Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Preparatory Training

I know I've written about training for everyday life and all that it throws at us before, but that was really highlighted again for me over the weekend. I had to move. And when I say move, I mean that I had to move heavy furniture and other extremely awkward things. 

If you have ever moved (stuff), you know all too well how exhausting and taxing this can be. Moving challenges everything you've got. It challenges, your movement abilities, your flexibility, your strength, and your wits. There is nothing like trying to carry big, heavy, awkward cabinets down a flight of stairs, especially if you are on the bottom. Just doing something like this teaches valuable lessons in tension, breathing, muscle control, patience, and God. Yes, carrying heavy things while walking backwards down a flight of stairs can really bring you closer to God as you will find yourself talking to Him quite a bit! 

Anyway, while carrying these cabinets, a thankful thought crossed my mind: I was capable and able to do this. I truly was thankful. It is a gift and a blessing to be able to pull something off like safely moving heavy furniture up and down flights of stairs. Not only was I thankful that I could do this, I was also thankful that my training had prepared me to do it. 

And that is the point of all of this, again. Everything I grabbed yesterday was very big and awkward. Nothing had convenient handles to grab. I couldn't fit my arms around most of the things I had to move. I had to bend, stoop, and reach in awkward positions. I had to move "real world" stuff - for about 8 hours. I slept good last night, really good. When I woke up this morning, I bounced right out of bed, feeling good. What a blessing!

My only point is, you should prepare yourself for the challenges of day to day, or month to month, tasks. If you don't ever train outside of a health club, you should. Learn how to pick up rocks and move them from place to place. Get a harness and drag something. If you have never turned your kettlebell upside down, do it. Learn how to manage a kettlebell in the bottoms up position. Do things that are not always "easy", or "convenient". Do things that are different, or awkward. 

For some of you, learning how to crawl fits in here too. If you can't crawl, learn how. Crawling just might be the one thing that truly prepares you for life's variables. 

Challenge yourself. Life happens outside of the weight room. It is an awesome thing to have to be faced with a challenge and conquer it. As silly as it sounds, it is an awesome thing to become thankful while you are moving cabinets down a flight of stairs because you realize you were prepared for the challenge. It is even more awesome to be able to bounce out of bed the next day and embrace whatever life is ready to throw your way. 

Bottom line: Don't just train to prepare yourself for your next workout.  Train for your health. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Going Barefoot

Should you go barefoot, or should you not? Yes, absolutely, but it depends. We seem to be all or nothing when it comes to this conversation. I'm an all or nothing kinda guy, but there is plenty of wiggle room here on this topic. 

If your idea of going barefoot means ditching your shoes and running 5 miles for the first time ever, then no, don't do that. That would be like being sedentary for 20 years and then trying to deadlift 350 pounds the first time someone showed you a barbell. It just wouldn't be smart. However, if your idea of going barefoot means taking your shoes off for a few times a day and getting used to what if feels like to be shoeless, then yes, test those waters. We don't have to be all or nothing here. We can use GOOD judgement.

Yes, being barefoot can be good for you. At one time in your life, it was most likely very good for you. However, if you have been wearing thick, stiff shoes for 40 years and you are a little overweight, you may not want to take up barefoot running right from the start. You may just want to walk around your house on carpet for a few hours a day, maybe even a few minutes depending on the state of your feet. 

Better yet, if you really want an easy way to ease into being barefoot, take off your shoes and crawl around. Even crawling on your hands and knees can stimulate the nerves in your feet and feed your brain with rich, sensory information. This is so good for you. Spend some time playing around on the floor with bare feet. If you are bold, try spider-man crawling barefoot. You are giving your feet some weight, but not ALL your weight. This is another gentle way to strengthen your feet without destroying them. 

If you really want to try running barefoot, go outside and find some nice grass to start walking around in first. Get used to doing that before you take off on your first 5K! Walking in the grass can be a great thing. Get used to how it feels for the blades of grass to run through your toes. Again, this is rich nutrition for your brain as well as it is for your feet. This is a gentle way to ease into being barefoot. That is the point, ease yourself in, don't dive into the shallow end head first. This is not good! 

And if you do work up to running barefoot and you've gotten yourself some "barefoot" shoes, remember this: man made asphalt and concrete. They are not natural things that we should be running on. Run on the grass or the ground. If you have to run on concrete, I guess you have to, but I do think it is much better to run on the ground. 

I think going barefoot is wonderful and yields a whole host of health benefits like
strong, healthy feet (that alone is a blessing), reflexive strength and stability, better proprioception, and better movement though out the entire body. You can train barefoot, and I believe you probably should. Just use good judgement. You don't have to be all or nothing. Don't avoid it all together and don't burn all your shoes in a blaze of glory. Ease into it. Enjoy the process and learn from it. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I often think about this: Are there rules to movement? We have put rules on how to move, how to pick things up, how to stand, squat. I guess my real question is: Should there be rules to movement? 

