I’ve had many epiphanies over the years. Not to use a possibly tired term haphazardly, but a few of these epiphanies have even led to paradigm shifts for me. As a coach, this has happened to me as well. In my experience these paradigm shifts have made me a much better coach, and when they happen it’s about the best feeling you can get. A major breakthrough doesn’t just make your day; it can make your month or even your career as a coach or an athlete.
One thing I’ve wondered as of late is how to ensure these changes in big-picture thinking actually come about. Why not learn to train yourself to explore new ways of thinking about your training? Probably the biggest way to do this that I can recommend is to keep an open mind about training. Try to think and rethink about your definitions as you develop yourself.
Here’s an example. Let’s assume that most of us define exhaustion as when we can no longer do another repetition at a given weight. That is probably a pretty adequate and uncontroversial definition, which is why most of us hold it. But what if we tweaked it just a bit? Instead of not being able to do any repetitions at all, what if we defined the end of the set as when we could no longer maintain that load for a particular speed? What would that tell us, and would it be important?
If we couldn’t maintain a particular speed of our reps, then that would likely mean some of our muscle fibers have become fatigued. In fact, enough of our fibers have become fatigued that we can no longer express strength in the same way we could at the start of a set. Is this different than just going until you can’t do any more? Test it out. Do a set of pushups with a stopwatch on the floor where you can see it. Perform each pushup rep in a fixed time – let’s say one second. See how many you can do. You will find it is substantially fewer than doing pushups until you can’t do any more at all. And this might have important ramifications on your training that could be the topic of their own article.
So, back to paradigm shifts. A study published this month in BMC Research demonstrates a change in perspective beautifully. Researchers took 134 adults and strapped activity monitors to them. Each monitor was randomly assigned a length of time in which it averaged out the level of activity performed in that time block and recorded how long each person spent in various levels of physical activity. Some monitors measured activity in 4-second chunks, some measured it in 20-second chunks, and the rest measured in 60-second chunks. They measured the amount of activity from very intense, all the way down to very light. What they found illustrates my point here perfectly.
The amount of light physical activity measured by the 60-second monitors was 3 and a half times more on average than the 4-second monitors. By contrast, intense activity measured by the 4-second monitors was 20 percent more on average than the 60-second monitors. Essentially, the researchers proved that even a small change in perception or measurement can have dramatic impacts on the results even if what we did was exactly the same.
Take some time each day and try to look at your training from a different lens. If someone else has different views, hear them out and try to see things from their perspective. Ultimately your results will be better for it.
1. Makoto Ayabe, et. al., “Epoch length and the physical activity bout analysis:An accelerometry research issue,” BMC Research Notes 2013, 6:20
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