiting for you to come back to this but the thing is is it’s always about that quality. And so, even if you are going for that 100 pushups, I think that’s great. I mean, it impresses me more if you can do those 100 pushups with really good form. And whatever that form means. Okay? So that was another topic that we’ve covered before, what form means, but instead of just cranking things out, but more importantly, what is the purpose? Why are you doing this?

Ryan: I think this is also another thing too because just yesterday, I received a message on Instagram and it was simply, “Will your programs help me build muscle?” And I could have said, “Yes, if you focus on it this way, yeah, great.” But I didn’t. I said, “Listen, our goal isn’t really to build muscle.” I said, “It’s to focus on helping you move better.” I said, “If you just want to focus on building muscle, then you’re better off using just weights if you want to build as much muscle as possible.”

Ryan: But what I’m getting at here is the thing is it can be very easy to simply look
at something and assume because we’re looking at it through the lens of the experience that we have before. And so, looking at those 100 pushups, like Andy said, it would be very easy to judge simply based on looking at something instead of fully understanding what is the reason behind this and what are the protocols as well for how this particular person is training to get those 100 pushups. So yeah, that’s why this can be very difficult when we’re looking at numbers.

Andy: Right. And I want to say too, it’s not just body weight stuff. You could take a bench press or a squat and the same logic applies.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: You’re doing five by five bench presses and maybe 200 pounds. Okay? Whatever.

Ryan: Sure.

Andy: So you can do the same numbers and the same weight and you can have a good day and a bad day. You can have a day where all five of those sets, all five reps, you feel really strong and solid and great.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: Or you have a day where your first set was pretty good, your second set was kind of slow. But your third set, you’re having to do a little rest pause before you got your last rep.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: And for your last set, you’re grinding out all five of them. Well, both of those are five by five at 200 pounds but we know subjectively that one of those is better. One of those is a better performance. So a lot of times we get these things, “Well, that’s why one reason that weights are better because you can have an objective measure.” Well, no you can’t. It’s not an objective, fucking measure because nowhere in any of these apps, nowhere in any of these workout logs, nowhere in most of this stuff is there a place where you say, “I did this much but the last half it was not good.”

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: I will say I know some really, really talented athletes and some people that have been lifting for a long time and a couple of bodybuilders and they do go into this level of details of things but that’s where you’re talking about athletes versus recreational lifters for fitness.

Ryan: Right, right.

Andy: And I’ve never met a recreational fitness-oriented lifter who went into that much detail on their reps. Usually it’s like, “Yeah, I got five by five and nailed it. I’m ready to crank up the load,” or whatever.

Ryan: Whatever, yeah. Yeah. But yeah, but the form, that’s the other thing to is the form is going to decrease as you increase the load, as you increase whatever it is that you’re doing. But the thing of it is is still trying to focus on having that quality form whenever you’re doing it. Again, I mean, our big thing too, it’s how is this improving you? How is this helping you? Is really what I was coming back down to.

Ryan: And so, that’s why I like to say instead of doing 10 of something, just focus on that single repetition. Do one, just do it as well as you can, and then try another one. And so, that’s why I only focus on singles. And a lot of people misinterpret that thinking I only literally just do one repetition of something and I’m done. But no, I’m trying to focus on that single repetition, then I’ll do another one. How many repetitions will I do? I don’t know. It’s always going to be different. And this is another reason why we like timed sets for certain things because then you can focus on each individual repetition on a particular move.

Ryan: But again, if you are looking at the weighted world and the barbells and things, which I do do. I love to do dead lifts and I’m back into doing those. But the thing is, that’s going to change based on how I am feeling that day, how my form is and whatnot. So, not just … just because something is written on a piece of paper doesn’t mean that I’m going to go into that session and follow it 100% thinking that I’m going to crush my session because on a piece of paper is tells me that I need to do six repetitions of double body weight dead lift, which I don’t fucking do anyway. Yeah.

Andy: Right. And just to clarify, like said, about singles, if you haven’t heard this before, Ryan always likes to say how many repetitions is … he does one. How many pull ups? One pull up.

