I have a subscription to Muscle & Fitness (who doesn’t?) and the column of the editor in chief Swawn Perine this past week especially caught my attention.
He is talking about instinctive training and how it benefits him at this point in his life / career. I can fully relate with this article as I mostly feel the same way.
When you start out, whether it’s bodybuilding, fitness or other disciplines, you have to learn the basics, rules and how to do things properly. I often refer to this as learning the skills out of the box. It’s the standard set of skills you need to master before you take it up a notch and learn more specialized or complicated skills OR be allowed to break the rules.
For example, you will learn a push up before you start bench pressing heavy (very simplistic example I know) and you will learn how to cover your face before you start trying to throw spinning hook kicks. Makes sense right?
This applies to most training, agreed there are some exceptions here and there IF safety is not compromised but overall, this is the rule. However, once you master all the basics, you have proven yourself and you are at a certain point in your life/career where it benefits you in some way, instinctive training is a great method to continue training.
Since I coach and train others so many hours every week, it is sometimes hard to get a strict training program in. I am also on my feet many hours/week which can either fatigue me or trash my legs sometimes. Therefore, I often do instinctive training. When I teach, I sometimes join part of the classes or sessions which means I get many random sets into my day. My days are always thought out as to which muscle groups I will train (sometimes but rarely subject to change) but which exercises I do, sets, reps etc. rarely is determined. When I start my own training, I think about what I already did that day or will do, how my body is feeling, how my muscles recovered etc. and I take it from there. I continue to show progress so this is definitely working for me but I do have a unique situation. This doesn’t mean I take it down a notch or take it easy, it simply means I adjust my strategies.
The same thing I do with cycling. I’m a big believer in setting a foundation which means a strong aerobic base. I like to push myself and my cycling but if my legs feel tired, sore or sluggish, I know to take it down a notch. This benefits my recovery, progress and long term performance and health. Years ago, when I was studying exercise physiology among other things, I read one things Mario Aerts (Belgian pro cyclist) said to someone: ‘I always feel bad for the people who go riding, come home and sit in the couch half dead because they’re so exhausted’. I feel exactly the same way. Riding and training is not always about pushing and seeing how hard you can go all the time. It’s about building your performance and body by listening to it. If you have an ache, pain, bad burn etc., listen to your body and adjust your training. In that sense, the term ‘No Pain No Gain’ is absolutely wrong.
There is a time to go hard (you have to to get stronger and faster) and there is also a time to go a bit easier. Please note this is about specific cycling training. If you talk about cross training and you do 2-3 classes/week you can/should push hard since it works many different aspects, not only one. When you talk about cycling hard at 170bpm average or cross training at 140bpm average, that is a big difference.
You want to periodize your training and continue to grow while having respect for recovery and rest. Push yourself hard but also know when to adjust. Instinctive training does not mean you have to go easier but a good athlete and trainer knows how to go AROUND limiting factors and still get the same quality workout in.
It’s not the people who always push it and don’t know why who you should look up to, it’s the people who know their body, stay injury free for many years and make continuous progress.
By Sander Vanacker for FitGuana
Sander Vanacker is a personal trainer, CEO of Bring Back Nature, Inc. and founder of FitGuana. He believes in improving health and wellness by incorporating more nature into our lives, being active and spending more time outdoors.