Over the years, I’ve attended many, many educational events to improve my skills as a fitness professional.
These events have run the gamut from biomechanics to technical coaching to program design to behavior change. I have learned a lot over the years. And I’ve worked with many great teachers.
So at this point in my career, it’s interesting to observe the things that have really stuck with me. And while there are oodles that relate to training, one of the frameworks that stands out most is more philosophical:
“The way you train is the way you live.”
I first came upon this phrase at a Perform Better event back in 2010 from industry superstar Todd Durkin.
The actual quote may 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 humans trend towards being overly conservative or too-hard-borderline-reckless. Walk into any gym in the world and the vast majority of trainees will either be:
1) Sandbagging it and reading a newspaper between sets of machine leg curls or
2) Sweating, panting, and grunting while doing aggressive explosive sit-ups.
Now let’s be clear about one thing: I’m not judging anyone. 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 in the same way that we live our lives.
Just as I don’t think there’s an optimal way to live, 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.
Furthermore, context always matters. This is why one can’t fairly judge a single workout at a glance. You don’t know whether the training style is reflective of unconscious patterns expressing themselves OR a master dialing it in with the right intensity for their current goals and how their body feels that day.
Ultimately, this isn’t about other people anyway. I’m inviting you to reflect on what your training says about you: who you are as a human and how you show up in the world.
Most of us fall to one side of the equation. In most cases, we’d benefit from periodically off-setting our natural inclinations with complementary inputs, both in regards to intensity and modalities. As industry superstar Dr. Charlie Weingroff has said:
“Yogis need to be powerlifters and powerlifters need to be yogis.”
That’s like a f*cking 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. Your body is an exception. You can’t outsource your mobility deficiencies to an executive assistant like you would with your subpar organizational skills. You can’t delegate the skill of “getting onto and up from the ground with ease.”
Just as we have physical strengths and weaknesses, our instinctual training styles will 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 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 a healthy and thriving body.
Yes, by all means take advantage of your strengths. One of the joys of being a human is doing the things for which we have a natural aptitude. But do remember, your body will appreciate efforts to shore up your fitness trouble spots. 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.
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