More isn’t always better. Variety isn’t always helpful. And new might not be right. Switching routines every week is a good way to keep things fun, But does fun make you better? The new exercise from Instagram looks cool, But is it effective? These things might make you sore and tired, but that doesn’t mean you are stronger, leaner, or healthier. And you definitely aren’t training. Training is different, it is planned, and has a purpose.
Training and exercise are used interchangeably and they shouldn’t be. Words matter. Training and exercise have different meanings, and they shouldn’t be swapped out and used the same. Training is a long-term process focused on a specific result. Exercise is about what you get out of today. Both are different and have their own purpose.
You train for a result, and the training program gives you the plan to achieve a goal. The goal can be weight loss (or gain), strength gain, or rehabilitation from injury. To train, you must have a plan and stick to it. Each day is important because it is part of the bigger picture. You focus on where you’re going over time, not the feeling after today’s session. Training means you have a long-term goal that you are committed to reaching.
Athlete’s train, and the term “athlete” is not limited to the high-profile professionals you see on TV. We are all athletes. An athlete has a goal in mind and trains for it. They focus on what needs to happen today to reach their goal. Every day is important to get what they want in the future. Athletes have a long-term mindset, and they delay gratification to future goals. They focus on simple things that make them better every day. Getting lost in variety and “mixing it up” doesn’t cross their mind – they are focused on their goal.
Exercise, however, is about today. It’s about the workout you do today and the feeling afterwards. If you don’t know what exercise looks like, check social media – you’ll see the best definition there. Variety, soreness, and sweat are keys to exercising. Exercise is about the short-term, or what you get out of today. Exercise is rarely planned because it is based on how you feel. Goals might be set, but they are vague and debatable.
How you choose between training and exercise depends on your goals and what you want. If you have a specific goal, you train. If you want to leave the gym tired and sweaty, you exercise. How you define it to yourself (and others) matters because it shows your priorities. It shows what you are committed to. You can choose to define it either way, but you cannot mix the terms and add your own spin on them. They don’t work that way.
There are many things that we do not know or have trouble understanding. Oftentimes we do not know where to start looking for information. But, the internet provides us with a great opportunity to learn any subject through videos, writing, and websites. TED talks are a great resource for learning a variety of topics in a short time. I have listed eight of my favorite TED talks on a wide variety of subjects that are worth your time. I hope you learn a few things you can take away and apply to your life.
Ric Elias was a passenger on Flight 1549, the plane that landed on the Hudson river in 2009. In this video, Ric discusses what went through his mind as he believed the plane was going to go down. He offers a great perspective from what he learned during this frightening experience. Ric is CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures, a portfolio of digital companies that creates customized online experiences.
David Blaine is a magician and stuntman who is best known for his feats of extreme endurance. This video details how he trained to stay underwater for this world-record breaking attempt, and how he thinks through his work. He is the author of Mysterious Stranger. You can learn more about David by visiting his website.
Susan Cain is a best-selling author, lecturer, and a co-founder of Quiet Revolution. Her talk discusses the current state of society, where being social and outgoing are valued. She argues that introverts bring extraordinary talent and abilities to the world. She is the author of Quiet, and Quiet Power.
Julian is a sound and communication expert. His mission is to help organizations and people listen better and create more effective sound. This talk discusses powerful speaking, and provides vocal exercises and tips on how to speak with empathy. He is the author of How To Be Heardand Sound Business. You can learn more at his website.
Dr. Attia is the founder of Attia Medical and focuses on the applied science of longevity. In this video, Dr. Attia questions the current understanding of diabetes. He analyzes how assumptions within the medical community may be leading us to the wrong wars. You can learn more about Dr. Attia by visiting his website and listening to his podcast, The Drive.
Adam Grant is a professor at Wharton. He is a leading expert on motivation and meaning, as well as living generous and creative lives. In this video, Adam discusses how creative people come up with ideas. He shows us that “the greatest originals are the ones who fail the most.” Adam is the author of Give and Take, Originals, Option B, and Power Moves. Visit Adam’s website to learn more about him.
Health, performance, and rehabilitation professionals share one common rule: to do no harm. Our first and most important duty is to keep the person safe while they are in our immediate care. This also applies to what they do while completing recommendations we have given them out of our direct supervision. To keep someone safe from injury is no small task.
To keep someone safe means that two things are accomplished. The individual is safe during the process of training or rehabilitation. Movements are performed efficiently and the client understands what to do and how to do it. They are safe while in your care. This also means that they are well-prepared for future tasks. Sports, daily life, and work all place unique demands on an individual. It is the job of the coach, trainer, and physical therapist to ensure that people are prepared for life’s demands.
This concept is commonly discussed, with limited practical framework as to what it means. To do no harm is interpreted differently depending on the person’s perspective. There are many examples that clearly break this rule.. As education material has become available and easier to access, it seems that our ability to do no harm is somehow getting worse. How could this be? What does it mean to do no harm in a professional setting?
Education and Teaching
The professional’s ability to keep others safe depends on their knowledge and ability to communicate expectations. The process starts with a clear understanding of what is to be accomplished. The professional can then, and only then, begin to demonstrate and explain the details of exercise performance. The ability to teach is limited by our level of education and ability to critically think. This is our greatest asset and there are no exceptions. While experience is important, the ability to teach will always depend on the understanding of the concept and one’s ability to clearly explain it.
