coax the gains, train smart, better performance, athletic performance, functional movement, life school

Coax the Gains

I love how Life School shows up wherever I happen to be—like at the gym the other day.

My trainer caught me “cheating” on my prescribed workout. I was working on chin-ups and dropped to a smaller band (less support for hoisting my upper body over the bar). I defended my actions by explaining that the larger band was “too easy,” I wanted more of a challenge.

Knowing me, and my tendency to cheat often (harder, heavier, and more is always better, right?), he very kindly and gently said, “We want to coax the gains, Karyn.”


For the first time I got it. And I realized that the encouragement I’d gotten from previous gyms to push it, work harder, practice more, go for those PRs (personal records), while appealed to my hard working nature, skipped over something important (for me).

To “coax the gains” is to:

  • Allow the body to develop healthy motor patterns—how the muscles and brain establish a strong relationship through a particular movement. When this relationship is weak and we push the work, we are more susceptible to injury.
  • Develop and prime the platform for future stronger gains—this takes time.
  • Improve efficiency of workouts—more gain for less effort over time.

Of course, I jump to the metaphors (yes, the gym is another one of my spiritual playgrounds):

  • Good things take time.
  • Be patient—sometimes this means slow.
  • Trust the knowledge and wisdom of my learned trainers and teachers.
  • I’m always a work in progress.
  • It doesn’t have to hurt or be really, really hard to be good for me.
  • Competition, speed, volume, and effort are not the measures of my success—I’ve got to balance effort with ease, and tune into the wisdom of my unique body.
  • Prepare from within first, then extend out (from my body, from my mind, into the world).

Coax the gains.

Have a Beautiful day!


p.s. From my Archives:

Learning to Practice Slow. 2017.

Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.

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