Have you ever noticed the people that do the same things over and over in the gym, in class or in sports and never seem to advance, change, grow or improve?
Have you ever experienced starting a new fitness routine that works for a little while and then stops working?
Have you ever wondered why that was? Here’s the thing and it is a simple thing – the human body is a stimulus response device. That’s it. It only responds to something making it respond. Let me explain it a few different ways.
Each fall when it is cold for the first time, say +5°C, we all think it’s freezing out and we grab our jackets and turn the heat up. What about now? In the middle of February, if it’s +5°C, we all think it’s spring and could walk around in a T-shirt. That is because our bodies have adapted to colder weather.
It’s no different in fitness. If you decide you want to drop 20, 30 or 40 pounds and you start walking for 20 minutes after supper each night, at first you will start to change. But after a few weeks, you will stop changing. This is because the body no longer needs to adapt to the stimulus of walking for 20 minutes once a day. If, however, you start to walk for 30 minutes, then 40 minutes, you start to add hills or stairs, you walk faster, you jog or add a backpack with weight in it – then your body will continue to adapt. The point is that you have to make it more challenging each week or month so that your body will continue to see the need to improve.
When I start coaching somebody to run a marathon or a triathlon, we start out slowly with short runs and lots of resting. As the weeks go by they start to run longer and faster and require less rest periods. This is called periodization and it lets the body adapt over time.
It is the same in fitness. You want to start out with weights if you can manage, then start to increase them or change the speed or time you are holding on to the weights for so that your body must adjust. Boot camp workouts are famous for never being the same twice. That is now widely known as ‘muscle confusion’ technique and basically it means changing the stimulus so that your body has to adapt.
I like to remember it this way – your body becomes what you teach it to be by the things that you do every day.
You can teach your body to be good at endurance, power, speed, agility, and balance – all sorts of things. That reminds me of another good point: People say they have terrible balance, but that simply isn’t true. Most adults are just out of practice because we stop playing when we grow older.
We sit at work, we sit on the couch, we sit in our vehicles, we sit at the dinner table and that’s all we ever do. So the body becomes good at sitting.Hamstrings grow shorter, backs get tight, abs get weak, and all sorts of things become a problem…. except sitting.
Have you ever watched a young child learn to walk? Nobody is born with good balance. It is a skill that we learn. Have you ever watched a 10-year-old child in a playground? They are constantly testing their balance and challenging their skills. As adults we have forgotten to do that, and we really need to bring it back.
I encourage your fitness to be like play time. Have fun, challenge your body to adapt, and watch what happens.