Over the past decade I’ve worked with a broad range of clients of all different ages, with wide-ranging goals and starting points. While I can’t emphasize enough how everyone is completely different (and by the same token how two totally different people with different goals can respond to the same training approach), I’ve definitely seen some interesting patterns emerge.
Normally I see these trends in the “what you don’t know you don’t know” area of people’s lifestyle and training – simply because it’s not well understood or talked about in mainstream media. For people just getting started with a training goal or recovering from their first ever injury, the standard, popularized approaches to training and rehab tend to do a pretty good job at eliciting results.
But for those who have been training for a while or had a longstanding injury or health complaint, often the meat and potatoes of training and rehab options have been milked until they’re dry.
That’s a lot of analogies all at once, so what I’m really talking about is the principle of diminishing returns – that changes are harder to make when you’re already a trained athlete (or rehab-er). Partly there’s a physiological aspect to this, but I think there’s more than meets the eye to this phenomenon.
If you’re familiar with the concept of the Performance Pyramid (here’s my article if you’re not), then you know there’s always a reason why we reach a plateau or struggle to overcome a certain barrier. It’s not that our body is stupid and is being difficult – precisely the opposite. The body is always doing the best possible thing to deal with it’s current circumstances. This is a very important concept to grasp, as it opens up a world of possibility to work with the body instead of forcing it into submission (something you never win at for long).
The body is undeniably an expert at keeping you going, using whatever compensation strategy necessary to help you accomplish what you want to – it’s your friend, remember?
Unfortunately, the body is also pretty short-sighted and very trusting – it will do whatever it needs to to help you out right now, but expects that you’ll help it pick up the pieces later on. Rarely do we remember to do this (hint: Empowered Athletes know how to do this), and when we don’t, those short term compensations can develop into bigger issues or limitations.
When this is the case, adding more of what we’re already doing doesn’t serve the body in helping it regain balance and equilibrium – and so the body enters protection mode – it loses its trust in you. This is when the timeless wisdom of Einstein comes into play: “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. This is really what I believe is at the source of most of the diminishing returns that people are seeing. The body is an astoundingly complex, dynamic, sensitive creature, and can be asking for something totally different from one day, week, or month to the next.
Applying the same basic principles of diet and exercise that are widely discussed and understood leave certain gaping craters in personal health, wellness, and performance. Sometimes we need to take a quantum leap in understanding what might be the root cause (and therefore the solution) to whatever we’re dealing with.
One of the most important paradigms of intelligent training (and intelligent living) is to avoid the frustration that comes from banging your head against the wall, trying the same thing over and over. With the danger of this becoming an Einstein-heavy post, I think he’s worth quoting again here: “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
So I would encourage you to frequently ask yourself – am I literally being insane right now?
- If I’ve stretched this every day for the past month and it’s still tight, is stretching working?
- If I’ve eaten the same diet and consistently have low energy, am I nourishing myself properly?
- Or if I’ve been doing a workout and my body and performance isn’t transforming, am I making efficient use of my time in the gym?
Every day for the next 7 days I’m going to give a “what you might not know you don’t know” tip from my experiences with thousands of clients. These are some examples of the low-hanging fruit that can often create very quick transformations in health and performance, but that the majority of people who come to see me have never been exposed to.
I hope I can spark an “Aha!” moment or two, or at the very least an “ohhhh…what?”. Then I will have done my job.
I would love to hear people’s comments, questions, and experiences as I post – hopefully some of these concepts are getting more mainstream now and I’m going to be forced to move further outside the box to keep making drastic changes with my clients…that would be my utopia.