Monday, July 21, 2008

The Essence of Training - by Fred Fornicola

Many of us who own computers and have access to the Internet will visit websites on many topics of personal interest - which I’m sure training is one of them. There are an infinite number of sites geared toward all types of resistance training, as well as information on conditioning, nutrition, grip training, bodyweight only training, strands, kettlebells and so on. Upon finding these many areas of interest within the dynamics of the field of health and fitness however comes a common theme that always emerges – one that seems to have done more harm than good. I am always very intrigued when I read or hear someone recommending advice on any topic. I often wonder what the basis is for their response and if they really, truly understand what it is they are commenting on. This, of course, happens quite frequently in the field of health and fitness with the barrage of books, magazines, Internet sites and publications - just like this one. Amazingly enough though, even with the all the information that is available, most individuals still remain in the dark as to why it is they “do what they do”. Maybe that’s the problem – too much information to sift through, especially on an ongoing basis. Month after month, year after year people blindly and without question follow the latest diets, workouts of the stars and trends in fitness to be aimlessly led like sheep to slaughter. The best part is they highly recommend whatever it is they are doing -- or better yet, heard about -- to all their friends and family based on the foundation that either 1) Johnny Guru is using it, 2) some Hollywood hunk looked ripped in a movie or 3) some chicks ass looks hot now from some four hour workout she does with her soon-to-be-famous (and overpaid) trainer. In either case, no one has the slightest clue as to whether it works or is even worth mentioning.

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” - Benjamin Franklin

Too often in today’s fitness world there is an overabundance of misleading information that seems to reek more havoc than good - actually failing miserably at providing some sense of solution. Most individuals who are searching to find what is “best” or “optimal” are given guidance by those who merely regurgitate what someone else prescribed, or will echo advice based on what they think they know to be right – albeit way off base. This industry has become one that is 90% opinion and 10% science, and because of these off-base recommendations espoused by “those-in-the-know” many will become caught up in experimenting with the latest fads, trends, “new magical discoveries” and labor endlessly over all the little intricate reasons of “why” a particular lifting strategy may or may not work. Because of this direction, it has made it more and more difficult for anyone to truly understand what is and isn’t an effective means of training, usually because they fail to have a true understanding of what an effective approach to fitness entails. Unfortunately, the so-called magical discovery becomes the focal point for many trainers and trainees alike, and usually causing one to lose sight of what is truly important: the actual training itself. If this kind of thing happens to these “experienced” individuals, just imagine how devastating and paralyzing all this information is to the beginner? Regardless of age or experience, we are all beginners in some capacity every time we undergo a new endeavor. The challenge, however, is in knowing how to circumvent your way through all the crazy turns based on what experience has taught us by using our noggins for more than a hat rack. If people took the time to use their intellect to evaluate information instead of being lured in by the many people or groups who claim to have the answers to all the important questions, there would be less time wasted laboring over what will produce the best results.

“The desire to know is natural to good men.” - Leonardo da Vinci

Now, my personality is such that I like to understand why things happen. I don’t necessarily need to get down to the last nut and bolt, but I do strive to have as good a comprehension about things as my gray matter will allow. I ask many questions (too many at times which many of my peers can attest to) with the goal of learning “why” – not mimicking what is told to me. I have had the great fortune of speaking with many individuals who truly understand and know training. The funny thing is, none of them ever get caught up too much in the science and research or what they think may work, they just tell you what they know to be true – straight forward, like it is, no bullshit. These guys understand “the essence” of high intensity training which, when you get right down to it, is simple to comprehend yet missed by many. Our discussions are often about how so many individuals are misguided and confused about such a simple concept for training safely, efficiently and effectively. It has become unfortunate but the industry of strength has been so polluted by money whores, cult followers and an endless line of ignorant know-it-alls that few can filter out what is a productive approach to health and fitness. Neither I nor anyone else can give the exact specifics of how someone should train, however I do believe that there are certain criteria that needs to be met such as consistency of effort, proper form, hard work, ample rest and solid nutrition. When these principles are met they will produce gains in strength as well as conditioning while maintaining integrity to ones health - both short and long term. A simple concept of using an intense level of effort on a handful of basic exercises along with some recreational/cardiovascular activity, eating wholesome foods and having adequate rest -- all of which should be done on a routine basis -- has been a mainstay for hundreds of years. But this philosophy surprisingly is still vehemently opposed. There are no perfect routines, exercises, repetition ranges, diets, or miraculous findings that are “best” and anyone claiming otherwise is a flat out liar.

Training isn’t just about the X’s and O’s; it’s about a true understanding of the process. It’s about what takes place in the body and mind when you exercise and what benefits you receive – not how much you squat while wrapped up in a suit and knee wraps and shoving ammonia up your snoot to “get psyched”. When you bring training down to its purist form, it is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. The problem is that most are frozen in one place – deathly afraid to take a step for it might not be the “perfect” approach.

“The maxim "Nothing avails but perfection" may be spelled "Paralysis." - Winston Churchill

Training for strength and fitness should be an individual journey that needs to be discovered on one’s own. Making mistakes are a part of life, let alone in your training so trying to have a flawless approach will only provide time wasted which could be better spent learning from doing. Discover the “essence of training”; realize that “necessity is the mother of invention” and that there are no restrictions when you set your mind on your goals. Uncover the freedom of training that enables you to enjoy “the process” and the benefits of your efforts. Recognize and learn that “simple” is the solution to a healthy and strong life – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Fred Fornicola

Physical Culture
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