Weekly News: Coach Caleb’s Corner The Under Appreciated Art of “Challenging”
Reminders! * We will be closed on Monday May 25 for Memorial Day. We hope you enjoy some extra time off with family and friends, and take a moment to remember those who serve our country in the armed forces. * Nutrition Journals are in, and available to all gym members! Be sure to pick up your copy. * We are looking forward to our official Grand Opening on Friday 5/29 from 5-7pm. Please note there will be no 6pm class that day… it’s party time!
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“There is no substitute for hard work.”
– Thomas Edison
“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.”
– Booker T. Washington
There are a great many of these “hard work” quotes and sayings out there that we often hear in various contexts; athletics, business, academics, and we all nod our heads solemnly at the gravity of the “hard work” reminder. We think of the times when we “worked hard” and it “paid off.” Good times.
But then there are those occasions on which we might have tried a little too hard… and possibly even failed as a result of too much so-called “hard work.” Anyone ever had those? Not such good times. In the training context, injuries, plateaus and frustrations of all sorts can be attributed to some “hard work” that ended up being harder than it was good. This is generally referred to as “overtraining” or just being plain thickheaded! I’ll admit I’ve been a victim of this myself on several occasions, (my lovely wife and training partner, Kati, ensures I don’t forget them) and I’ve even known athletes who will actually boast of their overtraining experiences. This is not unlike hearing those sophomoric tales that begin with the emphatic overstatement, “Dude, I was so drunk.” Not fun to sit through, or experience! Here’s a lesser considered perspective on hard work:
“It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?”
– Ronald Reagan
With that (ironically) said, obviously being lazy is no good either. It can be worse than going too hard! So what’s the solution?
This is where the much abused art of programming comes into play, and we discover the magic of “challenging” training that most of the time is not outright difficult. Training in this zone is what promotes the adaptation to an incrementally increasing demand without invoking a counterproductive physiological response; a response that interrupts any learning and kicks in the instinct to simply survive the experience. Consider an activity like sparring, for example. If new trainees are simply told to put on gloves and a mouthpiece and just have at it, then it isn’t likely that much actual learning will take place. Any technical skills they might have learned by hitting pads will quickly degrade considerably and become unrecognizable, due to the stressful response to the intense situation. Funny YouTube videos get made this way all the time. On the other hand, challenging drills that promote contact sparring skills without raising the stress levels too high, will incrementally increase the trainees’ confidence in their new technique, and learning and improvement continues to progress. Our Breakthrough Boxing group has actually had lots of fun with just such drills to get more comfortable and skilled with sparring lately!
To discover the challenging zone for training we have to subject ourselves to a vigorous course of trial and error experimentation that spans many movements and physical contexts. This process can be most unpleasant if unsupervised, but working closely with a good coach, with good programming skills makes a world of difference. Once some data is collected, training sessions should begin to feel challenging or what some might think of as “hard work” but they are not running the risk of being too close to failure. Once in awhile, a training session should even feel a bit too easy, because once in awhile a training session or contest day will have to be outright difficult. The trick is to build up skill and confidence in the challenging zone, and occasionally reward oneself with an easy zone day. This is what gives a trainee the best shot at handling the truly difficult stuff when the time comes.
You might think of training a bit like Goldilocks’s porridge, not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Yum! Keep the training challenging most of the time, even a bit too easy occasionally, and you’ll be ready when the three bears (Bench Press, Back Squat and Dead Lift?) show up on competition day to make it difficult!