The Training Reality Check: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Clint Eastwood rocked it in the 1966 film The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. That flick was entertaining and worthy of viewing again. But we are talking about physical training here, not cinema gems of the past.
We just completed the first quarter of the year 2013. How is your training going? Are you kicking butt? Are you satisfied with your progress? Are you struggling with nagging injuries? Either way, let's take a look at the realities of training using Clint's aforementioned movie title.
You're getting stronger, leaner, faster, becoming better conditioned, avoiding injury, achieving your competition goals, increasing your confidence, looking sexier with minimal clothing on, or experiencing some other quality. Fantastic. You're obviously doing something right to be in this position. I would bet it's listed here:
- You're working hard to improve your cardiovascular endurance: quality endurance-training days followed by appropriate recovery time to allow for adaptation.
- Your resistance training workouts are allowing you to stimulate strength gains: the correct overload stimulus is being applied followed by enough downtime to allow your muscles to grow.
- You're eating properly to grow muscle, fuel productive workouts, and metabolize undesirable body fat. You're a food-eating genius.
- You're practicing the skills of running or moving faster to better your speed.
- You're performing orthopedically safe exercises to avoid (or at least minimize) the potential for debilitating injuries. Training is going forward injury-free.
- You're getting adequate nightly sleep to facilitate essential recovery from the prior day's energy-depleting activities.
- You're intelligently practicing and refining your sport and skills because you know that is the only way to master them. Perfect practice makes perfect performance.
Crap. You're not increasing your strength, your body fat is increasing, your running speed and level of conditioning is flat-lining, you’re experiencing nagging aches and pains, you're getting your butt kicked in competitions, you're a head case and nowhere near your established goals of becoming leaner, faster, better conditioned, and avoiding injury.
In addition to the above, you're not achieving your competition goals, your confidence is waning, and you look disgusting in a swim suit. Obviously, some component or factor in your well-intended equation is out of sorts. I would bet it's listed here:
- You're not working hard to better your cardiovascular endurance: You're below the proper intensity threshold of quality running days or getting inadequate recovery time.
- You're resistance training intensity is analogous to a cotton ball. Zilch intensity equals zilch results.
- You're not eating adequately to facilitate muscle growth, fuel productive workouts, and allow your body to burn unwanted body fat.
- You're not properly addressing sport-speed practice. You're incorporating non-specific drills or exercises that are worthless for improving your specific sport-speed goals.
- You're performing dangerous exercises and activities that are creating nagging short-tem injuries and potential long-term downtime. Your training methods are manifested by unnecessary throwing, yanking, or jerking, or you’re moving resistances (via a barbell, dumbbell, or machine) ineffectively. Simply put, you're applying the overload incorrectly, which is kicking the asses of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
- Your nightly sleep is poor, you're stressed out, and thus unable to recover from previous overload stresses that are intended to move you forward.
- You're haphazardly practicing your sport and skills. You are hoping a minimal amount of proper training in other components will be enough to bump you to the next level.
It's sad to say, but this could be your reality:
- You're going backward. You're actually getting worse!
- You're taking performance-enhancing drugs to hopefully attain your goals.
- You're constantly injured, but being the warrior you are, you continue training despite the pain and further aggravation of the injury. You're going to a gunfight with a water pistol.
- You're moving from zero training experience directly into some advanced training program that some misguided person encouraged you to try because it's popular.
- You're seeking to lose some body fat, achieve muscle definition, or improve your cardiovascular ability by purchasing a DVD that was advertised on the TV at 3:00am.
- You're eating a plethora of processed, but convenient foods. Hey, you have a busy schedule so the boxed ingredients and microwavable products are the best option.
There you have it: the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding your physical training pursuits. Take a good hard look to see which category you fit into. Once you’ve figured that one, then what follows could be the most realistic, but disheartening bullet points you have ever needed to read in regards to your training pursuits:
- Work hard. Run or move with effort, lift those weights with extreme intensity, practice your skills with tunnel vision.
- Rest hard. Did you do the above? Good, now let your body adapt from it. A good rest day is just as important as a good workout day.
- Fuel properly. To complete proper workouts, you need energy. To achieve stronger muscles, you need the right nutrients. To lose body fat, you need the correct caloric intake.
- And most importantly, train safely. It's embarrassing to even touch on this, but if you're injured, you are limited. You don't appreciate the joy of training until you cannot do it due to an injury. Eschew those exercises that create over-use joint trauma. It's a subjective science, but apply proper exercises and their prescriptions intelligently. If it compromises you, eliminate it. You're better off in the long run.
In the end it’s not that complicated. See which direction you’re headed and keep it simple. Use the simple steps above to get back on the right course and make the rest of 2013 a productive training time.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.