Is your Training Sustainable? The Importance of Sustainability
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night or the early morning with a great idea? Or some thoughts on a particular subject have been on you mind for a while and you feel compelled to share them with everyone. That’s what happened to me this morning. Upon waking up it was all so clear, all so obvious.
As life starts to slip by and as we get older the concept of sustainability in your life and in your training becomes critically important. As an athlete it is so tempting to want to cut corners and not put in the necessary work to build a solid foundation for a lifetime of training and strength.
Very few athletes will truly put in the base conditioning and skill work to get very good at their sporting movements. That is why most athletes do not have long careers or end up injured or on the sidelines.
So ask yourself the following questions:
- How long do you want to be active? For days, weeks, months, years or a lifetime?
- How long do you want your movement quality to be good?
- Do you have any aspirations to compete in a sport over the age of 40?
- Do you have a system in place that allows you to monitor your orthopedic and movement health?
- Do you want to live on pain killers and steroids throughout your retirement?
When it comes to training longevity, the first person that comes to mind is Jack LaLane. He knew a thing or two about sustainability and staying super strong and fit throughout a lifetime. The concepts he taught were principles based and just as accurate for our current generation as they were for his.
Clarence Bass is another person who has lived by the principle of “sustainable progression.” He has been able to stay at the top of his game over a lifetime and is still training with some very respectable loads in his seventies.
If you read his books the concept of sustainable progression runs strong as one of the main themes. Just looking at Clarence in his seventies is obvious proof that getting older doesn’t have to take you out of sports or training.
As a lifelong athlete I have been a complete “bonehead” at times and just flat out stupid by ignoring warning signals that my body was giving me. I have learned the hard way through various injuries, some of which are with me forever as fun little companions or amigos.
The bottom line is that we as athletes cause most of our problems and most of our injuries could have been avoided (especially the non-contact injuries). So I offer the following tips and suggestions to those who desire to sustain their training for as long as possible!
1. Be ultra clear on your goals and why they are important to you!
Our training and sporting goals may change as we get older and this okay. It is fine to change goals and directions because we will pick up other interests and ambitions. When I became a parent my life changed instantly and for the first time in my life I started to think of the long term ramifications of my training and what effect that could have on my health and family!
Now it was not only about me, it was about being healthy enough and functional enough to raise my kids, play with my kids and be a great role model for them on what effective and intelligent training can do in your life. My goal of feeling like a super hero and being incredibly strong and fast has not changed. However, the methods in which I will attain those qualities has!
If your current training goals do not support the long term vision you have for you and your family I would advise you to re-design your training program to support that vision.
2. Quality over Quantity
This is something that I have written about for years and it is still one of the most essential principles when it comes to training and to life goals.
When I speak of quality training I am referring to big compound movements performed with great technique and with the proper intention.
Perhaps nothing more than moving well and moving with the right intention will have as profound an effect on your training results. If we look at Clarence Bass and his training protocols, technique and quality has always been his priority.
Very few people have the physiques or genetics to tolerate the high mileage running of marathons. The challenge with most distance sports such as marathons and triathlons is that they are not sustainable.
You can only smash your joints for you so long before your joints, tendons, ligaments and muscles get so pissed off they stop working. That is why my twin brother Keats Snideman and I highly recommend learning to sprint for health and better athleticism.
That is why we started our own sprinting company created to coach intelligent sprinting for all types of people. Our book on the subject is coming later this year called PRIMAL SPEED. Sprinting once per week is something you can sustain over a lifetime and benefits to your health are plentiful:
- More Muscle Mass
- Stronger joints, ligaments, tendons and connective tissue
- Increased levels of Testosterone and Growth Hormone (the fountain of youth hormones)
- Less Body Fat
- More usable strength and power for life and sports
3. Have some assessment protocol in place to evaluate orthopedic, movement and neurological health.
It has been said that the person who tries to coach themselves is a FOOL. Even doctors need doctors. It is impossible to effectively be your own coach in every aspect of your life.
We all need help as well as the expertise of others. We all need coaching. We all need an objective “EYE.” We all need encouragement and a voice outside of our own head to talk some sense to us!
Most people will easily lie to themselves and convince themselves that they are better than they are!
This is why I love the FMS and the SFMA protocols because they serve as an objective platform to measure and grade movement. If you have not heard of the Functional Movement Screen, check out their website as well as Gray Cook’s site (Gray is the founder and creator of the FMS).
We all need this. You may not use the FMS but I encourage you to have some system in place to check your movement quality. Also, probably a very good idea to wear your seat belt, wear helmets when necessary, get blood work done yearly, floss and brush your teeth daily, tell your spouse and kids you love them every day, and help old ladies cross the street 😉
4. We must strive for balance! Tension vs. Relaxation.
As strength athletes we tend to become addicted to the “TENSION” side of things. I remember when I got bit by the dead lifting bug several years ago and I ended up pulling 415 pounds and a body weight of about 160.
My challenge came when I kept going heavier and failed to back off and focus on recovery, flexibility and mobility. Dead lifting is a great movement that I recommend all people master. However, like any motor quality, it can be over done.
Focus too much on tension and you will get injured. Consequently, if you focus too much on flexibility and extreme yoga without focus on strength and you too will get injured.
The keyword is balance! We need both Tension and Relaxation. Whatever your deficit is, I recommend that you at least address it in some capacity in your training.
It sounds rather simplistic and the truth is; you are right! Strive to incorporate the missing piece from your training. Think long term and where you want to be in the next 20, 30 or 50 years!
5. Focus on Parasympathetic Activity
Modern day life and stress has causes huge increases is stress related diseases and mental issues. Too much training and not enough recovery coupled with “modern life stress” causes us to be too sympathetic dominant in our Central nervous system.
This is the fight or flight part of our CNS and leads to health issues. I recommend that strength athletes look into following:
- Tai Chi or Qi gong – some of the best parasympathetic activities in the world
- Sleep! Yes, get sleep and it must be high quality sleep.
- Daily Prayer and meditation – Holy men and wise have been doing this for thousands of years!
- Focus on Diaphragmatic Breathing – either in your stretching, meditation or yoga practice
- Less consumption of simple sugars, refined food and caffeine
- Primal Move – movement system by Master RKC Peter Lakatos
6. Keep strength the emphasis.
This sounds like I am now contradicting myself but rest assured I am not! Strength training (getting stronger by lifting weights) as we age has not only performance benefits but huge health benefits.
Maintaining enough muscle mass is essential for keeping our body fat levels low and our anabolic hormones high. Being strong also makes up for a whole host of deficiencies!
This is from the RKC MANUAL:
Strength is the master quality.
RKC is 100% behind Prof. Leonid Matveyev’s categorical statement: “Strength is the foundation for development of the rest of physical qualities.”
Until one becomes “entry level strong”, e.g. a half-bodyweight one-arm kettlebell press, a double bodyweight back squat for men, etc., no priority other than strength can be justified for a healthy athlete. Master RKC Mark Reifkind has nailed it: “Strong fixes almost everything.”
7. Focus on Restorative Movements and Correctives!
Again, I look to FMS, RKC style principles, Indian Clubs and the things mentioned above.
Hope this helps. We all need to take a long term approach to our training and our life. We don’t know how many days we have left on this earth, but in case we have a quite a few days left, let’s make sure our quality of movement and quality of life is worth living!
Thoughts and comments are always welcome!
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