Let’s clarify some of those more popular misconceptions about training once and for all, and, in particular, bury two of the most overused false clichés that seep into the world of sports training and fitness: "No pain, no gain" and "Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken".
Early in my life was when I became intrigued with developing muscles and performing well in sports. It made me concerned though that despite hearing all these benefits of exercise and good nutrition, many of the athletes and fitness enthusiasts I’d see working out just didn’t appear, in my opinion, to make much headway in achieving their performance or appearance goals. In fact, many of these individuals performed on the same level and looked the same every time I seen them. This lack of results, considering the intense amount of effort being applied, perpetuated a curiosity on my part as to why this phenomena was occurring. I was always taught that hard work produces great results; but my belief in those words of wisdom became less and less confidant as my observations increased.
"No pain, no gain"-- I was bombarded with this phrase growing up as an athlete. Aside from experiencing much of it myself (pain, that is), I’ve also witnessed a lot of pain by want-to-be athletes and fitness buffs who never seemed to see much of the gain. But, I have found many ways to make the "gain", and can now say, avoid the "pain" as well. I’m elated to hear new phrases popping up like, "It’s not what you do but how you do it that counts", or "Quality is better than quantity". I guess it’s true that wisdom is bound to prevail with time; and the tribulations of athletes past have laid the foundation for the success-producing routines of today.
Stubborn Results? It’s an Imbalance
Exercising, in and of itself, does not, nor will it ever, produce optimum results, unless adequate recuperation periods exist between training sessions.
Recuperation periods must contain various components to replete the nutrients and hormones depleted with exercise, and allow the body to re-establish proper psychophysiological functions. These include alertness, enthusiasm, and concentration; and the proficiency of the endocrine, nervous, muscular, cardiovascular and respiratory systems. If any of these systems remain in a state of reparation during training-- not yet fully recovered from previous efforts-- subsequent sessions will result in inferior performances when compared to one’s potential.
Those who are failing to accomplish their goals, whether it’s training to become a great athlete or exercising for fitness, are those who lack training balance. The only way to achieve a balanced status in training is to cycle a variety of principles which effectively stresses psychophysiological energies.
This is a scientific approach to training that transforms lackluster skills into supreme attributes.
Cycling then is the term athletes and coaches refer to when talking about the methods which properly channel energies toward goal fulfillment. Cycling is comprised of a menu of activities and methodologies (i.e., exercise routines, training programs, nutritional regimes, rehabilitation services, etc.) which are applied sequentially and/or simultaneously, each having their own specific time periods of application. When the athlete has completed each of these individual phases, he or she transitions to other routines and targets their performances for peak abilities during times of competition. After competition, athletes undergo a re-adaptation period which completes the final phase of their peaking cycle, exiting them from one phase and transitioning them into another.
Play by the Rules
Knowing that athletes stick to a very scientific set of rules for performance enhancement, fitness enthusiasts can also benefit from these principles with personalized modifications. The conclusions I’ve drawn from my observations and research indicate that those who fail to reach goal fulfillment are those who unintelligently and haphazardly pursue their activities. Not understanding, or willing to try cycling, may resign many to mediocrity and/or failure, never peaking themselves for maximum output.
On that note, let me identify some of the basic training differences between athletes and fitness enthusiasts. I will define athletes as those who are committed to regular competition in one or more sports for some sort of profit or achievement; and fitness enthusiasts, which includes the recreational or weekend athlete, as those who exercise or play sports for fun, for the benefits of health and looking good, and for living longer more productive lives.
Athlete or Fitness Enthusiast: Which are you?
Of the two categories, in which do you fall? If you’re an athlete, you have to define what level you are on currently, then determine what level you aspire to achieve. Training and nutrition protocols must then be designed to groom yourself for higher levels of conditioning which will enable you to surpass the accomplishments of those whom you’ll compete against.
If you’re a fitness enthusiast, you must define what fitness means to you personally. Definitions of fitness vary widely between individuals. Objectives can also vary depending on any one or number of characteristics which make you look and feel fit. As examples; your idea of being in shape might be obtaining low levels of body fat, playing your favorite game like golf or tennis better, healing a nagging back injury, re-establishing your declining health, competing in an occasional competition like a 10K run or a racquetball tournament, or just being able to enjoy a more fulfilled sexual relationship with your loved one.
After these preliminary assessments are completed, after you know exactly how you measure up, and after you determine what you want to become, I still think more detailed evaluations should follow. I propose three basic areas be evaluated at the beginning of any training program and periodically throughout to measure progress. They are Appearance, Performance and, Status of Health.
Appearance is an exterior body analysis. Although most people think they are their own best judge, having an evaluation by a fitness professional has its advantages. A fitness professional assesses your body from a structural point of view, and takes into account proper muscular balancing and skeletal alignment, while noting any fat depositions. Professional evaluations are more holistic, whereas your own personal ideals might be motivated by cosmetic reasons only.
