Thursday, August 29, 2013

Go for a Crawl

"Going for a Run" is an expression that most of us instantly understand. When you say this, you intend to put on different clothes & special shoes, go outside (or jump on a treadmill) and shuffle along at a rapid rate until you get tired and sweaty. The goal is exercise for health, conditioning or body adaptation to accomplish a distance/time goal. Going for a run equals weight loss and healthiness in the minds of most people.
He makes it look so easy
It's really not the best way to lose weight or keep it off though. It's boring for many people. It's damaging if you do it incorrectly (you actually do need to learn how to run). Watch people's faces when they jog and you'll see many pained expressions or at best blank, zombie faces. People dread to do their run, but they feel compelled by social norms that it is the best thing to do for exercise.

How about mixing a "Go for a Crawl" day into your workout routine? If you're training for a race, consider this a cross-training day. If you run for weight management, this will replace a run in your weekly training schedule. If you're into conditioning for some other sport, crawling in the grass will be a great augment to any sport. You will get cardio and strength training in one activity.

What do you do? Go to a field & crawl around like a bear in the grass. Repeat until you are tired and sweaty. That's it.
Maybe don't crawl until you bleed. Watch your wrists though and go slowly.
It is silly so you will laugh at yourself. It is difficult on your coordination, balance and muscles so you'll get a workout. Kids will want to join you because it will be funny to them too. Other adults will question you about it and probably want to try it themselves too. It's a natural activity even if it feels a bit unnatural at first. Crawling is fun so you'll want to do it and wanting to exercise is key to reaching your goals.
When you use all your muscles at once, you get the best possible workout.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Best Exercise for Total Fitness

There are so many great movements to train (squats, pullups, swimming, kettlebell swings). There are also so many great conditioning workouts that tax all your metabolic systems and muscle groups (sprints, thrusters, swimming). I'm going to go out on a limb and say there is a number one best movement for total fitness.

The Burpee Pullup

Find a playground, a soccer goal, scaffolding, a tree branch or just about anything taller than your overhead reach. Drop to your stomach and then pull yourself up until your chest hits the bar. Repeat 10, 50, 100 times--whatever you need to do. Every single muscle in your body will get worked and you'll be cashed out much sooner than you'd expect.

This is a great way to modify your body composition, get stronger, develop endurance and become more generally competent with your body.
Difficult movements make for a hard body and strong mind.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ninja Warrior Training

Just looking at Mt. Midoriyama makes me nervous
I love Sasuke. The Japanese came up with an awesome physical test that no one was even able to finish for the first four years of the competition. Now called Ninja Warrior because of a huge international audience; we also have the American Ninja Warrior with a series of regional competitions that lead to a final round in Vegas. I've watched the show for years and every time I see a few contestants run through the course, I have to rush out to a playground to practice the moves myself. TV that motivates you to move is excellent television indeed!

Obstacle course training might be the most perfect form of physical conditioning. It taxes all the major muscles; stresses aerobic & anaerobic metabolic systems; develops coordination, agility & balance; creates body awareness for overcoming real life physical challenges; and most importantly, it motivates you to exercise because it's fun!

Finding an obstacle race is easy; training on playgrounds & "nature's obstacle course" is fun
Fitness is a multifaceted concept. I look at it as developing the physical components & skills to live a long life doing the things that make you happiest. When your body lets you down by holding you back from your dreams, you have to work to overcome the weakness (there's no quit in any of you I know). Obstacles and movement training highlight weaknesses but by maintaining a playful heart, they can inspire you to higher levels of fitness than you ever thought possible.

Running is an essential human movement, as is swimming. Goal setting & accomplishment is key to happiness--marathons and triathlons are brilliant personal accomplishments. These activities don't encapsulate total fitness however, and even can be counterproductive to developing or even maintaining other key fitness components like joint mobility, strength, agility, coordination and balance.

You also won't develop the physique that you desire by just running. You'll drop pounds initially but almost any activity will create noticeable body changes in the first months as your metabolism has to compensate for the new stress. After the initial months, our bodies adapt to the stress, it becomes a new normal and no further body composition changes occur. People also become bored with the same activity, dread working out and fall off the wagon. Incorporating obstacles to climb, hurdle, balance on, etc will keep your training interesting. Run backwards, shuffle sideways, vary speed--this will make your runs more interesting for your body and mind.
Running is an essential movement but taken to an extreme can hurt total physical fitness
Physical activity is a daily part of a long and happy life. Move in a variety of ways. Try new things. Explore!
Too much of a good thing is too much.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Stretch Some Things and Strengthen Others

Some people love to do yoga; they do it all the time. Others love to run; they also do it all the time. Weightlifters love to lift weights; they too do it all the time. All of them think their exercise plan is the best and seldom branch out of it.

Is this a recipe for developing the capacity to do all the physical things that you want to do during a long life? I think not. The two main reasons I think that you must do a variety of activities are that we adapt to stressors quickly (and then plateau or regress) and because no single exercise or training style will hit all the components that contribute to a long, healthy, capable life. We have to mix it up to stay gain and maintain fitness. I also think this is more interesting way to approach movement and will help keep you on your training plan.
Frank has a bunch books worth reading
I'm really enjoying reading Frank Forencich's book Play as if Your Life Depends on It. Among the many gems of wisdom he writes about, he talks about how certain parts of the body weaken with age and other parts tend to shorten over time. A training plan that tries to strengthen everything or one that tries to stretch everything is counter productive. Coupled with the style of life that modern humans live, we have to really focus our physical training time (or movement time or even better, play time) in such a way to unlock the natural mobility we have within each of us.

Frank's view is that we should work to stretch muscles like the hamstrings, pecs, biceps, calves, psoas and forearms since these contract over time. The gluts (butt), abdominals and low back (my addition) tend to weaken with age so we should do exercises to strengthen them. This could seem like a complicated training requirement but it really means that you need to deadlift, squat, pull yourself up and stretch against the sitting posture that we tend to keep through most of the day. Stand up, move around, squat down, pick up something heavy, go for a walk.
Good health advice comes in many flavors
Learn about your body and try new things no matter what your age or current condition. You are your own trainer, physical therapist, orthopedist and nutritionist. Keep picking from a variety of  training styles. You'll find that you stay interested in your exercise time more and you'll also develop skills that will serve you throughout a long & adventurous life.
Mix it up and keep it fresh!