Spending as much time as I have training clients who range in age from early 20s to early 90s, has caused me to step back and form a longer-term outlook to this discipline of exercise we all strive to stay committed to. Here is some of what I’ve learned along the way…
Slow Down to Speed Up
It’s funny to me to step back once in a while and reflect on what a “broken record” I must sound like sometimes when I am teaching a new exercise. I can’t tell you how many times I tell people to keep the chest up during a squat (even body weight squats). Now it doesn’t happen all the time but once in a while I have a client who just doesn’t “get it” when it comes to the form of a particular movement. That’s totally fine, and is exactly why I am there. I enjoy the challenge of breaking something down until the light bulb goes off for the client.
Just today I had I “broken record” experience. I taught a client a new exercise. We had been over squat form many times and he has become proficient at it. For the new exercise I reminded him what form would protect his back and what form would probably make it hurt during the exercise. Sure enough he did exactly what I told him would hurt, and what do you know, his back didn’t like the exercise. What happened? Well, the exercise is actually quite fun…especially if you’ve had a stressful day. There wasn’t anything wrong with the exercise, or his back for that matter, he just got so wrapped up in it that he neglected form for intensity, and his back protested. Could he have avoided the discomfort? Sure, but he needed to slow down (remember form) before he could speed up.
The point these experiences drive home to me is how important it is to master the fundamental human movements (squat, deadlift, push, pull, lunge, rotate, breath, grip, and gait) than it is to seek to do the more fun or “sexy” exercises before you’re ready. Why is that? Well, it’s because every fun or sexy exercise builds on the foundational movements. If you don’t master them, then using heavy weights, or making quick, “athletic” movements without a good foundation will just set you up for injury. If your form is not so good when you move slowly, how well do you think you’ll perform moving quickly?
Anyone who has worked out with a good degree of intensity can probably say they’ve done exactly the same thing my client did today. It happens. Reality is we usually don’t find out where we are weak until we push our limits a little bit. The key is, rather than write off an exercise you’d really like to do, step back and evaluate where you can do better next time. Go back to the basics and build from there. There are so many fun exercises out there, but to do them well, they all come back to the fundamentals of how our bodies were designed to move. So, slow down and revisit the fundamentals from time to time and you’ll be amazed how much more you enjoy both your daily activities and your fitness exploits.
The “168 Rule”
168. That’s how many hours are in a week. The average client works out with us about two hours a week. That leaves them on their own for the other 166 hours. If I were a betting man I’d place a hefty wager on the idea that what happens in those other 166 hours has more to do with my clients reaching their health goals than the 2 they spend with me. Don’t get me wrong. I think I’m pretty good at what I do, but the law of averages says I’m fighting an uphill battle if the client doesn’t hold up his or her end of the bargain.
Another way to think of it is this: If you’re a twice a week client who’s lucky enough to spend 56 hours of your week sleeping, you’re left with the moment-by-moment choices you make for your 110 hours of “awake time.” You probably already get where this lesson is going, right? 110…next to 2, adds a bit of perspective to where the responsibility lies in reaching your health goals. I can teach till I’m blue in the face, but until the client owns it, the learning curve stays steep and the results stay slow. There is so much more to vitality than a good workout. The clients who get somewhere realize that and take ownership of it.
Finding fulfillment in life (and health) always comes back to making good choices, does it not? But with only 168 hours in a week, reality is we just can’t say yes to every “opportunity” out there. And that’s what it really boils down to. To say yes to more vitality, usually means you have to say no to something else. None of us can keep saying yes to everything. As your health moves up the priority list, that “something else” you have to say no to could mean a shift in your finances, playtime, family time, alone time, vacation time, or even your vocation. Sometimes turning around your health can require some pretty drastic changes, and changes require time and resources. How healthy do you want to feel? Chances are you can have exceptional health, the question is: how badly do you want it? How many of your 168 hours do you want to put into health? That’s not for me to decide, just a helpful bit of perspective, or at least a friendly reminder.