Why we need to make the shift from "more is better" to "better is better"Sep 10, 2021
One of the most common problems amongst gym goers is the mindset that in order to get stronger and perform better, one must work harder, train longer hours, and perform more reps. The whole “it’s not a workout unless I’m left flat on my back in a pool of sweat” mentality spread like wildfire as the popularity of functional fitness increased all over the world and gym egos soared. Gym goers lost sight of basic training principles and the concept of recovery. With that, the number of overuse injuries has crept up steadily in many different fitness scenes in addition to organized sports.
Why does understanding this matter if you're a coach?
Stress + Recovery= Adaptation
Basic tissue physiology tells us that in order to increase muscle fiber diameter and the ability to produce power, we must first stress the tissue enough to break down fibers and stimulate regrowth to become a bigger and better version of itself. This is a simplistic view of what coaches commonly know as adaption and it is what they aim to achieve with their clients.
But it doesn’t happen instantaneously. This process takes a certain amount of time to complete and that amount of time is directly proportionate to the degree at which it is broken down. The larger the stress, the larger amount of recovery is needed. The smaller the stress, the sooner it will be before that tissue has recovered and is ready for more. If we stress the tissue TOO little, it won’t get stronger. If we stress it too much or too often, it doesn’t get back to baseline and you start the break-down process that increases likelihood of injury or decreased performance. It’s an important balancing act.
Many individuals use exercise as “stress relief” and what we have to recognize and accept is that exercise itself IS a stress from a metabolic standpoint. It is an intentional stress, but fundamentally a stress nonetheless. This extra stress on top of their diet, sleep, health, and life in general can all impact how well they recover from a certain workload. This may require more time between efforts to avoid the downward spiral of overtraining.
In the competitive, high-capacity athlete populations, they don’t recognize the difference between true rest and active recovery. They believe that a quick and easy 5K row counts as their recovery day, or a 3 mile hike with 3000 feet of elevation on their rest day didn’t count as a work out.
From a mental standpoint, this may be a change up from their usual routine, but did their joints get a break from repetitive flexion/extension patterns? Did they truly get out of the gym scene for a day? Telling a high level athlete to take a true “rest” day (a day out of the gym, doing regular daily household stuff, hanging out with the family, just living life) is probably the hardest work for them from a mental standpoint. That's why we as coaches need to frame the days off from the gym not as “time missed” but as the opportunity to work on their mental strength, which can be a total game changer as it's own form of strength.
Individuals all over the world are reaching for the “maximum recoverable dose," A.K.A. "How much can I make my body do and still live to see another day?" What they REALLY should be searching for is the “minimum effective dose," A.K.A. "How little can I make my body do to have the maximum amount of return?"
Learning to make this shift is not lazy training. It is EFFICIENT training.
How many people do you know that like the idea of performing better? Almost all of them. How many of them would buy into the idea that in order for them to do better, they need to train less? Not as many because it's a hard bullet to bite from the mental standpoint. But oftentimes, as their training becomes less focused on sheer volume and more focused on areas of weakness, that’s exactly what happens. They're performing better without having to do all those unnecessary reps!
Making the shift in mindset away from “more is better” to “better is better” needs to happen, but it won’t happen overnight.
Slowly but surely, gym owners and coaches can initiate this shift by creating cultures amongst their members to recognize the importance of accepting that not every day is game day. We shouldn’t be training at 110% intensity, 100% of the time. We need to get people to recognize that we should be training at 60-70% intensity, 80% of the time. This will set us up to train at the higher intensities for those occasions when it is necessary (or desired) to do so and when intelligently training for longevity, it increases the likelihood that we will come out stronger on the other side.
We don’t get stronger on the days we go to the gym. We get stronger on the days we allow appropriate recovery.