Ryan: One. As beautifully as I can. Yeah.

Andy: And then, you do another.

Ryan: I do another one. And that’s it. I mean, literally that’s it. And again, it’s like if we’re looking at if you have 10 of them, okay great, if it’s written on a piece of paper to do 10. But really, I’m like, “Okay, show me one. Show me as beautifully as you can. Okay, great. How’s your form? Yeah, I’m feeling really, really good. Great.” As you work up there, if you happen to hit rep eight and you’re like your form is still really good and you’re feeling good, good, do another one. If you hit nine and you’re like, “Oh man, my form is really crappy right now.” Cool. You’re done. Does that mean that you’ve failed because you didn’t get 10? No. Celebrate the fact that you did nine pretty fucking awesome pull ups and chin ups. And you’re good to go.

Andy: Right. And it’s also kind of funny too because when I go to the gym and I workout, if I have 10 written down and let’s say I feel really good on the last set, I’ll just keep going.

Ryan: Yeah, exactly. That’s a great point.

Andy: But I still write down 10. I still write down 10 though.

Ryan: And that’s good. But that’s a great point because the thing is that just because that on a piece of paper it says only do 10 and you should stop. If you’re feeling really, really good, either do an extra rep or maybe possibly do another set. And maybe on that next set, you’re not going to get those full 10, you might only get three or four or five reps but the thing is is that’s what I think is great. If you’re feeling great, do more. If you’re feeling shitty, back off.

Andy: This is something that I don’t fully agree with this but it’s also it’s true in certain ways too is Mohammed Ali said that … he was talking about …

Ryan: I only start counting sit ups, was it that one?

Andy: When he starts to feel the burn. Right?

Ryan: Yes. Right. Yeah, yeah.

Andy: Or don’t start counting until it hurts, or something like that.

Ryan: Yeah. I think it was when he was talking about sit ups and he was talking about, “Yeah, I only start counting my sit ups when I start burning,” or something like that. Yeah, I remember that quote too and I was like yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I kind of get that but yesterday, just to bring this about as well, this can be a great example because this is actually practical. And this is what we’re talking about. So in Brazilian Jujitsu, we were drilling. And we started off with 20. And so, we were to do 20 repetitions and so it was just basically it was 20 each side. So whatever we were doing. The thing is I’m very lucky because my instructor knows GMB and he’s worked with me and GMB and everything like that and so he has that mindset now too. And so, he says that as well. He says, “Okay, that didn’t count but you’re done.” And in the sense that that didn’t count you need to do it again. It was basically, “Okay, your form is shit right now, you need to stop, take a break, and then come back to it.”

Andy: Yeah.

Ryan: And so, in that case, because we were doing multiple rounds of this. Multiple rounds of 20 each. So trying to get the numbers, but trying to get the numbers in a way that were going to allow you to each with good form. So instead of maybe it was like three rounds of 20 ended up being like six rounds of however many it took to do it with good form. So, another way to look at it there.

Andy: Right. So I mean, the thing is is and this is what we keep coming back to, Ryan and I, when we talk about this stuff is that reps absolutely do matter. Your nervous system needs reps to learn, to process, and to be able to control these things. That’s how your body gets better at things is reps. But reps also means time. Reps also means … it means a lot of things. But reps should absolutely be quality reps because that is something that is being etched into your brain. And the more bad reps you do, then maybe it’s in the service of getting bigger or stronger or whatever. And sometimes, that can work for a while but there’s also a plateau effect and we think that you probably make better progress over time. To be a little wonky, you can maintain linear progression longer if you focus on quality reps.

Ryan: Yes.

Andy: Than if you do a lot of cheat reps. And there’s a time and place for cheat reps, for sloppy reps-

Ryan: Oh yeah.

