Sunday, February 8, 2015

Appropriate Progressions (The Right Thing, with The Right Person at The Right Time)

Life is always on a continuum, and throughout life we travel a long and often winding path on our health and fitness journey. (Notice that Health comes before Fitness). Training and Conditioning program design is one factor on this continuum. As we design training and conditioning programs we need to pay particular attention to many aspects of the individual in front of us requesting our services. The general medical health of the individual is our first consideration as we determine their appropriateness/readiness for physical activity. Then we factor in the individuals recreational/sport interest(s) and assess & test their current fitness levels and capacities to determine where they are on a Health and Fitness continuum.

Our first priority for fitness should be general health and well being then add fitness to that. Unfortunately many in our culture seem to want to focus on either Health or Fitness, believing one will bring the other. We can't ignore our general health and dive into the latest fitness fad to attempt to become healthy. Nor can we ignore our bodies need for physical activity and simply eat "healthy" and assume that we are therefore "fit". Don't misunderstand me, Health and Fitness need each other, but you can be healthy and quite unfit; as well you can be unhealthy and "in shape" for your chosen sport or activity. Think about a slim healthy and totally inactive person that goes out for a casual walk and ends up in an emergent situation that they need to run for their life, unable to run very far or fast: Healthy and unable to meet the demands of the situation. On the other side think of the ultra marathoner on the same walk also but currently recovering from a recent bout of the Flu: Unhealthy although appearing fit, still unable to fully meet the demands of the situation. Just as health is on a continuum moving between various stages of illness, injury and recovery; fitness is on an ever oscillating path as well. We need to recognize that we as whole individuals are at the point of where the two continuum's intersect.  But if your daily life is similar to mine it feels a bit more chaotic than a simple XY axis graph.

Sean Manseau, CSCS recently offered his version of lifting variation in an article for Breaking Muscle: A System for Maximizing the Movement Potential of Every Person. Manseau describes the need to recognize that all of our personal training clients and club members are individuals and that a "one size fits all" approach to programming leaves gaping holes in our ability to help them. We need to test & asses our clients physical fitness and performance to assist us in determining the appropriate exercises for them. Once we have baseline measures then we can determine the most effective exercises within a progression. I'll repeat for emphasis the word "progression". We need to be able to offer our clients reasonable progressions within a given exercises that allows them to properly learn the movement patterns and techniques in a safe manner but at a level that is challenging. Simply plugging a client into a scripted program, setting a group goal and turning them loose sets them up to be feeling Awkward, Disconnected, and Intimated. Because of poor participant readiness for our programming we lose many of these individuals through attrition. You may have previously heard me talk about this concept described by Gray Cook, PT. And if our clients feel this way in most athletic endeavours no amount of our brilliant coaching cues to "keep yours knees out" will deliver the results clients are looking for.

Dare to be different: give your clients the programming they need instead of wedging them into your group program.

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