Unlimited amounts of educational material are available to us today. Our job is to filter through it and utilize only what is beneficial and safe. Filtering through information allows you to extract what you need. It is important to read everything that you can and to discuss concepts and methods with people in the profession. Discussions with experienced professionals is beneficial to you (as the professional), and to your clients or patients. Watch videos to figure out what needs to be improved.
Teaching depends on what you know. Your education determines your effectiveness as a teacher. These two variables are dependent on one another. You will not be a great teacher without education and a deep understanding of your craft. Knowledge is dependent on what you read, what you watch, and who you talk to. The sources of information matter. You will limit your ability if you attempt to improve through practice alone. Teaching ability is limited if you do not constantly challenge yourself to learn and understand at a deeper level.
Watching and analyzing a client’s performance is crucial in keeping a person safe and doing no harm. Observation is dependent on your knowledge and education, as well as your ability to teach. You will only be able to notice what you know and have previously studied. There must be clearly defined standards of performance of execution when performing movements. Safety depends on how an exercise is performed.
Professionals must be exceptional observers to help people and keep them safe. They must first define their expectations through education and teaching, then analyze the performance of the prescribed movement or exercise. It begins with knowing what they want, and then being able to see it in others. The ability to break down a movement in this stage is critical. All exercises can be broken down into smaller, simpler movements. Small deviations in technique and performance need to be watched and assessed. View your client from different angles. This gives you the best idea of what is going well and what is not.
This is serious business. Doing no harm means seeing and identifying what could do harm. You must know what is harmful, and what is not, to know when the client is at risk. Observing the details of performance is key to their safety.
The next step in the process of doing no harm is correcting an exercise. The practitioner’s job is to correct movement and to help improve efficiency. After teaching and observing has taken place, feedback must occur. This includes positive feedback for what is being performed well. It also includes feedback on what needs to be improved. To give feedback in this order allows the person to continue doing the good portion, and focus on improving what can be improved. Explain what is being done well, then what they can work on.
Effective correction depends on our ability to teach and effectively observe movement. If we fail to deeply understand what is happening, we cannot possibly begin to correct. Through years of education and experience, we can begin to formulate the goals and standards of safely and effectively performed movement. This is in both our best interest and that of the client.
A simple piece of advice related to correction begins before it is necessary. Simply, do not teach or include any exercise that you are not confident in demonstrating and explaining. The goal of any physical exercise or rehabilitation program is to set people up for success. If there are not clear expectations before beginning, there is a high chance of the exercise being dangerous and poorly performed. If you do not understand it, they will not understand it. The exercise will have no chance of being performed successfully before it is even attempted. Do not waste your time, and do not waste theirs. This is easier said than done.
The ability to modify is closely related to our teaching ability. To modify is to correct, or to improve. To take something as it is and improve an aspect of it. As it relates to the performance of an exercise or movement, it is to make it safer and more efficient. Movements will need to be modified if they are being performed in a dangerous manner or if they are not efficient. They might also need to be modified if there are individual differences. A particular movement may not be best for the individual, and should be modified accordingly. This ensures that your client is performing a movement safely and efficiently.
A movement performed dangerously needs to be stopped immediately. There is nothing to debate. If you, or someone that you observe or coach, are in danger, there needs to be an immediate stop in performance. Safety is our top priority. Anything that is not safe should be stopped and corrected. This can take place by changing the exercise completely, reducing load, adjusting speed of repetition, or explaining and demonstrating it in a different way. There is always another way. One that might work better for the individual. Modify and stop at nothing to achieve safety during performance. There are no excuses for unsafe exercise execution.
It is possible for a movement to be performed safely, but not optimally. Safety is achieved, but the performance of the movement might not be optimal for that individual. They may need a slight variation, a different load, or a different training goal. These are all slight modifications to the training programs of advanced clients or athletes. Exercises, and the training program, can be slightly modified or re-focused to accommodate different individual development. Everyone is unique, and they will adapt at different rates to different demands.
Loading and Progression
Modifications are the slight alterations that take place in a training program as a person progresses and becomes better able to handle the demands of training. When training an athlete or client long-term, more factors must be considered. True coaching and expertise is required when you are with a person long-term. Development during a college or professional career requires a deep understanding of the mechanisms behind training and achieving specific adaptations.
Proficiency has been achieved in performing exercises and now the person must be challenged. Challenge, or increasing demand, occurs through variations in load, volume, frequency, and exercise selection. These are the variables to consider when creating a training program or rehabilitation plan. Training programs based on these variables have options to be progressed or regressed in difficulty. These options give us the ability to adjust the program long-term and change the focus so that results continue to be achieved. Remember, everything will work for a short amount of time, but nothing works forever. It is our job to adjust the training program to achieve results long-term.
The number one rule in the health, performance, and rehabilitation professions is to keep people safe. People are kept safe through proper performance of exercises and adaptations from the training program. Safety is a process that is refined and improved over many years. It is a continual process of education and teaching, observation, correction, modification, and loading and progression adjustments. I hope that this sheds light on the process of proper exercise performance and planning. It is not enough to say that our goal is to do no harm. We need a system and a process to achieve this result. I hope this gives you something to think about.