Andy: … for forced reps, for all kinds of things. These are all proven things that if you have a coach that is working with you can help you use these things effectively. Wonderful. But in our programs, we’re mostly aimed at people that do not have a well trained coach working with them. That’s why they need our programs. It kind of makes sense. So we don’t use these techniques in our programs. Instead, what do we do. We measure quality and ease. These are out two subjective ratings that we use to help people understand how they are improving through paying attention to and tracking their subjective experience of the exercises.

Ryan: Yes, and … go ahead.

Andy: First, I just want to say that yeah, actually that’s it. Let’s get into quality.

Ryan: Okay, cool, man. So quality, if we’re looking at quality, we’re looking at a couple things here but especially the good form. But the good form doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re trying to do something perfectly. And so this is what can be difficult to understand in the beginning. We want good enough. And good enough means that you’re being able to perform that movement safely. You’re being able to do it at a high enough quality that’s giving you the results that you’re after. If we’re just striving for perfection, sorry but you’re never going to hit it. You’re just going to be hitting your head against the wall and not going anywhere. So, that’s why good form means it’s good enough, again, for you to safely do it and repeat the process and be able to get in volume.

Andy: Right. And so, just to-

Ryan: Yeah, go ahead.

Andy: … butt in for a second. Just to have more information on this, we did an earlier episode of the show a while back on good form that really explains exactly what Ryan just said in a lot more detail. So that will give you guys a little bit more listening material on that and also a more recent episode on the details in movements-

Ryan: That’s right.

Andy: … And how we approach those which I think might also inform that a little bit.

Ryan: Yeah. Yeah.

Andy: So, please continue.

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. Great, yeah. And so, this is another reason why because we’ve already discussed this and so I’m not going into too much detail about that. But basically, the other thing to say about that is when you’re performing something, a lot of times that perfection mindset can come about because you’re looking at someone else doing it and thinking that you need to do it the way that they’re doing it. And so, that’s where I think people can get really hung up.

Andy: Right.

Ryan: And so, instead of focusing on trying to do it exactly how someone else does, bring this internally. And this is where we focus a lot on awareness. How is it feeling in your body? So, that’s important because if someone were to look at me, I’ve been doing this for like ever. And so, the thing is is I feel it differently than someone else is going to feel it. So if I’m doing a pushup, I know what I should be feeling, but the thing is, you might not know what you should be feeling. And so, just trying to mimic someone then what happens is you lose that awareness of what’s going on in your body. So you’re … like a lot of people talk about the shoulders or maybe the elbows, but you might be feeling it in the hips. And there might be something going on in the hips. And if you’re not trying to focus on being aware in your body, then you might lose that.

Ryan: So go back, listen to those episodes about where we talk about form. But what we’re going to do right now when we’re talking about quality is we have our quality scale and our ease scale. And while we’re going through this, we’re looking at certain things. So imagine that instead of using a number, we like to bring this back and use actual lingo so that you can get that better feel for what’s going on. And this is where the awareness comes in too. So imagine that you’re working through something and you give yourself a number. You’re always just going to be trying to hit that top number rather than really being aware. So what we do is we use … and I want to make sure that I get these in order because sometimes I screw these up … but we’re looking at broken, rough, smooth, and snappy. So broken, obviously starting from the very bottom.

Ryan: When you’re working on a movement, does it feel broken to you? That it’s not working? That you can’t work with this particular movement because you don’t have that control? You don’t have that comfort with it? Once you get better with that, it’s still not great. It’s still a little rough, but it’s manageable. And so, that’s kind of the next one. And then, the next thing we’re looking at is smoothing that out. So you go from that broken movement. Then, it becomes a little rough but it starts, after you polish it up a little bit, it’s going to smooth out and get smooth. Then, once you have full control and feel very comfortable with that, that’s when it becomes very, very snappy. That’s when you feel like you own that movement.

Ryan: So rather again than looking at these particular numbers, we’re looking at this scale where we’re using lingo that we can bring into our body and really focus on our feeling of that movement. So broken, rough, smooth, and then, snappy. Anything you want to add to that?

Andy: Yeah. I think that it’s really important, we’re not, like you said, not just comparing to someone else. You’re not just doing this through your eyes and saying, “Oh, I give myself a seven out of 10 at being like Ryan.”

