Friday, August 20, 2010

Fitness: A Unified Theory, and intervals

It's been a lot of fun working through ideas on fitness by experimenting, thinking, reading, talking and emailing with different folks in the last couple of years. I think I've finally figured something useful out: I care most about performance. That's the top of my priority list in terms of athletics. "Fitness" is one component of performance, yet it's often not even close to the most important component of athletic performance. But fitness is the easiest to measure, and the easiest to improve at (at a relative novice level). This idea was driven home to me recently when my wife quoted her old Norweigan XC ski coach (say this with a thick Norwegian accent): "You North Americans are all better than us on the treadmill and eat so well, how come the Norwegian skiers kick your ass then?" Performance first.

This philosophy is at the heart of how I look at sport, and how I coach myself and other athletes (only a few). What I coach for and care about is performance. Clients pay half up front, and half when they reach a specific performance goal. If they don't reach it they don't pay. It's all about performance, all about real-world results, full stop. "Fitness" is relevant to that goal, but the vast majority of the people I work with need nothing more than dedicated and semi-organized sorts-specific training to develop the fitness required to perform. If they need a base level of human function then I'll pull from other areas to get that, or send the individual to someone else first.

The real reason I train using non sports-specific protocols (Crossfit, Yoga, Gymnastics, old-time strength stuff, etc) is that I like being a functional human. Deadlifts help my back feel better. Squats help my knees not hurt. I like the way I feel if I hit the WOD regularly. I like to be able to sprint (although I would be mocked at any serious track in the world). It's good. And within that "human" training performance still counts. Better form. Better range of motion. More. Faster. But deadlifting will not help me redpoint my project as much as spending the same amount of time climbing will. So I'l cycle general training and skill training. One for sport performance, one for life performance, both important to me from a performance standpoint at different times in my year.

So there, it's resolved enough for me. Do sports-specific stuff to perform better at sports, especially the mountain sports I do and know well. But also enjoy having a functional body, and find a protocol that works for that. Have performance goals, and be honest about what they are. Be savage like a chain saw in examining the successes or failures of reaching those goals. Learn, think, evolve, try not to be a dogmatic ass, grow as an athlete and human. Train, perform, give 'er, but listen to that old Norwegian coach in the back of your head. There's honesty in saying, "I train 'cause I like the way I feel, yeah!" I can tell when my wife has done her 7:00 a.m. WOD 'cause she's happier. And that's worthwhile.

Give 'er!!!!


Intervals rock. I just want to say that. They hurt, they're annoying, but man do they get results. More on this later, just something I'm excited about right now. Intervals...


Steve said...

Nicely put......I train all my clients for movement....not muscle.

Interval training today for the athletes who train with relationship going on right there.....hate it at the time, love the results and the after burn...

20s All Out / 40s Rest x 5
60 - 90s Rest
10s All Out / 50s Rest x 8
60 - 90s Rest
5s All Out / 25s Rest x 10

Train Hard, Live Easy....Naturally

Total Fitness in Cranbrook

Chris Simmons said...

Good thoughts. Training - or really my lack of it - has been taking up a lot of thoughts lately. I've been reading your posts with interest since I'm trying to fit a base-fitness program into a life already surrounded by climbing and skiing. I'm going to taste the cool-aid a little bit this fall and try the local Cross-Fit gym for September-November before I leave for a two-month expedition to Antarctica. Thanks for the inspiration!

Fitness Exercises said...


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John said...

Well said Will. Concise but well constructed.

Anonymous said...

I think there are many options to fitness programs and your rants have been a good help for me and others. Seems we all agree that the best thing is to do something, anything, on a regular basis, and do it with some thought and consistency. You really should have fun doing it. A reason is nice to have. Life's a pretty good one. Intervals. I keep telling myself this is fun as my heart threatens to come out of my chest. Walking it off I see the humor of the whole thing and tell myself one more set. Attitude has to be good. Intervals cut the crap at any level.