We all have goals that we want to achieve. We want to get stronger, faster, lose weight, gain muscle, or some other combination of these. Whatever our goals may be, there are often misconceptions on how to achieve them. We have long been taught that the best way to get results is to push our bodies to the limit and then some. When we want to get stronger, we lift heavy until something hurts. If we want to lose weight, we run on the treadmill for miles and miles because everyone knows cardio is always the answer to weight loss, right?
Lifting weights and doing cardio are not bad things when done correctly, but what is the long term plan? Often we go too hard on the things we know how to do because we want results fast. Sometimes we achieve our short term goal, but what price do we pay with our bodies to get it? Should we sacrifice some back pain to gain twenty more pounds on the deadlift? Are we okay with shoulder damage because we want to accelerate our bench press as soon as possible? Unfortunately for us, we have one body, and we’re stuck with it for life.
If we want the body we have to last for longer, then we have to look at our workouts as an opportunity to train, not just to exercise. The difference? Training is purposeful for a long term objective, and exercise is only about the here and now. When we train, we develop our bodies not only on a strength and conditioning level, but on a functional level as well. We get stronger, faster, leaner, etc., but we also learn to move better so that we can answer the physical demands of the day.
For example, in high school I would go to the gym and make up my workout on the spot. It would always include a combination of the big lifts like bench press and squat. I would usually skip a warm up, and I would always go in trying to see how much weight I could put on the bar, even if my body wasn’t ready to handle that weight. I was going to the gym to exercise, not to train. I had no long term goal, I just wanted to lift some big weights and get out of there. I would usually have some minor aches and pains, but to me it wasn’t a big deal as long as it would go away in a few weeks.
Fast forward several years to my Sophomore year of college. I suffered a knee injury in football practice that tore every ligament in my knee except one. The doctor said that before I even thought about playing a sport again I needed to think about learning to walk normally. As my rehab progressed, I realized I couldn’t just walk in to the gym and exercise the way I used to. I had already had shoulder surgery before, and now a knee surgery made everything more difficult. My body had demands. It was much more difficult to pick things up and to stand for long periods of time among other things. I needed training, not exercise.
From that point on I continued to work out, but I had to do it with a purpose. If my knee and shoulder were going to last for the rest of my life, then I had to make changes to what I was doing. For me, that meant I had to spend much more time on the warmup than I had been before. I also had to include secondary exercises dedicated to stability and mobility of the shoulder and knee. I had to be creative in how I did cardio because the treadmill was not a great option after knee surgery. My goal became not just to lift heavy weight, but to be strong, stable, and ready for any type of physically demanding day.
Regardless of injury history, we should be training for life’s different demands. We all have unique jobs and duties that make up our days. Be ready for them. Preserve your body. Train yourself for the long term. When thinking about how you should train your body, ask yourself these questions:
- What does my job demand of me?
- Am I picking up heavy objects? Standing or sitting all day? Moving at a fast pace?
- What does my body demand of me?
- Past injuries? Aches? Pains? Sleep?
- What short and long term goals do I have for myself? General? Specific?
- What areas in my workout do I need to slow down in? Be challenged in?
- How will I incorporate training for life into training for other goals?
Don’t wait until you begin to feel pain to start training functionally. Train now to avoid setbacks and injuries later. Think about the questions above and begin developing a plan for yourself. Fortunately, we have several highly qualified coaches that would love to help you plan and begin your training! Remember, exercise is for now, training is for life.
Grant Lewis, CPT
Certified Personal Trainer - ACE
CPR/AED Certified - American Red Cross
From Memphis, Tennessee, Grant Lewis came to Laramie on a football scholarship for the Cowboys. He will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing. A lifelong athlete, Grant enjoys playing any sport, no matter how obscure. He is happiest when in the company of great people, regardless of activity. Grant hopes to eventually open his own sports performance facility, and in addition to being a Certified Personal Trainer through the American Council of Exercise is studying rigorously for his CSCS. He is excited to join the AF team ‘to be surrounded by people who love fitness and are very knowledgeable. While at Altitude, I’m excited to absorb as much information as possible from the other trainers and coaches.”