I am a huge believer in following a system. Sticking to the game plan if you will.
There is nothing like a well executed game plan. If you have ever played sports you know what I am referring to. If you are fortunate enough to have a career with an employer (or as an entrepreneur) that preaches game plan for success and then the entire company comes together and follows through on executing it, well, it feels damn good.
Sticking to your systems is the best way to measure your progress. A system can tell you where you have been and also points you in a focused direction of where you are going. For a beginner or even a novice aspiring to reach new levels of health and wellness, there is nothing more effective at creating change than executing a system to perfection.
I love systems. Did I say that already?
But let me ask you something that I often think about in my own life…
- What’s wrong with being sporadic about your exercise selection, sets, reps, interval length, rest periods, etc?
- Does everything have to follow a set system?
- Can I still maintain strength and conditioning levels and leanness improvising workouts?
I know those seem like a silly questions, some that most people will never think about, but after you make so many visits to the gym, work through workout after workout following a set progression to an end goal, systems get boring.
Once I took a step back to get a deeper understanding of how and why we humans move, what our movement options were once we choose to train movement and what seemed to be the most effective at creating total body change… I realized that building high functioning lean bodies can be achieved in a completely un-organized way. System-less if you will. Cross-Fit does it in every single workout. Besides following their two days on, 1 day off (rinse and repeat) training schedule, they seem to be building some pretty resilient humans. I can’t say that I agree with everything that they are teaching and coaching, but the system-less approach seems to work pretty well for them.
If I can ever focus long and hard enough to put the final touches my books (they are coming I promise), you’ll find that I love simple advice. Once you become more than a recreational exerciser and decide to invest time in learning about more serious forms of fitness and nutrition, topics can get really complicated, confusing and blurry. The fitness and health pool is really deep. There is a lot of conflicting advice, methods and even research.
But it doesn’t have to be complicated, confusing and blurry. At least I don’t think it does personally.
I spent years (and still do) reading heavy literature for no other reason than I enjoy reading it. I have a major chip on my shoulder from years and years of personal athletic endeavors that had no real guidance in strength and conditioning. I didn’t know what a power clean was until Senior year of high school. That sucks, because I no know what a dramatic difference a simple program can make a young athlete. It’s incredible.
Sorry, sidetracked for a second there… Where was I?
Oh, I know… I was just about to finish discussing the title of this post.
I love systems and I love simple training and eating advice. Give me the meat and potatoes of what I need to know and I can figure the rest out as we move forward. “Learn by doing” kind of thing.
I have also found that I love the concept of physical preparedness and completely un-organized kettlebell training. I love heading to the basement, drawing up the workout based on my goals, and getting after it. Sometimes there is good flow to the training session and sometimes it is full of sticking points, causing a much choppier workout. Either way, I really never know what I am going to be doing until I get down there.
However, that being said… I do stick to some key guidelines that help me get away with this un-systematized approach. Here they are:
1) Train big movements with challenging resistance
2) Multi-planar core training
3) Mobility Mobility Mobility
4) Conditioning using many different methods
5) Rest and recover harder than I workout
1) When I say big movements, I am talking things like squats, kettlebell swings, snatches, presses, pulls, etc. Stop messing around with tricep extensions and bicep curls, you have to eat your main course before you can have dessert.
2) I train my torso region in all directions and planes of movement. I train my core for force production and force absorption. I train my core to reinforce stability I can transfer as much force with any energy leaks from my lower extremity to my upper extremity.
3) Mobility. I train mobility so that I can experience life as it should be experienced physically. Loss of mobility is a prerequisite to pain through faulty movement Loss of mobility is loss of life to me.
4) I condition myself with as many methods as I have resources. When I was an athlete, I conditioned myself using set methods. Running early in the off-season, slide boarding and then biking as the season drew closer. It was scheduled and systematic because that was what my sport (hockey) demanded. It made sense. But, now I don’t have a sport. I simply want to be physically prepared for anything. It feels damn good to go for a 50 mile bike ride, run a 10k or play hockey 3-4 nights a week without feeling like a slug. I use many methods to achieve both aerobic and anaerobic-like qualities. I want to be able to endure long duration activities as much as short burst activities that get my heart rate sky high.
5) I rest and recover much harder than I train. Sleep, tissue work, hydration and nutrition are all important to me. I am what I eat, drink and how I recover from my training sessions. The green light isn’t always on. You have to learn how to sit at the red light patiently until it is time to accelerate once again. Rest, recovery and regeneration.
Do you see what I am getting at?
I can train myself using a simple set of rules to keep myself lean and athletic, without experiencing the boredom of a system. Training smart and slightly sporadic will keep me athletic for the rest of my life. Sure, age will catch up with me as it does everybody at some point, but each training session will be fresh and purposeful. Movement longevity is something that I am fully invested in, and I encourage you do invest in the same.
I will say this however, I HIGHLY recommend systems to everyone. You’ll never get better results as you will when following a system step by step. My books leverage systems. Systems get results. They keep the main thing… the main thing. Following a system takes discipline, and discipline is something worth developing throughout life.
I treat myself like test rat for variations of time tested methods. I enjoy seeing if my 5-mile Airdyne ride for time improves or suffers after I train high repetition kettlebell snatches for 3-weeks versus metabolic body-weight circuits. That kind of comparison scenario is interesting to me, but it isn’t for everyone.
(Any strength coach that reads this is going to grind their teeth)
Cheers to moving more and with purpose,