No one taught you how to walk. When you were young, no one taught you how to crawl or roll or stand up. You learned how to do the perfect squat on your own. When you were a toddler and you went to pick up a ball, no one stopped you and showed you correct form. Growing up, there were no rules to movement. You developed quite well on your own - hopefully. 

Somewhere along the way as we age, we are given rules for movement. We now have to be taught how to squat, how to hold our head as we move, how to pick things up. There are hundreds of rules out there in the world of fitness when it comes to moving. Is this the way it is supposed to be? I really don't think so.

No one has to teach a baby how to move because a baby learns how to move naturally. And, babies keep on learning to move and they keep on moving to learn. It is quite a beautiful and circular process. This is the way it is meant to be. We are supposed to keep moving and in doing so we would know how to move. Unfortunately, this is not the case. We are taught to keep and sit still for hours upon hours a day. And in doing so, we forget and unlearn how to move. Thus, enter all the rules for movement. 

I am not saying the "rules" for movement, or lifting weights, or standing properly are wrong. They are obviously needed in our current world. I am saying though, that I don't think we were meant for rules. We weren't born with instruction manuals. We were born with a built in program that was designed to perfectly help us grow, develop and learn. We are just supposed to know how to squat, to know how to pick things up properly, to know how to run, to know how to MOVE. We were not meant to be taught proper form for a squat. Not only that, sometimes our rules are wrong! Remember the whole "don't lock your joints" phase? We don't even think about some rules! If we weren't supposed to lock our joints, why did God make our joints so they would lock? If we weren't supposed to squat past 90 degrees, why did God make it so we could squat butt to calves? I'll bet one day this whole neck position debate gets turned upside down too. We are perfectly made! Sorry - big tangent that could grow even larger, so I'll stop right here.

Anyway, if we just went back to the basics, if we just became a kid again and started to explore movement, I bet we would learn how to move again without having to be fed rules for how we should move. We (people) over complicate things. And we over complicate things because we think we are so smart that we can sit around all day and figure out how the body is supposed to move. That is upside down from how it should be. Our wisdom seems foolish at times. 

Should we move certain ways? Sure. Should we have to be taught how to move certain ways? I really don't think so - at least not if we would do what we were meant to do. You weren't born with a manual. 

Marinate on that and have a great week.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Train for Life

What are you training for? Have you ever really asked yourself this question? When you are training are you training for "now"? Or, are you training for life? 

It is very easy to get caught up in training for now. We set small goals like, "I want to lose 25 pounds.", or "I want to bench press 315.", or "I want to win PR in the WOD." (workout of the day). There is nothing wrong with training for these small goals, but will training for these small goals, training for now, enable or improve the quality of your life? 

The question(s) I'm really asking is: Will your training improve the quality of your life? Will your current training plan allow you to continue to move well as you enter your golden years, or will it leave you broken and chair ridden? Is your training sustainable and capable of being maintained, or is your training only maintainable for 90 days, 6 months, 5 years? 

These are questions we should all ask ourselves. Are we sacrificing or degrading the quality of our lives for momentary, "glory" training? Or, is our training improving our vitality? 

This is a serious question. In our time, exercise is now a sport. Most sports yield a short shelf-life for the athlete. Many athletes are broken and ragged after they retire from their sport. If exercise is our chosen sport, will we have to retire from it someday? If so, will we be broken and ragged after it is time to retire from our sport of exercise? 

Here is the deal: Life is short.  However, if you make it to your 70's, 80's, or 90's, you will want to be able to move like you could when you were in your 30's, 40's, and 50's. If you can't, you may end up wishing life was shorter. There is simply no price that can be put on having good health. Being able to enjoy the freedom of moving well is one of the things that makes living so awesome. Moving well is indeed freedom! None of us want to spend the last 30 years of our lives in a chair, or bed, watching life go by while someone else cares for us. 

I am only saying that we should think about how we train. Temporary glory and the emotional 15 minute high it gives us, is just that - temporary. Life is more than a big bench, a record deadlift, or an 8 minute WOD. Can you maintain how you train? Is your training good for you or does it rob you? 

Again, there is nothing wrong with training for goals. It is good to have goals. But, along with those goals we might want to entertain training for a bigger, larger, more encompassing goal like enjoying life as we age. Proper training can turn back the hands of time bringing youth and vitality to your body. That's a good thing! Train to improve and enjoy your life. You will be glad you did.