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: Because that’s really hard to do.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s silly, yeah.

Andy: How does it feel? And that’s why we have these words that we attach to these things and it makes it a lot easier to know, to decide, which one of these is a more appropriate description of what you felt. And I think the other thing is this is always a moving target because it’s one thing you could say well, with numbers, you always know if the number goes up. If it’s just subjective, once you get to snappy then you’re done. Right? Well no, because it’s a moving target.

Ryan: Right.

Andy: What feels broken in the beginning, what feels … what even feels smooth when you’re doing it in the beginning, as you practice it more, you’re actually going to find that you are more aware of just how rough it is.

Ryan: Yes. Yep.

Andy: You’re going to find that your standards increase with practice.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: And so, it’s a moving target. You’re going to have exercises where you start maybe at broken, maybe at rough. Maybe you might even start with it pretty smooth. And then, you practice it, get it better. It feels really snappy. It feels nice. But then, you notice a little something in the detail of the cues that we give and you’re like, “I actually wasn’t doing this as well as I thought. I need to be able to relax my neck as I do this bear walk and focus more in my shoulder movement rather than just smacking my hands into the ground,” or whatever. And then, you do that and what that does is that brings your feeling of quality down as you become aware of new details. Well, not it feels a little rougher now that I’m focusing on this different thing or I’ve changed it a little bit to make it more difficult.

Ryan: Yes.

Andy: And so, then you have to go through this again. So it actually looks like a sine wave when you plot this over time.

Ryan: Yeah, yeah.

Andy: It will go up, it will go back down. It will go up. It will go back down. And that’s fine. And lifting, you want that graph to go up and to the right. And ours looks more like a sine wave, and that’s fine. A wave means that you are learning and constantly adjusting your perception of things to your progress, and that’s good.

Andy: And just another example of this. When I was a kid and I started doing marshal arts and I remember my first class and my sensei said, “Do 100 punches.” And I did, oh God, I did the best 100 punches. Bruce Lee had nothing on me. I did the 100 most awesome punches that a seven-year-old can even just imagine. Okay? But you know what? Over time, my idea of a good punch has changed a few times. And that was 35 years ago, and I think my punch is better now but I certainly don’t think it was the best punch that was ever thrown. So, quality if subjective. It’s a moving target. It always was, it always will be. Just don’t try to pretend that you’ve got some objective measure for these things.

Ryan: Yeah. Well, one more example and that is the handstand. I talk about this a lot with people because when they come into it at the very beginning, the shit is broken. They don’t even know what to do and they’re like, “I can’t even do it.” As they start working and they get more comfortable, they start working on smoothing it out and they find that they can actually hold that handstand. Now the interesting thing about that is we’re always looking for the zero point in the handstand. It’s basically the point at which you feel weightless and you’re able to hold it. That zero point changes as your line improves so as you get better with that handstand and just like what you said, what happens is the awareness changes. And you find that even though you can hold it, you’re going back down where it’s starting to feel rough because you’re having to find that zero point again.

Ryan: So, I actually like the handstand for that reason is that it’s always different. You’re always looking for that zero point. It’s never going to be perfect, which is a great thing, to be honest, to me. When you, within that practice session as well, not every single handstand is going to be great. Maybe one out of 10 is going to maybe feel smooth, is maybe going to feel snappy. The rest of them, eight of them, might feel rough. One is going to feel broken as fuck. But the thing is is looking at that session as a whole I think is more important than looking at that individual movement and judging the rest of your practice based on a single thing that you did in terms of the handstand and skill work. And so, that’s also something to look at where you’re looking at micro and macro.

Andy: Absolutely. So, that’s quality. So now let’s talk about ease. Ease is our other main metric. And this is, I believe, we are unique in the entire world of fitness to tell people that the goal is to make things easy. I think that we probably get laughed out of any kind of fitness fraternity.

Ryan: You guys are on crack.

Andy: Yeah. You’re supposed to make it harder. Right?

