For months I've thought about writing a piece on training. I kind of feel silly doing it. Yes, I've been a certified trainer for over twenty-one years, and yes, I do feel I know something about this topic through a lot of education, observation and self experimentation, but somehow I feel training the body/mind and spirit is such a personal journey-- at times I think who am I to tell others what to do?
While in Chicago this weekend, for the Midwest Mania convention, I listened to and watched many dynamic trainers, physical therapists, and nutritionists. I respected them all for what they have accomplished, however, I didn't feel drawn to them all. Some, in fact, made me want to run and hide. While experiencing such a pendulum swing in feelings towards the presenters, I began to think a bit more about how I work with people and how they may perceive me as a trainer.
I sincerely hope my clients keep coming back to me over the years because they feel a connection to me and because I am in some way able to help them achieve their goals. I hope they see me as a catalyst in their journey of becoming a healthier person--again, mind/body and spirit. I finally chose to write some of my thoughts about training down for several reasons. First and foremost, by writing these down, it betters me as a person. Just like everyone else, I need reminders. I do not wake up every day, jumping up and down like a five year old, 100% ready to exercise. I, like everyone else, struggle at times--trying to better myself and be true to myself through movement. Second, I'm tired of all the fads. I find them exhausting, and quite honestly, confusing. Each week there is a new silver bullet promising to "fix" people and solve all their problems. I urge you not to buy into it, and instead, find your own truth by educating yourself. Lastly, I am tired of seeing people get injured--this applies to the mind and body. Movement should not routinely hurt people. Yes, mishaps take place, however, exercise as a whole should be healing. Okay, enough rambling, if you aren't bored out of your mind yet, feel free to read my basic ideas.
1) Move! My first guideline to all my clients, and myself, is to move the body. Unless you are an athlete training for a specific event, I don't really care if you choose to bike, walk, row, run or ski as long as movement is a part of your daily life. We, as living creatures, are not meant to be motionless. Our entire livelihood depends upon movement: blood moving throughout our veins, oxygen in and out of our lungs, water moving in and out of our tissue and so on. The only way we can be happy, healthy, and frankly continue existing is to get our butts off the couch and move. A friend of mine and an amazing body worker says "Motion is the lotion for the body." I couldn't agree more. Now, I'm not asking people to run five miles a day--unless you want to--I'm just asking people not to sit for hours upon hours at a time.
2) Find a movement that makes YOU happy. Okay, so if you're new to exercise, you may find there are very few types of movement which actually make you happy. Give it time and experiment. You will find something you like, whether it's as simple as birding or maybe something along the lines of rock climbing. I'm asking you to think outside the box. For me, cycling has almost always brought me pleasure. You are not me. Although I can introduce you to different forms of movement, I cannot be inside your body to see if you are actually having fun, and having fun is necessary if you want to continue movement for life. It's alright to be hedonistic with this. And remember, nothing is fun 100% of the time. I tell my clients we're shooting for 80%.
3) Make movement a lifestyle not a scheduled amount of time. I know people who routinely come into the gym, workout for thirty minutes, and then sit for the rest of the day. Your body will not like you very much if you do this, and frankly, your mind and spirit won't be too happy either. I know desk jobs are unavoidable. I'm not asking you to quit your job, but please, get up to stretch and walk around once in awhile. Another trick is to set up dates or meetings with friends around movement. Walk with someone to a coffee shop instead of drive. Go for a leisurely stroll after dinner. Ask your co-workers to hold walking meetings from time to time. Walk or bike to run errands. My husband and I refuse to make any major decisions while seated. We will always walk and talk things out while moving. This way our minds function better and we feel not only a physical movement forward, but a mental one as well.
4) Chuck the "must give 100%" rule out the window. No one, not even professional athletes, can perform at 100% all the time. It makes me furious when I hear trainers or coaches demanding this from their clients. Again, this is where the 80% rule comes in handy. I will ask my clients to be "on" 80% of the time. 20% of the time it's okay to feel "off" or disconnected. Just remember not to do anything that takes large amounts of concentration when you feel "off" since injury is more common at this time. To expand on this thought, when you feel "off", try asking yourself "why do I feel this way?" Could it be a lack of nutrition or sleep, could it be stress or are you over trained? One of these is most likely the culprit. When you take time to ask yourself why you feel "off", you are empowering yourself to fix the problem--if you choose to do so. This is one of the key factors in the mind/body connection. When you improve on diagnosing the issue, and then take the steps to fix the problem, your mind, body and spirit will get stronger. Each time you do this, it will become easier to do it the next time.
5) You cannot ask your body or mind to perform even 80% of the time if you do not fuel yourself properly. Nutrition does not need to be tricky, it does however need to be customized to you. First rule of thumb I give my clients is eat whole foods 80% of the time. See, that 80% rule enters into everything. Try eating as many foods as possible that don't have labels. Chances are, if it has a label, it's processed. It's perfectly fine to eat some junk food and drink some alcohol, but keep it in moderation. The whole idea of customizing your diet to your needs may take time. I suggest keeping a food journal for a month. This accomplishes two goals. One, it makes you more aware of what you are putting into your body. Two, it can give you clues on how certain foods make you feel. Try writing a sentence or two each day alongside your food journal stating what your mood and energy level is that day. You will most likely be amazed by what you find. I don't believe in any one diet. Although I feel the Mediterranean diet is one of the best broad spectrum diets, you may find you need more carbs or more protein. Everyone is different. Take the time to find what works for you.
6) Learn the differences between "I can't do this", "I'm too afraid to do this" and "I don't want to do this". It's okay to not want to do something or be afraid of something. This doesn't make you less of a person. The problem occurs when those two ways of thinking outnumber "I can do this". As of the first thought, "I can't do this", I find it's extremely important to know one's boundaries. It keeps us safe. Just remember we are not stagnant creatures. What was a "can't" last year or last week could possibly be a "can or want" today. Don't trap yourself in a box. There are plenty of others who want to do this to you, you don't need to be one of them.
7) Learn the difference between pain and discomfort. In my training, there is no room for pain. There is, however, room for discomfort. Being uncomfortable at times makes me a stronger person down the road. I learn where my boundaries are by being uncomfortable. It may take time to differentiate between the two. If you know, however, that a movement is creating pain...stop doing that movement.
8) Finally, stop using the "age" excuse. I don't care if you are twenty or eighty. You still need to move. Movement may change as you age. I know several people who took up triathlons after they retired. Yes, you may need more recovery as you age, but you still need to get out there and play!