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Be Good At Everything

August 29, 2011 — 10 Comments

“You can’t be good at everything.”

Why not?

Ok, I guess you can’t be good at everything. But, I’m gonna talk about “fitness”, and why I hate it when someone everyone says that “you can’t be good at everything.”

Defining fitness briefly, and I actually like the CrossFit definition-(I can hear the eyes rolling and cries of despair).  The aspects (aspects, not skills. Skills are things like running, climbing, throwing, catching…) that make up fitness are strength, power, speed, agility, coordination, endurance, and flexibility (I actually prefer mobility).  The standard thought regarding training is that you have to sacrifice one area for another, and be strong and powerful with no endurance or mobility; be skinny and have great stamina but cannot squat your bodyweight; be a yogi that can’t do anything other than the broken wing eagle pose.  These arguments are of course ridiculous, just typical “this or that” thought.  Realistically you can be good at all those things.

We just gotta have a better view of what “good” is.  Good is not the best. Good is better than average. Good is something you are proud of. Good is good. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to the best(s) in every category. That’s frustrating and can be demoralizing. You can be good at all of those aspects of fitness; you may most likely not be the best at any one aspect-but being better than the vast majority of others in all aspects is pretty damn awesome.  Let’s be honest, most are NOT competing in any events; so the obsession with slightly improving one aspect- be it strength, endurance, etc- by focusing on that aspect and ignoring the other aspects is pretty useless.

Now, if you are competing, or are very focused on one personal goal or set of similar goals, then tailoring your training to support your goals or contest is great. However, the vast majority of us do not compete (running in the rock and roll marathon isn’t competing unless you have a chance at winning, BTW), and those specific and arbitrary goals of focused individuals are also not terribly common. The most common goals are to “be fit”, “not hurt”, “move better” and of course, to “look good naked” (or something along those lines).  You can accomplish those things at once-and you don’t have to follow a nazi esque approach of one method or another.  Getting “fit” is not a “my way or the highway” endeavor. Getting good at all of it is pretty simple: do some strength work, some mobility and agility work, some conditioning, some play, sleep well, eat well, and don’t obsess over arbitrary aspirations to take your back squat from 450lbs to 455lbs, or your 10k from 40 minutes to 39 minutes. Take what is lagging or lacking, emphasize it a bit more than the other aspects, and have fun. Seriously, have fun, enjoy yourself-otherwise it’s just another job.

My general split:

  • Monday: Strength and Power @ gym or with rocks outside
  • Tuesday:rest, or MovNat Conditioning or Basketball or yoga
  • Wednesday: Rest, or conditioning with MovNatting
  • Thursday: Strength and Power @ gym or with rocks outside
  • Friday: Rest. Foam Roll and TV with stretching, or a massage.
  • Saturday and Sunday: 8 hour MovNat workshops and practice. Endurance.
Author’s note:  In MovNat the focus is on the quality of movement, and once you have mastered certain skills you can start to address your personal goals of conditioning through the technical practice of your mastered skills. 

Reductionism: is this where we went wrong?

[ri-duhk-shuh-niz-uhm] Show IPA
the theory that every complex phenomenon, especially in biology or psychology, can be explained by analyzing the simplest, most basic physical mechanisms that are in operation during the phenomenon.
the practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it.

Humans’ analytical minds are amazing, we have and continue to unlock the “secrets” of the universe. More often than not this has allowed us to move forward through time advancing in many areas in life: sciences, technology, medicine, philosophy, etc. And while our advances are impressive, it still is truly daunting to try and understand even a small fraction of what is going on around us. In fact I believe it’s rather arrogant to think that we can analyze and break down all of life’s complexities into small pieces. This is especially true with our bodies, both nutritionally and physiologically. In 2003 the American journal of clinical nutrition “” said the same thing. The idea of focusing on the whole rather than the parts has been realized through a paleo-esque diet which encourages people to just eat real food. Yet the same can’t generally be said for exercise.

Just as a ground up meal of synthetic vitamins, minerals and macronutrients doesn’t add up to the same nutrition as real food, a program of targeted resistance exercise combined with some aerobic conditioning doesn’t add up to a human who actually moves well. This isn’t to say that programs that compartmentalize body parts or capacities are bad-rather that they are lacking the nuances and complexities of moving our body in response to different contexts.

Instead of truly adapting to context, we attempt to create artificial scenarios to address specific goals. Typical Programs are often so focused that they seem blind to all the areas outside of that focus. Strength goals are sought at the expense of mobility and flexibility. Endurance is sought at the expense of strength and power. Capacity is sought at the expense of recovery and hormone levels/health. If one really strives to excel in one area, then they should go for it because goals are important; however, if one really wants to just move comfortably and confidently throughout life they can’t afford to focus on one thing.

Just as we can’t (yet?) reproduce the intricacies of real food, we cannot artificially reproduce all the possibilities of human movement in a static environment. The real test of capability is one’s adaptability. And while some S&C training may translate to ability in certain situations, it doesn’t translate to many others. We must expand our comfort zone and skill sets in varied contexts if we want to truly be capable movers.

Movement capability is sometimes addressed by corrective exercises. These can be fantastic drills to help undo, fix, or reprogram faulty movement patterns and/or missing capability. However, these drills should be a means to head toward full movements in context. This is the same as trying to fix disease with one vitamin or mineral-it may help in one aspect, but you must address the whole diet to elicit real change.

One reason why complex movement is important, it makes us smart. A recent huffington post article discusses this. Children with disabilities are taken through complex movements to stimulate brain development. So I guess I’m saying curls and stationary machines, both cardio and strength, aren’t just boring, they make you dumb.

Get out and move.