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: Oh, give it everything. It should leave you dead on the floor.

Ryan: If you’re not bleeding, you’re not trying.

Andy: Right.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: Why do we measure ease? Well, the reason is that when you look at really great performers, when you look at a dancer who has maybe spent 100,000 hours practicing. Actually, that’s probably a lot. Let’s say 50,000 hours practicing. Look at a dancer who has spent that kind of time training and look at their performance. And how do they move? Effortlessly. Look at a pro football player on the field. And I’ve heard people describe a football performance as balletic before, right? Graceful, rhythmic, smooth, beautiful, balance, poise. These are the words we use. We say that a great basketball shot is like poetry.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: We don’t say it looks like Jordan was about to fucking die. No, we say Jordan’s jump shot is poetry. Why? Because he’s practiced it so much that it become effortless.

Ryan: Yes.

Andy: This is the goal. The goal is not to sweat until you die. The goal is to get good enough at things that they are effortless.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: So, when we first thought about doing this, we were trying to measure effort because there’s a thing called a Borg Scale which has been studied to death. And basically what they found is they did a measurement called RP, rating a perceived-

Ryan: Exertion. Exertion, sorry. Or effort. Some people say effort, but yeah.

Andy: And with time and a little bit of practice what happens is over a few sessions of rating your perception of your exertion, this ends up correlating to max heart rate during a session. And so, there’s actually good science behind this. But what we found is that people just think higher numbers are better. And so, if we say, “Rate your exertion,” people are always going to say, “I gave it a 10 today. Good job, Me.” Well, maybe not because we want you to get to the point where you can get the same amount of work done with less effort. So we want to rate ease. We want to rate ease because sometimes intense work is required to where you can do things easily. But the goal is still ease.

Ryan: Yeah. Just to reiterate that fact, I mean, we’re not saying don’t workout hard. Okay?

Andy: Right.

Ryan: And that’s where some people can get confused. It’s we do, within each session, have a section where we call Push and that is literally where you push yourself. But the thing is is we’re not looking at pukey and trying to get out the bucket so that we’re going to barf and everything. It’s always working towards being more efficient and improving the way that we’re able to do skills. And so, we want to always look at improvement. And if you’re just crushing yourself every single session, honestly, you’re not doing yourself any good by being able to help for your next session in improving those skills. So, that’s what we’re looking at when we’re talking about intensity.

Andy: Right. And so, as you practice and as you get more reps and you get better and better, what happens is you’re able to do the same intensity and level of difficulty with more ease.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: And so, when you find that you’re at a very easy level or an acceptable level of ease for you, then what we do is now we increase the intensity or we increase the complexity or difficulty of the movement. Right? And now, you keep practicing again until you can do it at that level with relative ease. And here again, we have a sine wave kind of thing as you go from very difficult, from max effort, to yeah no problem. Right? And then, you crank up the difficulty a little higher and it takes more effort again. Right?

Andy: So again, the sine wave pattern instead of an up and to the right graph is evidence that you are learning and adjusting over time. So we want to see in both ratings, in both quality and ease, a sine wave growth pattern and they’re usually not going to be in phase. But we want to see this nice little wave cresting and troughing over time and that’s fine because that means that you are learning and getting better. And you don’t need anymore than that. You don’t need anymore to know that you’re making progress. If you do these things, you will make progress even if you still can only do one pushup.

Ryan: Absolutely. And again, it’s going to change depending on where you’re at in your life. It’s going to change depending on where you are in your current cycle. It’s going to change from a day-to-day basis. So the thing is is by using this scale now, we have a way to auto-regulate how we’re doing our sessions and truly think about what we need that day, what we’re actually capable of that day. You might have the ability to do this but that particular day, are you able to actually perform it at a level that’s helping you? Or are you simply just working out? So, that’s the difference between practicing and having a session and working at building skills versus simply working out just to move your body and get your
sweat on.