Visual observations are basically used to analyze overall body symmetry and proportions scribing ones personal silhouette. Artistic improvements modify these images outlining your ideal body shape. Circumference readings are also taken to measure the girth of each area of the body (i.e., arms, chest, shoulders, hips, waist, thighs, etc.). These measurements are important progress indicators for those wanting to either lose or gain inches around any body area.
Appearance assessments are necessary for both athletes and fitness enthusiasts. However, being more cosmetically oriented, fitness enthusiasts might be more interested in this area, and use appearance improvements as the prime indicators of progress.
Performance tests are designed to assess muscular and joint flexibility, contractile strength, stamina, balance and coordination. Body weight and percentages of body fat are also recorded. The results of performance tests are essential ingredients used to comprise the training routines for both the athlete and fitness enthusiast, with performance results being particularly important to the athlete. In fact, routines cannot be effectively designed until an accurate account of strengths, weaknesses, imbalances, and injuries is recorded and updated.
Status of Health is ideally performed with BioMarker studies. These studies provide complete biological and metabolic assays. Nutritional and hormonal deficiencies can be identified, and followed with a prescription for replacement therapies. Heart rate and blood pressure readings can indicate a variety of physiological functions. Your estimated biological age, which often times varies from your actual chronological existence age, can be revealed with the more sophisticated BioMarker tests now available within various life extension organizations. BioMarker studies are an important barometer of overall health, and everybody should consider being regularly tested, even those not interested in fitness performance. *
Intense long-duration training periods should be avoided until all three evaluations are conducted, with Status of Health being the most important.
When all three of these assessments are completed, and understood, the athlete and fitness enthusiast can now be given the green light to pursue a progressive regime of activity. The results of the tests make it possible to design a balanced, goal-oriented training and nutritional program that’s tailored to each individual.
Athlete vs. Fitness Enthusiast: Similarities & Differences
Let’s now identify some of the similarities and differences between an athlete and a fitness enthusiast, and do so within specific areas:
Age & Growth
The Athlete: While competing, most athletes are still in their growth stage. During this maturation period, athletes can submit to some extremely demanding protocols. When an athlete reaches his or her potential, it’s wise to adjust training load and shift the emphasis from growth to perfecting skills. Also most athletes start at a young age when psychoneurological motor skills are developing and energy is in abundance. When recruited at the right age, athletes can literally be molded into their events as they mature.
The Fitness Enthusiast: Most fitness buffs are well past their days of glory. Fitness is now enacted for reasons other than to win a gold medal. Understanding that much of their anatomy has matured, training emphasis should not anticipate unrealistic expectations. Routines must be designed to make allowances for structural components and underlying illnesses and/or injuries; like those old football injuries, they might return. Realistic goal setting is crucial, and most qualified health professionals can help you establish an ideal body weight, percentages of body fat, and performance skills, clarifying your own personal expectations.
The Athlete: Coaches, trainers and doctors are often on-hand to evaluate athletes, design their routines, and supervise their training. The experience of these authorities enables athletes to confidantly pursue their athletic careers with success-proven methodologies.
The Fitness Enthusiast: The "lone trainer", that’s what I call them, because they’re out there all alone. Most fitness enthusiasts are self-taught and lack that day-to-day supervision of trained professionals. This is one major reason why trial-and error systems are so prevalent. Confidance is blemished with speculation and impatience.
The Athlete: Aside from the coaching staff, athletes often train in front of spectators and certainly perform in front of an audience with referees or judges. What a way to get that adrenaline flowing. Even when the athlete is down and out mentally, the roar of the crowd can elevate them to higher performances. Combined with the fact that a trophy might be awarded, athletes have these extra incentives which motivate their drive. External stimuli, in the form of spectators and cheering audiences, plays an important role in getting one to perform harder and more often.
The Fitness Enthusiast: Now it’s the "lone performer". The workouts of most fitness enthusiasts [and certainly not mine] are not supported by cheerleaders and encouraging fans. Motivation must come from within. You don’t get those gears into action by listening to the national anthem, but rather by plugging a heavy metal rock-n-roll cassette into your walkman. No amount of mirrors in a gym can fool you into believing the "crowds" are watching. When it comes to inspiration, the fitness enthusiast usually bears it alone.
About The Author
JOHN ABDO is regarded world wide as an authority on life motivation, health, fitness and athletic conditioning. As a former Olympic trainer, John has trained numerous Olympic and World-Class athletes, including Bonnie Blair, multiple Gold Medal recipient. From 1985 to 1997, John Abdo produced and hosted his own weekly syndicated television series called Training & Nutrition 2000,......more