Many of us are much more concerned with how to do something than why it works.
While this works for many things in life, it is not always the case when it comes to your body and your health.
The need for understanding comes from the fact that each of us is different, both physiologically and psychologically. Without understanding the mechanisms behind the results, we are unable to make informed decisions about adopting processes that will suit our individual needs.
We feel a need to quantify our improvement, meaning that we pick a number and want to see it change over time. But what happens when all of our formulas, all of our calculations, fail to yield the results that we are after?
Some will give up. Others will double-check the math to make sure that everything is correct and keep at it. And the rest will throw out that formula and try a different one.
But the reality is that not everything is quantifiable. There is no universal formula or training program that gives everyone the same results for the same input. Train for quality, and let the quantities speak for themselves.
There are times when you cannot trust your feelings.
Your nervous system has relegated a number of muscle-firing sequences to your subconscious. While the purpose is to allow for higher-level thought to occupy the conscious mind, it backfires in every movement pattern that has become dysfunctional. This mechanism also compensates whenever an activity forces a greater range of motion or load than the neuromuscular system can currently bare. Over time, these compensations become habits. Habitual movement feels normal, even if the movement is actually abnormal and dysfunctional.
In these times when you cannot trust feelings of proper movement, you must rely on external cues (visual cues from a mirror or outside observer, or touch receptor cues from correctly placed props or movement re-trainers).
Often times, the only difference between success and failure is having the belief that you can succeed.
When you don’t believe it, you encounter things that you cannot do and reasons to give up. But when you have faith in yourself and your capabilities, you come across stumbling blocks and obstacles that can slow you down but will not stop you.
A friend reminded me of that yesterday; and it holds true for all goals in life, whether they be fitness-related or not.
The first priority for any fitness-related goal is to move well.
Since many of us come from an inactive, deconditioned state; that means gaining awareness of and then correcting any movement dysfunctions. This needs to be done before increasing volume training for tone and weight-loss, or increasing resistance training for building muscle and strength.
Athletes, too, must prioritize their movement quality. To an athlete, better movement means greater application of force, and more efficient use of energy. Any technique that is done poorly becomes a bad habit that will be the default in times of stress or fatigue.
Movement quality is the difference between great talent and great skill; and the difference between getting better and getting worse.
I have said it before and I will say it again: It is not a workout, it is practice.
All movement is skilled, meaning that we acquired our ability to control what our bodies do. So every time you exercise, you have the opportunity to get better at that movement. Be aware of your body’s tendencies, and evaluate your performance.
Stability, strength, balance, speed, power, breathing, and endurance can all be focused on during your self-evaluation; your goal is to improve one or more. And whenever you improve, your body has learned a lesson in movement. If every picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a lesson worth?
Every one of us has our reasons for the things we do, and how we train is no different. For every person that wants to live a healthier and longer life, there is at least one who just wants to look better, and another who wants to be better at their sport.
Regardless of your why, remember that your body functions so well because it is set up to be balanced and capable of all movement. The more you focus on a single aspect of training, the greater the risk of disrupting that balance.
It is easiest to maintain a body that is already moving correctly, and much harder to break out of bad habits. Address the issues that your training decisions may cause as soon as you are made aware of them. Not only will you keep moving the way you want to move, but you will also increase the progress that is being made toward your goals.
You learn a lot about other people’s goals when you take the time to ask.
One of the most common answers is to name someone famous. “I want to be big like Duane Johnson”, “I want to catch like Odell Beckham”, or “I want to swim like Katie Ledecky”. It can go even farther; “I want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg”. While those answers all convey the criteria by which people judge their performance, they also set up unreasonable expectations and unachievable goals; each of us is unique.
We learned to model ourselves on those around us when we were children, and even though we mature a great deal, many of us get stuck in the pattern of using a model to frame our goals and achievements. Yet it does not have to be this way.
When we create our visions of future success, we should strive to be ourselves throughout. Yes, this helps by giving us a real, achievable final outcome without the added baggage of whatever our model does or has been blessed with. But more importantly, it allows us to plan for the obstacles that are unique to our individual circumstances.
When garbage goes in, garbage comes out.
Your body is not a trash compactor. Whether it be food, drink, or supplement; do not expect quality performance from sub-par nutrition. (And especially when it comes to supplements: High price does not automatically equate to high quality!) The same goes for goals. Whether it is physical training, or business growth; do not expect amazing results from poorly implemented practices.
Spend time considering the inputs, because every input has an effect on the processes that follow.
It is true for any goal, but especially a health or fitness goal: Make sure you pick the low-hanging fruit.
In other words, make sure that you target and accomplish the simple tasks that are immediately in front of you. A lot of people give up on big dreams because of their complexity. Yet if you take care of the parts that are within reach right now, the harder steps might just feel easier when you have momentum.