The ABCs of Training
by Steven M. Ledbetter
5 minute read
With rare exception, what most of my clients want is change. They want to change their body’s shape or function. They have a goal, and they come to me to help them attain it. Sometimes they have trouble articulating that goal and they need my help to even work up the courage to say it out loud. When a new client tells me she wants “toning and core strength, “ I hear, “I wanna look better naked.” When she tells me she wants to “lose 10 lbs.,” I hear “I wanna look better naked.” But I don’t judge and no matter what the goal, there is only one path to achieving it: the direct one. When you’re with Coach Stevo, you’re training.
As I’ve talked about before, training is placing consistent, progressively intense stress on the body in order to illicit physiological changes during recovery that you have deemed to be beneficial to your goals. It’s not “burning calories,” although it does burn some calories. It’s not “working out” even though it takes work and, at least with me, is often outside. I call what I do “training” because the next question in your mind has always got to be, “training for what?” Your body is a tool that you are shaping for a purpose. That purpose is your own (speed, power, hotness, a PFT, the Olympics, etc.), but you always need to keep that purpose in mind. If you can say to yourself, “I am training for X” then you are more likely to do those things that you believe will improve your ability to perform X. You are also less likely to get distracted by the latest fads and chances are better that you will succeed. As Dan John says, “the goal is to keep the goal the goal.” But let’s look at the difference this mentality can make.
Gym? What’s a Gym?
Most of us do what we think of as training in gyms. Gyms sell convenient access to heavy things and showers to people who do not wish to make a formal investment. So really, gyms are more like libraries than bars, although you’d never know that by visiting them. Like bars, one of the most common things that people do in gyms is observe other people and judge them. This means that a lot of people who enter the gym unsure of their purpose or knowledge of how to affect their body go in and get immediately distracted by what other, stronger, hotter people are doing. But also like bars, very few people talk to the hotter people and ask them why they are doing what they are doing. This leads to lots of bad form and scattershot exercise choices that get reinforced over time by fear and ignorance.
_The fix? _Treat the gym like a library. You go to the library to learn things from books you don’t feel like buying. You know what you don’t know and you are there to learn it. You may even ask an expert for help. The gym should be no different. You’re training. You know what you want; you know how to get there; you are just at the location for the convenience. I’m not saying it can’t be an enjoyable space filled with interesting people, I’m just asking you to remember what you’re there for. If you spend more time at the gym talking than sweating, then you need to save your money join a knitting club.
Get Out of the Box
The most important thing that happens when you start to think about “training,” instead of “exercising” is that your head gets out of the box. Specifically the globobox gym that you probably go to every week. Training doesn’t just mean lifting. It doesn’t just mean cardio. Training means getting better at something and that can happen anywhere, anytime. I train people in parks and playgrounds, but I also give them homework so they can train in their apartments and in their offices. Training happens every damn day because otherwise it will never become a habit. If training never becomes a habit it will always be a struggle. So if you tie training to a certain location, then every time you are away from that location you will not train. The same goes for tools, clothes, or even rituals. I have had a client who thought that not being able to stretch her hamstrings for 45 minutes on a certain wall at a certain time before a session was a reason to cancel. Her hamstrings were not the problem.
_The fix? _ABC, baby. “Always Be Cranking.” There is always something to work on. Specifically, there’s always something you suck at. Most of us are happy to work on the stuff we are good at, but foolishly undo all our hard work by ignoring glaring weaknesses in our body’s performance. These blind spots are usually motor-patterns, mobility and soft tissue quality. The funny thing is that all of these problems can be easily cranked on without special shoes or a sports bra. I encourage all my clients to stretch, foam roll, and pattern (squat, hinge, push, pull, carry) wherever they find themselves. This usually means at home or at the office, where all you need is 24 sq. ft. and a lacrosse ball to get some serious work done. Throw in a 12kg kettlebell and a jump stretch band and there is almost no weakness you can’t crank on every damn day. You don’t even need to break a sweat; you just need to move a little. The key is remembering that you are training, not working out, not exercising. Training has a purpose and as Kelly Starrett likes to say, “there are no off days.” So keep moving; be aware of your body and its weaknesses; and remember to ABC. Because you’re not exercising; you’re training. And chocolate coconut almond super shakes are for closers.