The 1-6-3 Rule

Training can be fun. It can also be a huge effort. Usually, it’s somewhere in between.

One big mistake first-time exercisers make is thinking that it’s going to be fun the whole time. Think about it…remember how exciting the first day of school was? That first kiss? The day you bought a new car? Unfortunately, most things become more challenging and slightly less exciting with time.

The great thing about training is that you can get the old spark back by just changing things up a bit: train for an event, work on a specific exercise, try to become more flexible – you’ve got unlimited room for improvement.

But even if your training plan is great and your workouts are good, your motivation still ebbs and flows. Enter the 1-6-3 rule. It applies to most of us, so chances are pretty good it applies to you, too.

The general gist is this: Out of every ten workouts, one of them will feel great. Six of them will be passable, but difficult – nothing special. Three of them will make you reconsider why you ever started training in the first place. These three are the root of most training plans’ demise. These are the three you absolutely must fight your way through.

Let’s go back to the one great session. This one usually comes when you’re completely recovered, have eaten well, and have recently progressed. The important part of having a workout like this is to remember that it’s special and is not “the new normal.” Enjoy it, because you won’t have it again for a few weeks. And don’t get depressed about it either. Half of the feeling we get when we’re successful is because it feels different than normal.

The middle six are what you make of them. Some will lean toward great, others will lean toward bad. These are the days that can be hugely affected by a good warm-up and proper nutrition. Since these are the lion’s share of your sessions, it’s a good idea to plan on them feeling like work.

Then there are the dreaded three. These come after nights of too much food and too little sleep. They come when you are not feeling your improvement. They show up when you don’t do your homework. A great athlete can reduce the occurrences of these, but more often, he prepares for them and accepts that this is, after all, work.

Nobody loves training all the time, and no one loves hard work that doesn’t pay off. No one loves having bad days. If you can fight through the bad days, though, you’ll love what training can do for you.

-Steve Bechtel