Back in December I attended the Perform Better ”Learn By Doing” 1 Day Seminar in Fairlawn, NJ. Training seminars, for those not in the field, are a chance for a bunch of trainers to get together and learn from some of the best minds in the field, virtually all of whom have accents and raspy voices.
As a side note, these events are always a reminder for me that I’m in a field dominated by men who love sports. I appreciate this world and these people a great deal, and I’m so grateful for the many things I’ve learned from them, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t painfully aware that I don’t fit in. I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure there are not a lot of people at these type of events that spontaneously break out into song. Now I know how to pretend like I’m one of them, and I can cross my arms, furrow my brow, and stare thoughtfully with the best of them. But ultimately, I always feel a bit like an interloper. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not insecure about it or anything, it’s just an objective fact. Perhaps it’s best summed up by saying it’s unlikely any of these trainers would use a photo of themselves jazzercising in salmon colored hot pants as the homepage for their websites. But that’s totally cool; different strokes for different folks.
The particular batch of older, white, sports-loving males (who all remind me a bit of my father: take it away psychoanalysts!) speaking at this event included some BIG names in the field: Mike Boyle, Martin Rooney, Lee Burton, and Todd Durkin.
Most of the speeches had to do with goal setting. Now to be honest, I’m naturally a go-getter, so I generally prefer when speakers discuss the nuances of program design or the best ways to mobilize the thoracic spine (read: GEEKY STUFF), but I still enjoyed the lectures. During one of the speeches, Todd Durkin, founder of Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, said something that really hit home with me:
“The way you train is the way you live.”
Or actually it might have been “the way you live is the way you train.” Either way it was definitely a light bulb moment for me.
You can tell a lot about someone by watching the way they train. Most people tend to train either too conservatively or too recklessly. Walk into any gym and a vast majority of trainees will either be sandbagging it and reading a newspaper between sets of machine leg curls, or sweating and panting while doing situps that look strikingly similar to an epileptic fit.
Now let’s be clear about one thing: I’m not judging any of these people. I’m CERTAIN I’ve been on both sides of this equation over the course of my training career. This isn’t to say these people suck, it’s simply to say we tend to train the way we live our lives.
And just as I don’t think there’s an optimal way to live life, I don’t think there’s necessarily an optimal way to train. Each person has to decide their own balance of passion and technique. Of heart and brains. Of stimulation and restoration. Perhaps the most important thing to do is just to have some self-awareness and realize that most of us fall to one side of the equation and would probably be most benefited by working towards the side of the coin we don’t naturally gravitate towards (mixed metaphor in the hizOUSE!). Charlie Weingroff said it best:
“Yogis need to be powerlifters and powerlifters need to be yogis.”
That’s like a fucking zen koan. It’s beautiful and painful in its simplicity and truth.
In many realms of life, you’ll get the most mileage by getting really good at your strengths and outsourcing your weaknesses. I think your body is an exception. (I think your mind is an exception too, but I’ll spare you and not go there right now.) You can’t outsource your mobility deficiencies to an executive assistant like you would with your subpar organizational skills. You can’t hire a friend with good taste to give you the stability to do a proper pushup the way I ask my friend Cody Smith to help me figure out how to set up the tchotchkes in my bedroom.
And just as we have physical strengths and weaknesses, our natural training (and living) styles have both pros and cons. If we train with heart, but do so without respect for technique or sensible loads, our bodies break down under the wear and tear. If we train meekly (or not at all), we may never get injured or banged up, but we also never provide the necessary stimulus to create the desired result, and we never change our bodies.
Yes, by all means take advantage of your strengths. One of the joys of being a human is doing the things we have a natural aptitude for. But be aware that your body will be very appreciative of the time you take to shore up your personal weaknesses. If you know you tend to take it too easy, maybe you need to hit it a little harder. If you know your ego sometimes overrides your brain, perhaps you should take a step back and consider using less weight in your squats (and actually squatting to depth would be cool, too). If you really want to rock a life of health and hotness, if you truly want to live the dream…
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” -Joseph Campbell
Life is short. Train smart but train hard but train smart but train hard.