Is This Good For Me To Do?

Is This Good For Me To Do?

If you come train with me either at my gym, The Movement Minneapolis, or via online coaching you’ll have to adopt a new paradigm for their training – but once you do you’ll find that it permeates the rest of your life.

The classic paradigm is essentially one of prescription. Your program says to do this so you do this. Maybe you make some small adjustments. If you’re working with a good coach they definitely make some tweaks. But generally speaking you’re going to do what is planned.

I teach a different approach. I only want you to do things that are good for you to do – right now. If it’s going to make you better, you do it. If it’s going to make you worse, you don’t do it.

Mark Fisher calls it “everything is optional” at their place. I like that.

So how can you know whether it’s good for you or not? Surely deadlifts are always good for you, right? No, not so fast.

The state of your body, mind, and all of the pieces and systems that are parts of the whole are in constant flux. Your tissues are constantly adapting, remodeling, and changing and your brain and nervous system too is always in flux.

So what would be a bad day to deadlift? Well a day in which you’ve created a lot of tissue damage with another workout probably wouldn’t be ideal to add more heavy deadlifts to your recovery load. Or, on the “softer” side of tissues, a day that you’re perhaps physically fresh but mentally completely exhausted from strenuous mental exertion might not be the best day to add more nervous system load.

But how can you know?

When it comes to movement, this is where biofeedback is extremely useful. You can simply test how you respond to the actual movement. If you respond positively then great it’s good for you to do right now, if you respond negatively it’s probably best to push it out until the next time. The question is, “Is this good for me to do right now?”

But what about things that aren’t so clearly movement based. That perhaps you can’t test so easily.

This is where the big picture of asking “is this good for me to do right now” comes into play.

If you’ve ever worked on learning a skill you know that there are days when you feel like everything is clicking, and days where no matter how hard you try things just aren’t coming together. And yet, you can come back to something you were really struggling with and a day or two later it just clicks.

What I try to do is make the most of the times when things are clicking, and cut short the sessions where everything feels off. Even if it doesn’t feel great to give up or stop doing something you love to do when you’re feeling frustrated. Obviously there is a wide gray area between putting in the work and the inherent struggle of learning and when things aren’t going well, but as I’ve written before, the better you get at predicting the better your results will be.

What you’ll find is that if you stop the poor practice prematurely, your brain will integrate when you’re away from the practice itself and when you come back you’re better than before seemingly without having done anything.

We’re going to talk more about speeding up and supporting that process of integration in a follow-up article, but the main point to keep in mind is maximizing the good practice, and minimizing the bad.

As you probably know, one of my passions besides lifting is skydiving. Since the advent of indoor vertical wind tunnels skydivers can turn money into noise and skill faster than ever before. But flying in the tunnel can be as frustrating as it is mentally exhausting. Because a single 15-minute session in the tunnel can easily equate to a month of skydiving you can see the skill improvement measured in minutes in a way that really is unparalleled by anything I can think of. By the same token, I know that if something isn’t clicking it’s best for me to either move on to a different skill or to stop completely for the day. Usually when I come back in a week whatever I was struggling with comes to me almost instantly.

Of course, this paradigm doesn’t just apply to skill acquisition, motor learning, or training.

The two sectors of peoples lives most often affected by this mindset shift are their job and their relationships.

“Is this good for me, right now?”

If you are going to work every day and answering no, this is not good for me, I would wager your days at that job are numbered.

If almost every moment or engagement in a relationship results in a “not good” rating, I’d wager that relationship is coming to an end.

And why shouldn’t it? Time is your only non-renewable resource. It’s almost indisputably your most valuable resource. If what you’re doing isn’t good for you, it means you’re wasting time that could be spent on something that is good for you to do.


It’s Running Season, Don’t Make These Mistakes

The balmy spring weather we’ve been having this week has, in part, reminded me that it is again running and race season.

The other part of the reminder is that I’m starting to see the social media posts from people who are getting a hurt a week or two before the race they’ve been training for all spring. Not good. And I’ve learned, mostly preventable.

