Sunday, August 09, 2009

What's the hurry?

I think about this question in relation to training goals and program design all the time. Especially in the last 5 years or so when injuries and overuse problems from years of "being in a hurry" have caught up with me. When one is a performance athlete they know, instinctively and realistically that there is a relatively short window of time for them to 'get it done' and really live up to their potential athletically and competively.
Of course one can go on and on increasing their personal bests(relative) for many, many years, perhaps a lifetime if they go at it right, but in the true hardcore athletic world there is short timeline in which to 'be the best'.
And with that mindset goes the attitude that pain and injury are just parts of the game, to be ignored as much as possible, gotten over with as quickly as possible so one can get back in the mix as soon as possible.This even seems to be true with major injuries, such as ACL tears which are rarely given the time necessary to fully heal before the athlete is back on the court or in the gym pushing the knee to see ' how it feels'.
Because we consider sport to be training in this county( how many people decide to get back in shape by 'taking up' soccer, or softball or tennis or even running?) and don't realize one trains to get in shape for sport and NOT the other way around, the real base, the true foundations are usually given short shrift or not done at all. Certainly not for the years it really takes to get true Mastery of the foundation movements and patterns that at least gives on a chance not to get blown away from the rigors of competition training and or testing. Movement, skills or training loads are heaped upon the plate way ahead of schedule and will power and motivation,as crucial as they are to success are used instead of proper progressions and developmental stages to gauge when to increase the loads and or skills.
THis is especially true when the athletes are older and or previously injured.
I hear about , and get questions about program design ALL the time. People want a 6 week ,or 8 week or 12 week 'program' to get back into shape, to get in shape or something they want, taking the entire concept out of context and thinking only about the short run, whether it is going to a party, getting 'fit' for a specific funntion or just wanting to derail the last years of debauchery and dissapation as soon as possible , not caring how long it took to get OUT of shape. Let's just reverse it ASAP.
Magical thinking usually is the hallmark of children but we all know many who are chronilogically older but emotionally or intellectually very young. The body just doesnt work this way and all find out sooner or later. But it mostly doesnt change the approach, unfortunately. Just apply more magic dust and hope for the best.
And please, let me know how that works for you.
One of the best lessons competive powerlifting taught me was that cycling your training is essential to be able to peak your strength and skill on a regular basis and that in order to have even a CHANCE of actualizing your true potential on the platform you must be dedicated and consistent for YEARS. THis means planning your training properly, avoiding injuries like the plague, working your weaknesses MORE than your strengths and doing everything and anything necessary to make your total go up over the long haul.
BECAUSE win,lose or draw, you WILL be back in the gym the next day. and the next. And the next, and so on and so on.
SO when someone tells me about their super duper, completely complicated and intricate 8 week 'get in shape' program I tell them I don't care. What I care about first is how many workouts they have missed in the last six months. Or the last six years. THAT tells me more than anything if they even have a chance to obtain their goals.Or if they have a prehab program too. And they are committed to their recovery training as much as their gym training.
Because no matter how sophisticated the program design is, if one can't execute it, over and over and over again, they will fail. At least fail to really actualize their true potential; in the short run or the long haul.
And, what I truly understand now, in my dotage, that they quest for super perfomance is a red herring anyway. When one is young and seemingly indestructible, training seems so easy. An hour of work creates an hours worth of results. The longer one trains and the older one gets the less this is so until one reaches the point where an hour of training just jacks you up for a week and possibly even pushes you backwards not forwards.
The beauty of the most simple basic movements we are all born with the ability to do and lose so gradually over time( if we are lucky) escapes us until they are gone and we are fighting with nature and God to be able to just do what we looked at with disdain and no respect just years ago( ask anyone with really bad knees or back how they feel about jsut being able to walk).
If we were really smart in our profession of personal training and coaching we would be focused on developing and honing the skills of our primal patterns and our work capacities so that when we are older, and really need them ( unlike in our youth when they are just there) they are there, and functional and painfree. When we will really appreciate them.
So what's the hurry indeed? Even if you are the best athlete in the world it won't be there forever.There will always be someone younger, stronger, crazier, more obsessed than you are( were).The only thing harder than getting to the top of the mountain is staying there.
But it's a great view from basecamp, but so few appreciate that scenery.
The body and our ability to move it is such a blessing and such an incredible vehicle for experiencing this life that it is a crime that so few truly inhabit it fully their bodies nor appreciate the crazy wonderful gift that a 'regular' body is.
I used to be like that.
No more.
No hurry anymore; as Nike said "There is no finish line". My training is for life, it is my practice
it is my source.


DanMartin said...

Rif, a very timely commentary. Excellent.

Jen said...


Mark Reifkind said...

thanks Dan, glad it was the right message at the right time.

Mark Reifkind said...


so good to hear from you, hope all is well. can't wait to see you guys!

Jen said...


Everything is great! We can't wait to see you guys either :)

Anonymous said...

Great point, Rif. I'm using the same attitude towards my weight loss strategy, choosing to make a more modest lifestyle change that leads to 0.5-1 lb lost per week instead of aiming for 2 lbs/week (only to resume my old eating habits once my goal has been reached). If it takes me 6-8 months to lose 30 lbs so be it. I've been at it for almost three months. So far I have seldom perceived myself to feel deprived or really hungry, and I'm hoping to minimize diet-related muscle loss.

Any time I feel tempted to give up, I remind myself that I plan to be eating this way even after I reach my goal weight and continuing feels like the easiest option. Shifting into a maintenance program will involve only a minor shift in daily calorie consumption, not making/starting another major change in diet.

Mark Reifkind said...


thanks and I agree. The middle path seems to be the one with the best balance and longevity. THe peaks aren't as high but the lows aren't as low.
thanks for the comment.

JMAD said...

Whoa, did I need to read that RKC buddy has been saying this to me for years now and I am (at 40) paying the bill for years of gymnastics and martial arts jumping. The superman complex is hard to let go of...I still tumble and jump and the expercise has turned from fun to a burden. I feel the pain and can clearly see the time for change is at hand. But there is fear. Fear of succumbing to age. If I let go of the tricks I let go of my last links to youth. Silly huh? Thanks for the sane words. It helps to hear it from someone who has been there.

Diana said...

"the view from basecamp" that!
OK, so I seen some of myself in parts of this post-what's wrong with believing in "magic dust"!!!
When obsessed with exercise, it can truly backfire like anything else.
When I see my 13 year old son be so much more flexible than I am and I do triathlons for God's sake, that makes me sick-and that just enforces your words to a tee: train your WEAKNESSES!

Richard 'Chiggers' Chignell said...

Rif an excellent post. The message is exactly right. Very thought provoking morning read for me. Thanks, Richard

Mark Reifkind said...


remember that 'basecamp' is STILL way up on the mountain! and yes train one's weakness's first, when the energy and motivation is high. strengths are easy to maintain and are easy to do, weak points are not.
thanks so much for the comments, much appreciated.
and oh yeah NEVER compare yourself to kids, it's way to crazy making!

Mark Reifkind said...


" the superman complex is hard to let go of"

so very true- BUT it can be transformed by being STRONG enough NOT to beat yourself to death for your ego. another form of being superman is being strong enough NOT to push it to the brink.
and nothing beats the body up, unless it's football, than gymnastics. It's like jumping off your roof to a dead stop a humdred times a day for years. so very crazy.
good luck and thanks for commenting.

Mark Reifkind said...


thanks and glad it provided some food for though this am.

Franz Snideman said...

Well said! Nice to see your BLOG back up!

Hope you and Tracy are well!

See you in SD!!!