Any good at Legos? Great! Then you can excel in fitness.
A good fitness regimen is all about degrees of freedom.Minor constructions and deconstructions to your plan that keeps the whole thing going smoothly.
I remember being 16 and learning how to be an ocean lifeguard during our "hell week." One of our instructors taught us, "Slow is smooth; smooth is fast." It's a tried and true military quote.
Often, the very impulse that drives us to improve our fitness can be the same one that leads to our undoing, causing us to go too fast. Kind of like our biggest strengths being also our biggest weaknesses.
*Whatever your reason for starting or changing your fitness regimen, the rule for success is simple:use the success you aim for in today's session to set you up for tomorrow. That's it. Live to play another day.
In sports- and personal development psychology, much is made of the concept of "visualization." For good reason. **Visualizing your end goal helps you to build backwards from it, so that you achieve it directly. On the other hand, not properly visualizing our goals can allow our impulses to get us into trouble.
How many people start at the gym to lose weight, burn high and fast for a short period of time - weeks, maybe a month or two, then crash and burn? No idea. But it's a large number. This topic has been over-introduced, but not discussed in enough depth. Let's work with that motivational impulse a moment.
We get caught up in the emotion of this moment, physiologically aroused by our "sick-of-feeling-this-way" or our need to weigh a certain amount, for example. Then that leads to another impulse: how do I make this whole process easier and faster? By taking a deep breath, and then killing off that impulse.
It reminds me of a 400-meter race I ran in 8th grade. A group of students was chosen by our teachers to compete against other kids from the county in a fun, yearly track meet at the local high school. "What do I do?" I asked. "Run as fast as you can, one time around the track," they said. Done! After the gun, I accelerated my best and jumped out to a lead. 100-, 200 meters in, still leading! Then I hit the wall. Three guys cruised by me. I finished fourth. Not bad, but first place felt a lot better for those ~30 seconds!
The point is, in your fitness regimen, you should always be "accelerating." Get a little better each day. Don't blow all of your internal motivation on the first day. Replenish your internal motivation daily. Compare yourself only to yourself. Don't let gym or social media comparisons get in the way of your psyche. Body builders have experimented in various ways, for decades, to appear a certain way on stage. Even if body building is your goal, though, it takes many small increments of progress to get to the elite level. Patience, young padawan.
Look, of course people look at you in the gym. It is human for us to notice each other. Our eyes do millions of scans per second that we aren't even aware of. Ever been to a restaurant or bar? Did you not look around the room several times and "people-watch?" It's part of who we are to notice others. Enjoy that thought for a second, and let's move on to actual movement.
In my opinion, and of course notwithstanding existing injuries, the two most important "movement relationships" or relationships between joints in the body for excellent movement, are:
1. That between the hips and their neighboring joints - the knees and the lower spine
2. That between the shoulder blade and the arm
*Correcting any movement maladies at these two joints and then connecting them via your trunk can lead to significant increases in power production. Power is important not only for sports performance, but for quality of life and life performance.
At The University of Miami, we had many excellent professors. One goes by the name of Dr. Joseph Signorile. "Dr. Sig" taught us the importance of the neuromuscular system of the body, and he is one of the foremost influences on my personal philosophy towards fitness. Training the neuromuscular system properly leads to greater power, he taught us. Dr. Sig even wrote a book (pictured here) on the subject! There are some really tasty nuggets of info in this book, if you can find them ;)
Training for gaining and maintaining power as we age, even as we pass age 30, has far-reaching benefits, including fall prevention and independence.
Power already has its own post, and will have at least one more in the future, so let us not spend too much time on it here.
So the two major joint relationships. Hips and shoulders. What about em? Well, before you move a lot of weight with them, or move them powerfully, we want to be sure that are moving properly first, right?! You don't just dust off a 1960's race car and speed it around the track without a tuneup!
The Hip and Shoulder Complexes
Building upon our earlier concept of mobility alternating with stability in the joints of our body, the hip complex is not only the major power driver in our body. It can lead, conversely, to some of our greatest pain. Most types of chronic back pain are derived from movement maladies in this region, sometimes caused by previous injuries or poor movement above or below the joint.
*If your injury and pain is not from a trauma, then chances are it is from your movement history. In other words, if it isn't structural, then it is functional (which can lead to structural changes). The same goes for your shoulder complex.
Now that I've gone down that path again where I say too many words and fill the page, we will stop here for the week. Blame my passion. So much inspiration has come up week to week since beginning this whole writing process. It's amazing!
Just the other day, my neighbor, who is a nurse in a local hospital, told me of her lower back pain and how she goes downtown to get treatment, physical therapy, as prescribed by her doctor. "What's your treatment?" I asked. "Warm pack and a little stretching," she replied. I couldn't hold back my internal laughter. She called me out on my smirk. "We need to help get you moving. Movement is the cure," I said.
We will spend one post on the hips (maybe more), and one on the shoulder complex. This way, you can better see for yourself the difference between good physical therapy and fitness, and the other kind. This, in turn, will help you be a better informed medical liaison for yourself. The system of "insurance takes care of it" is no more. You are on your own. We are here to help.