Been a while, mostly due to moving home – another place in another country! And it brought an interesting insight a few days ago…
I went to do my regular fitness routine in an outdoors place, and there was a group of three guys, aged 18-21, also working out. We struck a conversation at one point, did some work side by side, in very good spirits, when they noted that it took me longer to break sweat and start breathing heavily then it was the case with them. The stumbling point is they I was definitely NOT in better shape than they were. And the exercises were not new to them in terms of technical demands.
It then hit me – the reason was movement efficiency! With a bit more than 35 years of training behind me, I have acquired a certain degree of command of my body that allows me to perform with less energy expenditure then a lot of folks out there. Isn’t it great!?
Well, for the most part yes, it is. However, it occurred to me that maybe this efficiency is what leads to plateaus in one’s exercising progress. While it is a commonly accepted truism in the strength and conditioning circles that there needs to be periodical changes in training regime, it is usually ascribed to the muscular adaptation to the training load. But, how about neural adaptation?
Now, we will probably all agree that good form in execution of a movement is desirable, particularly for injury prevention reasons. On the other hand, what happens when our technique becomes so good that it then requires the increase in training load, volume or intensity, which again increases the chance of injury? Hmm…it’s a thing of balancing on a line between these sides, as it seems.
When it comes to strength training, especially lifting, it is not all that much of a problem, and the solution is fairly simple – adding more weight typically resolves the issue. Conditioning, however, poses some interesting challenges. If one is looking to enhance the specific endurance for their chosen discipline, they are well advised to work on it via the movement types that mimic the demands of the discipline, swimmers should swim and runners ought to run etc. And this is where the efficiency comes in like some kind of obstacle!
Let’s say we want to work on conditioning by means of hitting the pads or a bag. In the early stages of training the trainees look rather awkward and get winded pretty quickly, or course. But as the technique improves, along with cardio, there are some plateaus awaiting. What is the solution then? More rounds? That would entail longer training sessions, hence potential scheduling difficulties. Higher intensity then? OK, but how hard and fast you can go before your technique starts deteriorating and chance of injury looming?
Admittedly, I have no good answers at this point. It is probably, again, the thing of balance and mixing it out. But let me tell you – things get harder to juggle with age. Well, certain age anyway… At this point in my life (getting 50 in a few months), with family and job obligations, time is a premium currency, especially if you are not willing to let some things go. It is possible that the problem is in unrealistic expectations from oneself. Like I sometimes say, the most harmful thing for a middle aged man is the memory of himself a decade or two ago.
Sorry if this entire post comes over as a rant. I’d be glad to hear from anyone who has informed opinion or advice on the above questions.