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Stop Exercising & Start Training!

November 27, 2012

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Everyday I watch people come into the Ridge and do the same exercises the same way over and over. It’s like I’m Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. (I’m waiting for someone to fall off of a stair mill and I have to catch them everyday.)

This is exercise people; this monotonous repetition of moving to burn calories. It has no long term point. No start, no finish. To quote Brian Petty RKC, “exercise is a singular event with an intermediate goal.” That’s why you hate it. So I’m asking you to stop doing it. Stop exercising, and start training. Training is a methodical approach to exercise stringing these “singular events” together to achieve your goals. When you train you have a plan, attack your weak points, and actually achieve something other than burning the 152 calories from the Red Bull you slammed on the way in. Now, to start training is easy, just make a list of your goals.

When I sit down with a potential client for the first time we spend a large amount of time talking about goals. Goals are important, and training will not work without them. I vaguely remember the acronym SMART for goal setting from school, but really all you need are short and long term goals and several of each. Now this is where it gets tricky. Goals that seem simple are usually the hardest to fulfill. For example, the most common goal I hear is, “I want to look good naked.” This seems easy enough right? All you have to do is lose some weight, do some sit-ups, and hit the steam room. The problem is when you say “I want to look good naked”, I’m assessing what it would really take to do that: do you have any pain, anterior pelvic tilt, how is you posture, can you pass a functional movement screen, do you breath correctly, is your flexibility and mobility (or lack there of) in the right or wrong places, do you have basic understanding of exercises, and on and on. It does not matter how good you look if your back hurts so bad you can’t stand up. Simple goals contain a lot of variables, making obtaining them a complex endeavor.

Now lets look at a professional athlete’s goals and compare them to the “I want to look good naked” goal. Travis Lulay was one of the best quarterbacks to play in the Big Sky Conference and he now is league MPV and Grey Cup wining quarterback for the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League. His goal (notice its singular) is to throw a football well at a very high level. That’s it. Unless it affects his throwing, it does not matter. Because the amount of training variables goes way down at this level, the simplicity of his training goes way up. When we trained, his workouts consisted of 4 or 5 exercises. It was concise, keeping him strong, powerful, and healthy. We did not care about looks. Therefore, do not base your training on a professional athlete. They have very different goals (usually just one), and a full staff of physical therapists, massage therapists, and coaches to make up the problems this type of focused training causes. Figure out your goals and understand because of the broadness of them, they will be complex to execute.

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Now that you have goals all you need to do is make a plan. This part is easy. Get help. Creating a short and long term training plan for someone’s individual and specific goals is hands down the hardest thing to do in this industry. To the right is a picture of what I have read in the last 6 months alone. That’s 5,322 pages and 40 hours of DVD lecture. (I cannot believe I just admitted to that level of dorkness.)

If I have a hard time writing programs for people and this is my passion, what I spend most of my time and money learning, you simply cannot do it alone. Get help. Google stuff. Take a class like Annie Barber’s Train Like an Athlete, join one of Leah Vogel’s groups, talk with Jackie Rainford Corcoran about nutrition, or hire a trainer (the more tattoos the better I once heard). You pay someone to do your taxes and cut your hair but you can fine tune the most complex thing on earth? People always ask me what I do for my own training. I go see my own coaches and have plans written for me. I get help.  You should too.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2013 3:09 am

    Great article Sean. Often times, it’s hard for people to understand the importance of selecting and obtaining appropriate short and long term health and performance goals. The complexities of selecting these goals on an individual/sport-specific basis and how to systematically achieve them can be challenging – even for most knowledgeable exercise practitioners. Thus, the need to seek out individuals who spend the time to educate themselves and and continuously improve their craft is crucial, especially when working with the human body!

  2. Christa Ziegler permalink
    March 14, 2013 5:25 pm

    I just read this article and it was what I needed to work just that little bit harder! Thanks Sean for putting health and personal goals into perspective! I have seen you with clients at the gym and your actions speak the words you have written!

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