Now when I recall my childhood, I remember riding my bright orange tricycle before I can even remember walking. I just loved the freedom that those three wheels gave me. Eventually I graduated to a green two-wheeler and then on to a shiny silver Kuwahara BMX bike. From there a mountain bike was in the mix which led me up to this point in time training on a Cervello P1 road bike that has been converted to a time trial bike. All thanks to a friend that lent it to me in order to train for Ironman Canada. Recently it occurred to me that it doesn’t matter whether you’re on a tortuous training trek or a casual cruise around Stanley Park, you never really give up your training wheels. And more importantly it’s all about keeping that spark of fun alive throughout the journey.
The training wheel is really a metaphor I use to look at the components of training. There are four major components of fitness that need to be tended to. Some may break them down even further, but I think for a basic understanding, four will suffice. “Well get on with it!”, you say. Okay, so the four include: Strength, Endurance, Flexibility and Nutrition. In order for your wheel to roll smoothly you need to ensure that you build up and balance each of the four pieces of pie in the imaginary wheel or you risk limited training gains, physical challenges in life, poor recovery, and even a greater chance of injury. All you need to do is ensure that you are balancing your training efforts and attention on each of the components, and perhaps even more importantly, identifying if you are lacking in any areas. In case you were wondering, this can be done with the help of a professional. An adept Kinesiologist should be able to assist you with this.
Oh, and I should point out for those of you that think you’ve swung the pendulum too far by letting go, or those of you that think you’re too old to start, that it is NEVER too late to pay attention and make some positive changes with regards to your training wheel and these components. Sorry to burst your bubble. I’ve had the pleasure of working with clients ranging up to 97 years old and others with replaced joints, and even those without limbs. No excuses!
Now, let’s take a brief look at the fundamental facets of phenomenal fitness.
Strength: This refers to the muscle’s ability to apply force by contracting to sustain or overcome resistance (e.g. lifting an object, doing a sit up, etc.). A way to improve or work on strength is by joining a gym and lifting weights, joining a Yoga or Pilates class, using resistance bands or using your body weight to perform some loaded activity or movement. The choice is up to you but there is one thing that is certain and that is if you want to improve this component you have to either work on doing it more frequently, lifting greater loads than what you are used to, or lifting greater volumes of a load you can handle (i.e performing multiple repetitions and sets of these repetitions). It really takes some time to build up muscle. The initial strength increases over the first few months are usually the nervous system adapting to the stimulus. Physical changes take precedent after this period of time. The bonus is that the changes that occur usually last or stay with you longer if you were to take a break or stop the activity.
Endurance: This refers to your body’s ability to perform sustained repetitive work (e.g. lifting multiple repetitions of a weight, rowing, swimming, running, etc). A way to improve this is to choose an activity such as running and try to sustain that activity for a period of time (usually anywhere from 20 minutes up to many hours…only if you’re obsessive like me and take on an ultra-marathon challenge). The body adapts to this type of training very quickly. Recovery and adaptation can take place in as little as 12 to 72 hours. The caveat is that this type of adaptation depletes or reverses very quickly. This is why you see professional hockey players on the bikes after they play hockey. It allows them to train their endurance and also incorporate maximum recovery. Otherwise they’d have to come in the next day some time and get a session in along with competing with practice and travel, which makes it a challenge.
Flexibility: This refers to the body’s ability to move a joint or multiple joints through and to an end range of motion. In the dictionary flexible applies to whatever can be bent without breaking, whether or not it returns to its original shape (e.g. a flexible plastic hose); it does not necessarily refer, as limber does, to the human body. So if you want to improve and become more limber or flexible then you need to move a body part or parts to the end of your range of motion and hold it for a period of time. Please refer to my last blog It’s a stretch for further reference. Activities that can help you with flexibility are Yin Yoga, Pilates, static stretching, PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretching to name a few.
Nutrition: Now this is literally the process of providing or obtaining the food necessary for health, growth, repair and maintenance. What helps me stay mentally grounded with this topic is not to restrict my diet. I literally eat what I feel is good for my body. I also teach others that it isn’t healthy mentally or emotionally to restrict, but rather make better choices 80% of the time as a good majority of your health is derived from your diet. And don’t worry about the other 20% that you are free to choose. Overall, the old adage, “you are what you eat” is true. Eat live nourishing foods and expect to be healthy. On the other hand, eat dead and processed foods and, well, you get the picture. If you look closer at the foods you eat, you’ll probably notice that 80% of your calories you eat come from 20% of the foods you eat. This is a great concept to understand because you can make minor changes in your diet which can equate to greater significance and outcomes. I first heard of this novel principle from Brian Johnson’s extraction of Richard Koch’s book The 80 / 20 Principle. In the 1800s an economist from Italy named Vilfredo Pareto made a discovery that 20% of the Italians owned 80% of their country’s wealth. This discovery is now called Pareto’s Principle or more popularly the 80-20 rule. In the context of eating, this can be applied to nutrition. Nobody is perfect and can stick with a diet consistently 100% of the time. Hence, I think it’s better to aim for providing top quality nutrition and nutrient dense food 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time you can have whatever you’d like and not sweat it. So if you’re a calorie counter and you need 1500 calories per day you’d look at getting 1200 calories from health sources that are live, nutrient dense sources. “What is that?”, you ask. Well the good stuff listed on the rainbow of the Canada Food Guide, Fruits and predominately vegetables and legumes along with some low allergenic grains.
And there you have it, The Training Wheel. Does your wheel roll smoothly? Or can you hear a mild thump or an abrupt clunking sound as life rolls on? Awareness is the key and putting attention where it’s needed is up to you. As the group Limp Bizkit would put it keep “Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’”.