Human Potential, Athleticism, and Play

Sara Fleming

Training can be a lifelong acitivty.

What do you think of when you hear the word “training”?  When we think about training, our ideas encompass both the broad and long term physical effects as well as very specific goals.  We believe that training is about honing the vast physical potential of the human body.  The truth is, the majority of folks enjoy that potential while they have it and watch helplessly as it slowly ebbs away.  We fool ourselves into thinking that our peak physical condition is a benefit of youth that will eventually erode.  We let ourselves be fooled into thinking physicality and athleticism is something to be selected for as a rarity not as a prerequisite for the business of life. The business of play.

Our outlook is simple:  All people should be trained to improve their athleticism.  Athleticism is defined as it pertains to sports, but athleticism is actually a lot more than that.  It is the culmination of strength, power, endurance, flexibility, and coordination.  When we train individuals to be more athletic or physically capable, what we are doing is giving them the ability to be more active and more importantly, to play.   What is play exactly?  The ability to spontaneously engage in activities that are fun.  I want to see if I can climb this wall, balance on this curb, throw this ball, run to the end of the block.  How many people do you know can’t do these things right now?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  Although there are many of us who enjoy the hard work that comes with training for a sport, but if you have no sport to train for, it is far more motivating if that hard work allows us to have some fun, to feel vigorous, to make our daily lives more pleasant.  You don’t have to join a sports league, become an amateur powerlifter, or start attending ALL the fitness classes at the gym to do this.  You simply need to develop the basic movable blocks of athleticism in small easy steps. Highly underrated skills are being able to get up out of a chair pain free, the confidence to walk rather than drive, the energy and mobility to play in the yard with one’s children, being able to walk park that extra hundred feet from the store, take the stairs, or just try something new. This isn’t elite level fitness and doesn’t have to be.  It is basic, practical and missing from nearly every facet of fitness for the general population which tends to focus more on aesthetics, soreness, and sweat.

A good bench press can help a lot of things, no competition needed.
A good bench press can help a lot of things, no competition needed.

The truth is, people in the training industry see a small portion of the overall population.  We see the folks who like to work out and/or have the time and money to see a trainer on a regular basis. This is preaching to the choir. The real work is in reaching those who have lost their way or worse yet, never found it.  These people do not need any kind of fancy or complicated workout program, they need to be rebuilt from the ground up and more importantly, feel comfortable doing so.  Whether you have a master’s athlete who is trying to stay in the game, a 45 year old couch potato who hasn’t exercised since high school, or an uncoordinated child, theanswer is always the same:  Build strength, build endurance, teach them to love doing both.  Don’t use your training program as a selection process that only accommodates those who can keep up.  Meet your clients at their level. Figure out where they can start and how quickly they can progress.  Although fun is one of the primary reasons individuals continue with exercise and training programs, have some faith that simple visible signs of progress like, looser fitting pants, pain free movement and improved posture can bring a lot of enjoyment as well.  Getting better at a few things has far more transference than dabbling in everything.  And guess what?  When these basic qualities are improved, life is more fun.  And to be honest, a better business model than competing with all the other trainers already serving the captive audience of exercise enthusiasts, reach out to and serve the people who don’t like gyms and trainers because their goals are not primarily aesthetics, soreness, or sweat.

In our experience, mostly everyone, including accomplished athletes can benefit from this basic approach.  If you’ve ever worked with children, you probably know that they can learn quickly and develop impressive abilities given enough practice.  However, because their bodies are light and agile, glaring strength deficiencies and imbalances don’t come to light until they reach adolescence. Heavier bodies longer limbs, and periodic drops in coordination highlight these problems.  This is when core weakness, anterior chain dominance, bad posture, and lack of flexibility in the hips and shoulders all of sudden rear their ugly heads.  It’s the same with older or inactive adults, these same deficiencies and imbalances stymie even the most enthusiastic trainer’s optimism.  Again, the solution remains the same:  Build full body strength through a full range of motion, and develop basic cardiovascular endurance.

As their bodies grow, strength training will help them to continue to perform well and resist injury.
As their bodies grow, strength training will help them to continue to perform well and resist injury.

Training is often viewed as THE activity when it should simply be a process that supports a person’s other activities and lifestyle.  If you keep the training simple and progressive, you will allow for long term improvements in all other aspects of daily activity without overly taxing recovery.  A person who is constantly tired and sore from his or her training activities does not have a good quality of life.  Smart training allows for improvement, performance, and a life outside the gym.  That last bit is the most important piece of this entire article.  Life is good and we should all be fit enough to play.

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