Forgive me if this blog turns out to be a diatribe… but I am irritated. Actually, thats not quite the right word. I am perplexed, I am perturbed and I am pissed off.

Why? It’s pretty simple. I am tired of hearing trainers tell me their workouts are brutal; laughing while they talk about who puked and which client needed to hold the cabinet to squat to use the toilet or was so sore that they couldn’t unhook their bra. Its ridiculous.

Do not misunderstand me; there are absolutely times when my athletes are extremely sore. I have purposely designed very challenging programs and I’ve seen more than a dozen puke their way through a workout. Shoot- puked my way through practice in college on more than one occasion. But note the key words here- purposely designed.  As a Strength and Conditioning Coach we have to factor in the goals of our athletes and periodize training programs to put our athletes in the best position to meet these goals.

Without over complicating it, a periodized program is essentially a training blueprint designed to challenge an athlete so that their mind and body can develop speed, strength, power, etc, and strategically allocate time for the athlete to adjust to the mental and physical adaptations they have made. Not only can these programs help prevent an athlete being overtrained, they can also help to harness an athletes energy to “peak” at different times throughout the year.

But I digress; what bothers me is when I hear a trainer say with pride that he’s known for having the “hardest workout on the beach”. When did “harder is better” become a “truth” in fitness?  It is not. Full stop. The body and the mind are not designed, nor equipped to go full throttle all the time.

Some may argue, “I only go to my class/trainer three times a week so it’s ok”. Perhaps. But I have been coaching for over 15 years; I’d be willing to bet that your body would actually appreciate an occasional downshift.

Here’s why. In order for our bodies to get bigger, faster, leaner, stronger it breaks down muscle tissue and taxes metabolic systems creating a deficit in energy, amongst other things. If we continue to deplete our system without being kind enough to let it recover and embrace the training adaptations we are asking of it, we are compromising our overall health. As such,  risk of injury increases, the immune system is weakened and physical performance, what you’ve been working for,  plateaus and often regresses.

Further, in our modern society, particularly in densely populated cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, environmental stress is high. As our communities thrive we respond to greater demands and inherit more responsibilities. Consequently, we often lose time to ourselves which generally equates to longer hours, less sleep and thus, less time to decompress.

While it is true that exercise can be a terrific way to manage stress, what is often misunderstood is that the body does not recognize good stress from bad. Working out is considered a “healthy” stressor but, it is still stress. Sometimes you have to pump the brakes and find a way to de-stress the body. Stretch; hydrate; eat a lighter meal and/or go to bed 30 minutes earlier.

If you are a trainer, it is your responsibility to look at your programming reflectively; are you setting your clients up for success? Ask questions- how well did you sleep? Are your irritable, able to concentrate? How do you feel? Listen to your clients as you are working with them, especially to what is not being said. You aren’t a better trainer because you drive your clients until their wheels fall off. You’re a better trainer if they are happy, healthy and see results.

Fitness is supposed to compliment your health, not compromise it. Take a moment to check in; what do you have in the tank? If you’re running on empty, communicate with your trainer; take a class that doesn’t require you to go balls out. We can make our body our machine but we still have to maintain the machine.

My college coach used to say- “Don’t be dumber than you are smart.” Think about it for a moment; “harder” is not better; smarter is. Be smart about your heath and fitness.

I am curious, how you balance out your fitness regime? Please feel free to comment or ask questions. Thank you for visiting.

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