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30 years and 30 lessons (part 2)

Yesterday I had shared 10 lessons that I have learned in about the 30 years of my existence on this planet. In the second part I will share 10 more lessons that life has taught me so far. In case, you feel that I being too preachy, just bear me, I am getting old, ha ha.

11) Train in all the rep ranges- often you hear people arguing passionately about what is the ideal rep range to follow for any particular goal. And yet, the ones who actually do achieve success in the gym, use a variety of rep ranges. Yes, powerlifters do sets of 15+ reps, and endurance athletes do perform sets of 5 or less! Training in a variety of rep ranges allows you to work your various muscle fibers and ensure better development. In general make sure that you do some work in the low range (1-5 reps), some in the moderate range (6-15 reps), and some in the high range (15+ reps) for best results.

12) Use training to failure sparingly- while doing a set of bench press till your arms shake is good to impress some onlookers, the reality is that if you do so very often, that is train to failure, then you are pushing yourself unnecessarily towards overtraining. Training to failure is beneficial, but only when done sparingly. Doing this for every set of every exercise is likely to fry your central nervous system, and actually make you weaker. Try doing your heavy sets, 1-2 reps short of failure, and see if you dont feel strong and energetic after your workouts. And while you may feel guilty of "not doing enough", wait till you see your numbers improve in a few weeks, and you will no longer be a doubter, but a believer.

13) Small progress made consistently is better in the long term than rapid, infrequent progress- back in my teens, I was a regular for Monday workouts. After a good weekend's rest, I would go to the gym with a vengeance, and hit the weights hard as if there is no tomorrow. And you know what, there was no tomorrow. After pushing too hard on Monday, my body would not allow me to train till Thursday or Friday. And by that point, I was already looking forward to "restarting" the next Monday. And as you would have guessed it, I also made no progress along the way. On the other hand, whenever I train with minor goals in mind, I make much better progress along the way. Infact, sometimes my sole goal is just to show up for workouts, and not even bother pushing too much. But the fact that I showed up, often makes me get in the groove at some point during the workout, and I do much better than what I thought I could do.

14) Some form of cardio is essential- love it or hate it, but consider it necessary. Yes, I am talking about cardio. While the muscle heads among us (including yours truly) would love to lift heavier and heavier, the fact is that some form of cardio work done every week is necessary if you want to be healthy. But as I have written before, cardio training does NOT have to be slow and boring. You can do some high intensity cardio work that can be a part of your muscle building plan, and also help you to keep your body fat under control. And besides, lets not forget how embarrassing it can be when you get out of breath after climbing a few stairs. If nothing else, then atleast do a few finishers a week so that you are not caught huffing and puffing outside the gym doing simple daily tasks. And yes, cardio keeps your heart healthy too.

15) Intermittent fasting is highly overrated- ok, so this is probably the only lesson in this series that is likely to create a controversy for me. After all, the internet is full of sites that preach intermittent fasting as the ultimate way of eating. Some suggest that you do not eat for as long as 16-20 hours each day! Now to be fair, the intermittent fasting group of experts have done a good job in exposing some of the weak claims that made 6 meals a day popular. But, as someone who unknowingly followed an intermittent fasting plan waaaaay before the internet talked about it, I can tell you from experience that it is not ideal if you want the best results. Yep, I did the 16 hour fasts on school days almost all throughout my high school, just dont ask why. And the result was that I was cranky, and did not feel great. On the other hand, on the weekends, when I had a breakfast, I felt a lot better. I do intend to speak more about intermittent fasting in a future post.  But for now, all I can say is that intermittent fasting will NOT work for the majority of the population. And even if you wish to make it a part of your life, I suggest that you stick to one or two days of 12-16 hour fasts a week at max. Doing it everyday is more likely to hurt you than help you.

16)  Stress is a bigger (and often silent) killer than what you think- you hear it again and again, "dont take excess and unnecessary stress in life"! Yet, its one of the things that we as adults just dont seem to care for as much as we should. After all in today's fast paced life, we all accept stress as an integral part of our existence. To be honest, I do agree that the battle against daily stress is one of the toughest battles to win, but you have got to make the effort. If you are experiencing unexplained weakness, lethargy, and depression, then you should know that it is a likely sign of high stress levels in your life. And, the more you isolate yourself from your friends, and the things you love, you are likely to get even more stressed. Taking a little time daily to interact with your family and friends, and doing something you love, for eg exercise, is not going to ruin your career. It will help you to de-stress and feel a lot better. Similarly activities like meditation, etc are all great ways to remove the excess and toxic stress from your body and your life. So dont let this silent killer make you its next prey.

17. Dont let a thought or worry linger in your mind for too long- if you are not finding the solution to a problem, then move onto something else, atleast for a while. Spending too much time thinking about something that happened or is about to happen is likely to increase your stress levels. I know, some people tend to be too anxious and cannot help it. But, I believe that you can train yourself to control your anxiety levels, and think better. And if you dont wish to make the effort, well, then be ready for some pills and medicines. So, try to let go of things that you cannot control, and rather focus on things that you can.

18. You do not have all the answers, and reaching out to others even in your own field is a great idea to grow- as weird as it may sound, and as much of an ego swallowing exercise as it maybe, the fact is that there are people who know things better than you, and asking their guidance is likely to benefit you. For eg, I know of well known strength coaches who ask other strength coaches to make their workout programs, diet plans, help with technique, etc. But if someone thinks that they know it all, and that asking someone else for anything is going to hurt their reputation, then it is a silly belief. Reaching out to others to increase your knowledge, skills is going to let you become better at whatever you do. Your customers/employers will benefit more from your services, and you will benefit too. So be open minded, and learn to reach out for help when you need it.

19. To consider yourself an eternal student, is the best way to become a master- very much a continuation of the last point, but very true and valid. As one gets success in life, there can be a tendency to think that now they have become masters and do not need to learn anything new. And the day someone starts to think that way, they stop learning. And no matter how knowledgeable someone maybe, when they stop learning, they are likely to be overtaken by others, very soon. I have met many great teachers, and successful people in life, and the one thing they all have in common is that they believe they have so much more to learn in life. And that I believe keeps them hungry and makes them work hard. So always consider yourself an eternal student, if you wish to be a master at anything. 

20. Often people are more concerned with what you think of them, rather than judge you- next time when you are about to ask someone out, know this that the other person is more likely to be wondering what you think of them, rather than try to judge you. So dont fear taking chances in life. Go for it, and go with confidence in yourself and your abilities. If you can convince others that you believe in yourself, then they are more likely to believe you too.

So there you have another 10 lessons that I learnt in life so far. Stay tuned, the last installment of this series is coming up soon.

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