If you’ve followed me on social media or worked out with me or seen me at races, you all know I love a good ol’ fashioned push-your-boundaries, soul crushing physical effort. A leave-it-all-out-there-on-the-field effort where you can barely move afterwards. We call this “going beast mode” and you see every athlete you follow on social media posting about it.

“Went beast mode and hit a PR lift.”

“Ran 400 meter repeats until I puked.”

Social media posts like these get lots of attention and likes. They give the viewer a sense that the athlete is superhuman and lives in beast mode all the time. And don’t get me wrong, a lot of these athletes are far fitter and faster and stronger than the rest of us. But what isn’t often posted about is the countless hours of more mundane training they put in to get to that point. The four days of zero or really easy workouts because they were so beat up after that beast mode workout. Anyone who’s ever done the CrossFit workout Murph (mile run, 100 pull ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, mile run) knows what I’m talking about.

Seeing these posts on social media are often inspiring and motivating. They make me want to get up and go crush a workout when I see my favorite athletes show their incredible skills. Unfortunately, too many
of us try to emulate those workouts and spend more time trying to recover than  benefiting from the exercise. And therein lies the problem. We want to be good, fit athletes before we are ready, thus risking injury and slowing our progress trying to keep up. Jumping into 400 meter  repeats because that’s what makes your favorite athlete fast might be above your current level. Doing super-sets of shoulders because your favorite powerlifter got strong that way might leave you so sore you can’t make your next workout.

Throughout my personal experience as an athlete and my study as a personal trainer I have learned the benefits of exercise and pushing your limits. I’ve learned that the more quality workouts you can string together, the faster you will adapt and get fitter. The faster you can recover between workouts, the more workouts you can do. This means keeping those beast mode workouts to a special occasion or race day, or as an occasional test to see where you are at on your fitness journey. Your best bet to your fastest gains is to string together as many push-your-limit workouts as possible. But this also means not pushing so far past you limit that you can’t make it to the next workout in your plan. This is where knowing your body or consulting a professional comes in. Over time you learn that going a certain point past your comfort zone is enough. Push yourself to that sweat zone, that burn zone but call it quits before you reach that point where tomorrow you’ll pay for it.

Think about it this way:

Boxer A trains super hard on Monday. She does 8 hard rounds of sparring and leaves it all out there. She’s so wrecked and sore after that she has to take it easy until Thursday.

In contrast boxer B goes hard for 3 rounds of sparring on Monday. She works hard but stops before she gets sore. She is then able to do that again Tuesday and Wednesday. By Thursday she has nine rounds of quality training while boxer A has only eight.

Over the course of months and years that added volume allows boxer B to surpass boxer A in skill and fitness.

So remember folks, BEAST MODE is pretty fun to those of us that like to feel that burn, get that endorphin rush or, if you’re like me, show off a little. But keep those workouts to every couple of weeks
or to test out how far you’ve come. And especially for race day when that extra effort counts.

Rich Leeper

Rich Leeper

Rich Leeper is Cerus' Head Trainer as well as a Cerus Pro. When he's not coaching at his CerusLFT gym sessions or competing in obstacle course races, you'll find him spending time with his wife and two sons whom he refers to as his "true loves".