If you want to lose weight, get stronger, or simply just get healthy and increase your energy, training is part of every intelligent program designed to improve strength, fitness, vitality, health and longevity. Buddha explains karma by saying, “the way that leads to short life makes people short-lived.” Every action has a result, and the result will be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the intention behind that action. So in this series on achieving a positive cycle in the efforts you put in with a goal in mind, I will address four steps to help you recognize the very things you are doing now that are antagonizing your hard efforts with injury, illness, and fatigue.
Step 1. Exercise for the fun, train for the benefit:
There’s a difference between training and exercise, and not many people get either correct. The majority of those I’ve had experience and/or worked with tend to apply a dogmatic philosophy in their lives about one or the other (or worse; both). You’re not helping yourself if you’re getting it all wrong, so let me help you here.
Exercise: this is something that simply gets you moving, warmed up and lubricating those joints. So essentially, exercise can be just about anything from Tai Chi, to gardening, to training for a 5k or hell; cleaning the house! When we read so much about how the majority of Americans do not get enough exercise, we tend to believe that is referring to running, jogging, walking, group classes or some set amount of time spent on any globo-gym cardio machine. You know; burning calories. But that isn’t true and the idea is misleading. Picture this: for the last 3-1/2 years I have watched the same man running in my neighborhood… everyday. When I coach clients out of my studio, we often see him truckin’ along with his tethered white t-shirt soaking wet. And in all those years, this man is still the same size he was when I first noticed him, in fact, he’s actually slightly bigger AND he’s running much slower. And that is what he considers exercise. Let’s redefine the word so we’re not all confused about why obesity rates are continuing to skyrocket (despite 40 years of FDA guidelines and public “education” on the very issue) while we’re over here thinking that exercise = burning calories, which must = lose weight/stay fit, and losing weight but automatically = health. ALL wrong. Exercise is not an hour of redundant motions on a cardio machine while flipping through magazines (unless you really love doing that). Exercise is any activity that gets you warmed up, moving, and working the joints & tissues. So don’t get wrapped up in the idea that this is about burning calories. It’s much more than that; it’s about health, energy and longevity. If exercise – to you – is about getting a return on your investment, then it’s quite obvious that you need to stop draining cash from your account while believing that as long as you keep doing that, you will increase your funds! Generating good karma in exercise means that you need to find activities you enjoy and do them. When you are happy, every living cell in your body is happy. And when you are happy AND moving, then your cells communicate positive things throughout every system, and your system reacts positively. You do not have to drag your feet to the gym everyday, despite hating it, simply to attain some number of calories burned. Eventually your body gets that negative message, and it responds negatively… in the form of stress. And I don’t need to get into adrenal fatigue and how that makes you fat and unhealthy, right?
Now training. All of you who have this regimented schedule of weight lifting programs or cross fit classes who think you are “training for life, bro” are – in fact- not training a damn thing! Training is defined as the action of conditioning and strengthening with the intention of developing a specific skill defined by your goals. An MLB pitcher will train his shoulders, right? Wrong. If an athlete throws a ball 1000x a day with one arm, what do you think is going to happen if that’s all they do? Exactly; they throw their arm out and retire early. So throwing a ball over and over to get better at throwing is not training. A 35 year old housewife who goes to CrossFit everyday to PR her last power clean is not training. Guess what happens to a woman who had a c-section 5 months ago, has a history of neck injury and spends the majority of her days carrying a baby on her left hip, and then joins a large crowd of other cortisol addicts to bust out heavy shit on the barbell for time? Any guesses? That isn’t training. She’s got several weak links, specifically on one side of the body… and call me out if I’m wrong, but it takes equal effort on both sides to raise a barbell over your head. Karma: be bad to your body, and it will be bad to you. That means… without careful forethought and planning to strengthen and balance all systems of the body that present a level and risk of overuse, you’re just going to get hurt. Injured. Sidelined. And what happens then? Usually those folks end up stressed & confused, like a wound up kitten with no ball of yarn… because they can’t workout which means they’ll probably get fat. (side note: if you are stressing that bad about not getting to workout, you’re likely dealing with very, very bad karma). Training takes intellect, respect, honor and intuition-led conditioning. If you don’t know how to tune into your own body, you can’t train. If you ignore the cues of overuse, injury, pain or weakness… you can’t train. You simply are -not -training. First you need to identify specific goals, then you need to recognize what skills are needed to reach that goal, and THEN you begin to map our your training methods and approach. To turn that karma into something positive, you need to start listening to your body, not some community of intensity enthusiasts that call themselves “badass” because they can “go hard” and live to tell the tale (and it’s the same, damn story every time). That isn’t honor. It’s not respect. Your body is your temple —> and it will never lie to you. So if you continue to abuse it, then trust me… it WILL abuse you back. To honor your body is to listen in, and understand what it’s telling you. If your joints hurt or you keep getting the same minor injury over and over… that’s your temple telling you to stop stressing that part of the body! If you get sick, or begin to feel fatigued much easier, that’s your body telling you to slow down and take a break. To honor the temple is to listen and respect it, and provide it the rest, recovery and balanced conditioning it needs. Do you hear me runners? If you’re out there pounding pavement day-in-day-out and wonder why your knees, ankles or back always hurt… that’s because you’re overusing those muscles and joints and there is no BALANCING SYSTEM in place to support it. So don’t act so shocked when you’re sidelined and can’t run that race you’ve been “training” for the last 6 months. If you’re not adding in resistance work for the muscles that support your movements, core conditioning, proper stretching and proper rest (yes, rest = training) then you’ve got no one to blame but yourself when you end up with early degradation of the bones and joint tissues that were kept in a constant state of inflammation without any positive reinforcement.
Positive training karma happens when: you are happy, you do things you enjoy, perform hobbies that keep you active, yet satisfied, and plan exercise/activities you look forward to, things you won’t make excuses up for to miss. It should also be an activity you’d be sad or disappointed to miss, but not stressed out, anxious or worried about missing. Your body feeds off of the joy you bring it, and nothing but good will come out of that. Honor your temple, supply it the strength and balance it needs… not the ‘strength’ you need to post on facebook. Listen to your body, tune in, and give it what it needs. You may have this awesome 5-3-1 program mapped out, but if you tune in to your body you may come to understand it needs something other than what’s written down on a piece of paper marked “Tuesday”, like maybe…extra mobility work, for instance. To train for the benefit means YOUR benefit, not a population majority. You must ask yourself two things: Do I enjoy this? and, Is this a functional movement that will provide positive reinforcement to the specific areas of my body that need it the most so I can reach my goal?
Stay tuned for the following parts of this series in training karma, they are much more than what you think:
2. Know how to fuel your body
3. Recover with rest, not supplements
4. Listen to your soul, not your ego