Andy: Yep. Okay, so let’s sort of wrap this thing up. We started out begging anyone listening not to turn off the episode because we’re not getting woo witchy here. This is really important. But subjectivity is not woo. It is just a way of looking at things. And so, we don’t reject objectivity. We think numbers and reps are all fine and dandy and good and useful for what they’re good for. But we also think that most people have, at heart, really subjective goals for themselves and also most people do not know how to focus on this objective experience of a workout. Most people do not live inside their bodies. Most people look at things, they think and they measure and they count and compare to other people. But that’s not what GMB is about. We want you to learn to play your own game and that means really learning to be aware of your own state and how things feel to you.

Ryan: And I want to jump in quickly. When you are more aware of your particular state of what’s going on each day, it’s going to allow you to actually push yourself more that way if you’re at a point where you could do that. And so, the cool thing is there are times where it happens to us all, we show up and we’re getting ready for a session and you workout, whatever you want to call it. And you’re like, “I’m not really feeling it today.” But the thing is is you get in and you start to do your warmup, then things start to happen and you end up maybe having one of the best sessions you’ve ever had. The thing is is only by being aware of what’s going on and doing that is can you properly push yourself with what you’re doing?

Ryan: And again, a lot of people, to be honest, there’s two things we see. It’s either they push themselves too much or they’re not pushing themselves hard enough. But the problem is when they try and push themself more, they do it in a way that’s actually destructive instead of constructive in the way that they’re doing their sessions. And so, that’s what we’re doing when we’re trying to look at instead of those numbers, look at that awareness and being able to move forward and make progress.

Andy: Yep. And the thing is is numbers are really easy to count because we’ve all been counting since we were young children. But the thing is, you can just as easily track and measure your subjective experience of things.

Ryan: Yes.

Andy: It just takes a little bit of practice.

Ryan: Yes.

Andy: It’s definitely something that you should experiment with, you should play with, even if you’re doing a traditional weightlifting split or something right now and you’re doing X sets of X reps. Maybe add another column in your notebook that’s just for how you feel.

Ryan: Yeah.

Andy: Right?

Ryan: That’s a good idea.

Andy: And how easy was it? Or what was the … how much quality was it? And just see how that goes for a little bit. But start tracking these. Start learning from it. And you will learn that you can get a lot more from your sessions when you understand your own experience of this stuff.

Ryan: Yeah. Yeah.

Andy: All right?

Ryan: Cool, man.

Andy: All right. Ryan, do you want to leave us with a little tip.

Ryan: With a boner. Or excuse me, bonus.

Andy: Just a little tip, Ryan.

Ryan: Just a little tip, just a tiny tip. So let’s take a look at the pushup because we were talking about that earlier. So go ahead and try this. So go ahead and crank out five repetitions of the pushup as quickly as you can. Okay? So bam, bam, bam, bam, bam. Hi, I just did five, great. Okay, now give yourself a break and I want you to come back and want you to try one single pushup focusing on form, the best quality of pushup that you’ve ever done before but I only want you to do one repetition as slowly as you can. So you’re slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly lowering yourself. You pause at the bottom, making sure that you’re keeping your elbows in. Then, you slowly, slowly, slowly return to the top.

Ryan: Now, what’s the quality of that? Did it change throughout the pushup? The answer is yes, it’s going to change. The thing is if you’re only cranking through these pushups, you’re not going to have the awareness of what’s going on within them. And so, by slowing things down then you can bring awareness and start to learn a little bit more about what we covered in this talk that we had today that you can start taking that into your sessions.

Ryan: And so, I’m not saying that you should do everything slowly all the time. But by slowing things down, it’s going to bring awareness to where you need to be working at what’s going on within your body when you’re performing a particular movement and you can use that and carry it into your sessions and the other stuff that you’re doing. So it’s just something, a little technique, that you can use to help you to improve awareness as well as improve getting stronger, increasing in your … improving your flexibility as well. And as well as motor control because those are all involved in everything that we’re doing.

Andy: Absolutely. All right. Well, that’s it for today. Thank you for listening.

Ryan: Thank you, thank you.

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