As 2017 draws to a close and we push through the holiday season, it’s a good time to reflect and take an audit of your overall fitness program, or lack of. It’s also a time to create new goals for the upcoming year. Goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely (SMART). I’ve used goal setting as an opportunity to take stock of myself and narrow my focus on things I need to improve. Mobility has become a priority the past couple of years. As I’ve aged, I’ve come to value the importance of being injury free. I’m currently creating a mobility program that I plan on using weekly, in conjunction with my strength training, for 2018.
I also use this time to question and challenge the norms in my industry. In the business world, they reference this as being a disruptor. I would not classify myself with titans such as Elon Musk of Teslar or Travis Kalanick of Uber, but I do have a tendency to go opposite of the pack in the fitness world. This has served me well. As I write my final blog post of 2017, I would like you to ponder this question. Is your current exercise regime a complete exercise program or more of a skilled activity?
Tennis is a great example of a skilled activity. Playing lots of tennis will improve your ability to play tennis. The required running will improve cardiovascular fitness, but it has minimal impact in regards to improving strength and mobility. The amount of running is also greatly affected by your opponent. I do think it can benefit your power and muscular endurance. It does come with sacrifices and negative side effects, such as over-usage injuries, commonly experienced in the shoulder, elbow and bicep.
This is not to just pick on tennis, as I view all activities this way. I have a simple formula that I use. Does it improve strength, mobility, cardiovascular conditioning, power and work capacity?
Running is another activity that has many benefits along with a few voids. I’ve worked with runners in the past and some of the issues they experience are overuse injuries of the foot and lower leg, posture problems, poor power development and weakness of the core. Before I get the running community in an uproar, I believe running is a superior way to improve lung capacity and muscular endurance in the lower body. It’s just not complete and is high impact leaving joints susceptible to injury. As people start to investigate different exercise programs before the New Year rush, I wanted to give you a couple things you may want to consider.
Does your workout improve strength? There isn’t a single population where being strong is a detriment. I typically tell people that as you age, strength training slides on the continuum from benefit to necessity. Some in the senior population experience a drop in quality of life due to the fact they aren’t strong enough to participate in many recreational activities. Strength training does have a beneficial carry over to other recreational activities. Have you ever heard of anyone losing a round of golf or a tennis match because they were too strong?
Next, you should always want to improve and maintain mobility. I reference mobility, not flexibility, because I want to tie in motor control. Mobility is the foundation for which all activity is built. You want to move well and move often. The negative side effects of sitting has been thoroughly discussed and written about, at nauseam. Having good thoracic (upper back), hip, and ankle mobility are not only fundamental in all sports, they also play a key role in injury prevention. As we age, calcium has a tendency to accumulate in the ankle capsule directly inhibiting proper movement of that joint. At my studio, we mix in some minor ankle mobility drills with the objective to help members with their squats. Everything starts from the ground up. When mobility starts to diminish in the ankle, you can observe a loss in dorsi-flexion (pulling the toe up towards the shin). A healthy range of motion is 20-30 degrees of ankle flexion. I attribute the common senor shuffle, where people shuffle their feet instead of driving off the big toe as they walk. This lack of mobility is the cause of many spill and falls.
Spinning is last example of a skilled activity. This activity was popularized by the Manhattan based Soul Cycle Studios, which offer group spin classes and the new Peleton cycle which allows you to take a cycle class in the privacy of your home. You don’t have to look far for spinning studios, as they are popping up everywhere. It has become the new “in vogue” source of exercise. Before you jump on the bandwagon, please take a moment to consider if it improves power output, upper body strength and mobility.
I’ll leave you with this thought. Lance Armstrong had a strength and conditioning program he did off the bike to compliment his riding. If riding wasn’t a complete program for Lance, then you may want to consider adding a few planks and rows in your own program.
My objective of this article wasn’t to knock every activity outside of strength training and simply pick them apart. Something that can’t be understated is the amount of fun that these activities provide. No matter what you choose to do, it should be fun. In today’s modern world, where people are accused of sitting to death, finding an activity you enjoy and will consistently do should be the top priority. I don’t want my rant to hinder someone from increasing their overall activity. As an ambassador of fitness, my 1st responsibility is to get people to move and move well. Pick an activity and ponder if it is enough or should strength training be added. Happy holidays and I’ll see you in 2018.