The single biggest mistake that I see runners make is overdoing their training mileage. There are many ways this manifests but the net net is simply too much training stress for the available recovery ability. Lifters are guilty of this too, but at least in recent years the understanding of sub-maximal training has become more prolific and I don’t see it as often.

To use a lifting analogy, you don’t ever need to pull 600lbs in training to pull 600lbs in a meet. In fact, you might not even need to dip into the 500s.

So for runners you’ll see runners training for a marathon running upwards of 20 miles before the actual race, and it’s totally unnecessary and usually results in injury.

Here are three articles with you that go over both theory and application of a better way to train:

Endurance Training with Gym Movement is a high-level overview of how to usebiofeedback in your endurance training.

Tapering, You’re Doing it Wrong explains why many people and many programs approach tapering incorrectly and it leaves you flagging on race day instead of fresh and ready to accomplish a new level of performance.

The 5-run Marathon is an account of how, under extreme circumstances, I prepared a runner for a marathon with only 5 runs over 16 days.

If there’s one idea that I want you to take away from each of these is the idea that all you need is the minimal effective amount of stress to induce adaptation – any more and the cost is too high, any less (not usually the issue) and you don’t see improvement.

Even if you have no interest in ever running a marathon or anything like it these ideas can still be applied to improve your overall cardiovascular health and adaptability.

How Constraints Help You Make Better Decisions

How Constraints Help You Make Better Decisions

In the early 1970s the United States Air Force issued a request for defense contractors to design and a new advanced lightweight fighter jet. A team from General Dynamics would go on to design the F-16 Fighting Falcon which is still in use today by over 25 countries and is widely considered the most effective and best-designed air combat fighter ever designed.

Long time readers will know what a fan of military strategist and engineer John Boyd I am, and may recognize him as the originator of the O.O.D.A loop, a model for approaching decision making in everything from design to combat. What you may not know is that John Boyd was one three members of the Fighter Mafia that made the F-16 what it is.

If there is one way to summarize how these three men designed the greatest fighter jet the world has ever seen it’s to understand how they constrained the design and decision making.

The first contraint that Boyd introduced was that it had to use a particular engine. That simplified a lot of their design decisions, but it also meant that certain parameters like the amount of power available were fixed from the beginning. If they wanted more speed, they’d have to make a lighter and smaller aircraft. The result contributed to incredible power-to-weight ratio that made it extraordinarily maneuverable.

The second constraint was that they wanted it to have long range, but refused to do what you typically would do to increase range which is to increase the amount of fuel it can carry. Instead they again focused on making it more aerodynamic, lighter, and smaller. Think of this in a way like the difference between a super-heavyweight lifter and a weight class lifter. The weight-constrained lifters are shredded and boast incredible strength-to-weight ratios. The unconstrained lifters have extreme strength, but they’re encumbered in nearly every other way by their size.

The third important constraint is that this wasn’t a blank-check project. They were to design a $3 million dollar plane, which is a hell of a lot of money, but in terms of a combat aircraft it is pennies. As a result they couldn’t add all the bells and whistles that would add size, weight, and complexity – they had to keep it simple.

Ultimately these three key (and other smaller) constraints allowed the designers to stay on a path that resulted in this legendary aircraft.

Setting constraints is counter-intuitive – you might think that limiting your options or freedom will make it harder to reach your goals. On the contrary, appropriate constraints make it easier make good decisions.

– Setting daily caloric or macro targets makes it easy to lose or gain weight, but still gives you the freedom to eat whatever you want. Or, flipping that, constraining the types of foods you eat usually limits your intake as well as a result.

– Having a training program planned out ensures that the unlimited variety of options in the gym doesn’t overwhelm you but still gives you the flexibility to make adjustments on the fly.

– Planning your day out with specific activities at certain times virtually always ensures that you get more done than a day when you have nothing planned and you could have done anything. Bumpers keep you out of the gutter.

Take a minute to look at what you’re trying to achieve or create and whether or not you’ve put appropriate constraints around it so that you’re setup for success. If you haven’t, time to limit your options.