If you’re easily defensive you might want to skip reading this one. You may feel like I’m writing against your fitness program. In truth, I believe if it’s getting people off the couch and fit, that’s great. What I’m discussing below is the most optimal way I believe you can train to become the best all around athlete you possibly can.
Do you know why I focus so much on mobility and flexibility in classes over the last couple of years? We live in a society where people believe if you aren’t going hard, you aren’t doing anything positive for your body. This can’t be further from the truth. Yes, we want to push ourselves in a couple of workouts a week to work different energy systems, but combining the skill of power, strength, aerobic and anaerobic capacity into one attempt at a workout and repeating that every day is stupid. You might see some success (and if you’re coming off the couch anything you do will give you success) but it’s nowhere near the most effective way to train. It’s also not often sustainable (you will find yourself riddled with injuries or you’ll stop enjoying the training) and eventually you’ll hit a plateau if you’re able to keep it up at all (variable by intensity and movements). The good news with programs that make workouts like this is that they’re getting people off the couch and in the gym – can’t argue with that.
I’ll admit, for years I was guilty of having the all or nothing mindset. I spent a lot of time training in the military and the moto was go until you drop; then go some more. Get the mission done, whatever it takes. That’s true in the army when you’re on a mission and your men’s lives are on the line, but it’s not true in fitness.
If you’ve read articles I’ve written on the Soldiers of Fitness Blog you’re aware of the different types of muscle fibers that we have and their separate capabilities. We need to utilize these muscle fibers and our bodies energy systems efficiently when we train so we teach our body to work and adapt optimally. Remember the end goal (as I see it) is a long life of mobility, movement, strength and flexibility. My long-term goals and training reflect that. I don’t care if I can deadlift 400lbs when I’m 90, I care if I can still go for a jog in the woods or play with my grandkids. Maybe your goals are different and that’s great – it’s up to you if you want to read on.
Imagine a box. One corner of the box is labeled flexibility, the next is mobility and then strength followed finally with conditioning. The goal for everyone should be to develop their bodies so if they had to put a dot in that box based on their capabilities, it would be right at the center. Every day or month the dot might move a little more toward strength or flexibility, but you’re always working to balance out that dot so you are a balanced person. Not having flexibility will seriously impair you when you’re older and if you wait until you’re too old to stretch, you’ll never have the elasticity that you could have. You’ll think back and say to yourself, “I should have listened to him.” I can preach forever but it’s up to you to take the necessary steps to make yourself whole. Nutrition is at the base of this building block and you need to sort out the way you eat prior to starting any fitness program. Before you can make your body stronger, you should know how to give it the fuel it needs to function properly. That fuel is not found where most people get their fuel. People prefer dumping out their fresh fuel into a bucket of grease, rust, sludge and dirt, then forcing it into the tank and complaining when their financially sound product can’t move the vehicle and if the vehicle does move, it’s in random fits and spurts.
Look at the picture for this article and let me know which one you want to be when you’re older, because what you say you want and what you’re doing aren’t congruent.
The other big consideration you should make in your training on the conditioning side is what system you want to use to train. I’m not going to get a lot into detail on the specifics of the systems but there are three systems that are crucial to having great conditioning that you should focus on. They are your aerobic system, lactate threshold and motor skill development. A lot of people are running too hard and aren’t teaching their body anything. They are too anaerobic to teach their body how to get better at flushing lactate (or hydrogen), and when they run “slower” they are too fast to train their aerobic system to increase mitochondria and oxygen delivery or become a more efficient fat burner.
Essentially when people are training in workouts like HIIT they aren’t teaching their body to optimize their skill at anything. Yes, if you do anything enough times you’ll get better at that one thing (to a fault) but that isn’t optimizing your potential nor is it good for you long term. You’ll get some results and lose a bit of weight, for sure. Three things will happen with less ideal programming: 1. You’ll get injured; 2. You’ll get bored; 3. You’ll plateau. And a lot of those plateaus hit and you go out looking for the next level of movement which is well beyond your bodies neurological adaptations to perform.
Essentially the message is this: Train your body to be flexible, mobile, strong and conditioned (good cardiovascular). Know what system you are training so you can maximize your training (aerobic, anaerobic or motor skill development). In the gym if you are training know if you’re focusing on power, strength, size or rehab (this will set your ideal rep and weight goals). If you don’t know anything about these things, it’s never too late to educate yourself. You can also try out our sponsors fitness boot camp or strength and mobility program at www.soldiersoffitnessottawa.com I’m available for one on one training in Ottawa Canada if you really want to maximize your potential to reach all your goals, including your long-term mobile for life ones. Or you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a personalized online program if you live outside of Ottawa.