Consistent Diversity: The Importance of Integrating Various Training Methodologies
For those of you who know me (even if it is just what you have gathered from Twitter, blogging, or my programming website), you will notice that when it comes to training, I am diverse. If you read about me and the athletes I train, you will see that I have a difficult time fitting all the things I do, train for, and offer my athletes and clients in 160 characters or less. Why? Because I integrate various training methodologies into my programming.
Respect Other Sports and Training Tools
It is impossible to disregard the tremendous benefits I have found in a variety of sports. Burn the “I hate running” shirts and give track a try. Stop criticizing barbells or dumbbells and find and experience first-hand the benefits in each. See how each element can build on the other and build you up. Why? Together they are all important. Yes our bodies are “machines” but you can build machines with machines too. Try it. You might learn something about yourself and your training that you never knew before.
You Can Only “Overtrain” Your Fixation
Some might incorrectly assume the variety of tools I use for training are too much to implement and some might criticize me for risking overtraining. I would strongly disagree. My first response is, if we spent more time talking about proper recovery, we would spend far less time talking about overtraining. Secondly, staying varied and consistently active is exactly what keeps an athlete from overtraining. I aim to include everything I can (including everything that athletes genuinely enjoy) into my programming. The key here is moderation. It is beneficial, for example, to lift heavy one day and then to run out any soreness that might follow. If you are stiff or sore from intense track work, there is much benefit to be found in the pool for both recovery and conditioning (to name a couple).
If you love a particular sport, never give it up - for anyone. There is no one way to train and there is no one way that is just for everyone (as much as people like to think so these days). Instead, find supplemental training to help you meet your main fitness or competitive goal. Find the value in kettlebells, weightlifting, bodybuilding, swimming, or track, to name a few. This is not to say that you should spend less time on your sport, it is just to say that you should mix it up to give certain muscles a break now and again while at the same time keeping them active. Otherwise, the constant and repetitive wear and tear soon takes a toll.
Parts That Make Up the Whole
Even cross-training is known to be “constantly varied” but, sorry folks, this too is not the be-all-end-all of fitness as a stand-alone form of training. It cannot do what swim training can or track training can. It is not the same as bodybuilding or endurance training. Just think how much better you’d be as an athlete with a library full of various methodologies. No matter what cross-training asks of you, you’d be prepared and not only that, you might just find yourself excelling at each element. All these parts make up the whole.
Too Much of a Good Thing
When everything begins to hurt, body parts begin to tweak unexpectedly, and swollen joints and inflammation make what started as something enjoyable into a very painful experience, it is no longer efficient or effective training. Period. The danger is in becoming too fixated on the task at hand, trying to impress others, and letting the thrill of competing with others overtake your form. Beating yourself and your body up in the process of trying be the best without the training or background experience to do so is a dangerous recipe for injury. I am constantly reminding my athletes of our motto “technique before time.” When you get the technique down then feel free to be competitive. I encourage you to! Let that be your push, not the clock - at least not yet.
Be Consistently Diverse
Training of any kind needs to be functional, adaptive, and healthy (for mind and body). Muscles will do what they are supposed to do - they will adapt to need, function, and demand. Make sure that they are readily prepared to meet those demands (even on the fly) without risking injury. Isn't that the goal of being fit? A good combination of strength and endurance, speed, power, and agility is key. Each one of these elements will build the type of "fit" that you should be demanding from your body. You will learn one of two things in your new open-mindedness with other sports: 1) that you are good at (or can at least do) things you never thought you could, or 2) that you are weak in some areas you never really even considered before. Both realizations are vital to life and to your training.
Varied Does Not Mean “Wing It”
This does not mean you should go jump into a pool not knowing how to swim. Jump in, but jump in with a plan. You must know how to swim first. Learn the different sports and find the best coaches to train you. In other words, if you want to learn to sprint, track down a speed coach. Find the best to teach you, and by the best I mean those who are experienced in their fields, the people who actually do the activity or teach it on a regular basis. This goes for programming also. Don't just throw stuff into your programming without a plan. I see this everywhere and it simply will not work. There are specific track and speed plans, swim plans, and strength-training programs, and these are all scientifically based within themselves and have taken years to formulate. Don’t skip around without direction. A good coach can personalize a program for you in order to build you up in each. The result? A better athlete. Plain and simple.
Doing Everything and Doing Everything Wrong
Just “doing stuff" for the sake of saying that you are well rounded isn’t the goal here. Having a plan, coupled with good technique, good programming, and a good coach are the tools to effective and smart training. There is no point in doing everything if you are doing everything wrong. Find the best and learn from the best. Be proactive about what you do and where you train. One system or the overuse of just one system won't cut it. Do your research wherever you choose to train.
Just like the definition of "insanity" - doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result - is not going to help you. It's not healthy and risks injury. Mix it up and be consistent in your variety. Train well. Hydrate well. Recover well.