Saturday, January 21, 2006

DF Tip #4: As I SAID...

Today I received the following email:
Hey Andrew! Wow, you’re so much smarter than all the other fitness ‘gurus’ out there! I think of you as a cross between Jack LaLanne, Don Rickles, and, well, to be honest, Shakespeare, only more perceptive about the subtleties of human folly. Everyone should train with Andrew at Dynamic Fitness! Now onto my question: could you explain the SAID principle? I think your readers would appreciate that. BC, Calcutta.
Funny how I randomly chose such a flattering note from the reams of worldwide correspondence I receive daily. Sometimes objective journalism just works out that way!

Ah, yes, the SAID principle: one of the more elegant notions in exercise physiology— also one of the better named. SAID stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands, and, in a nutshell, it says is that whatever stimulus you throw at the body, it will adapt to make that particular activity easier and more efficient.

On one hand it’s a fairly intuitive principle; on the other hand it’s something everyday exercisers forget all the time. For instance, people ask me if walking up a total of a dozen flights of stairs throughout the day is enough to get them "fit." My response is, fit enough to do what? Climb a dozen flights of stairs over the course of a day? Yes. Run a marathon? No. According to SAID, if you want your body to get better at a given activity, you’ve got to do that activity. And ideally you’ve got to do that activity often, and for extended periods. Evidently, practice does indeed make perfect.

So when you’re watching those infomercials about shaping up in four minutes a day using The Thigh-Ab-Ulator, think about it: what adaptation are you asking the body to make with that movement? The answer is simple: you’re asking the body to get better at using the Thigh-Ab-Ulator. Marginally better, at that, since you’re only using it four minutes a day. Will that make you "fit"? Again, what demand are you placing on the body to which it must adapt? The answer is that after a few days, four minutes on the Thigh-Ab-Ulator probably places NO demand on your body at all, meaning the body doesn’t have to make ANY adaptations to get better or more efficient at the motion! Ergo, the Thigh-Ab-Ulator gets demoted to doorstop, and you’re stuck with six more monthly payments of $19.99 plus applicable taxes.

So, ladies and gentlemen, when you’re planning your workouts, please remember SAID: your body, wonderful machine that it is, will adapt to virtually any stimulus you throw at it. But once it has adapted to your exercise program, presto, no more weight loss, no more muscle gain. That’s why almost any exercise program ceases to be effective after a few weeks (usually three or so) unless you add something new to the mix. So if you run three miles a day along the exact same running route for 25 years like my father does, you’ll get good at running those same three miles a day along that same running route—period. And then, like I tell my Dad every time I’m home, you’ll stop improving because there’s nothing new you’re asking your body to do until you throw another stimulus into the mix: try to run it faster, run an extra loop, do an interval or two instead of going steady-state, run it backwards, run it while singing the ‘La Vie En Rose,’ but for heaven’s sake, mix it up! Do that, and more adaptations will follow: more weight loss, muscle tone, heart-lung health, all those wonderful, elusive things we fitness folk seek.

One final caveat about the SAID principle. Your body, in some respects, isn’t all that bright. It will adapt to whatever demand you impose on it, so be careful what those demands are. You don’t get to choose which behaviors your body adapts to and which ones it ignores.

bench pressGo to just about any weight room and you’ll see a couple of extreme examples of what I’m talking about: see Günter in the corner, the 286-pound rhino bench pressing in the corner? Of course you do, that’s where the guy lives, 24-7. Well, Günter’s body has adapted to get good at bench pressing and not much else. His anterior shoulder tendons have shortened, his pectorals are as tight as a drum across his chest, his spine is misaligned from all the pushing motion he does, his core musculature is weak around his spine. Sure, Günter can bench press you and me with a couple of anorexic supermodels thrown in, but he probably can’t comb his hair, much less reach that high shelf in his closet or turn his head when he backs the car up. So, is Günter fit?

Fit to bench, that’s for sure. Fit to go on a hike now and then, walk on the beach, play with his kids, enjoy his life? Probably not. Some fitness gurus prescribe programs not dissimilar from the one Günter follows—wreck your body and fitness will follow. By contrast, the ‘functional training model’ assumes you want to make life in this highly adaptable but fallible organism called a Human Body as enjoyable as possible. So we take another approach: do in the gym variations on those things that you want to be able to do more effortlessly in life—reach, stretch, bend, move, lift, twist, play—and life itself will become easier and more enjoyable. That’s the side I’m on.

Have a great week, everyone—


rockyjay said...

If there weren't for 'gunthers', where the heck we would get all those bouncers for the clubs?

See, that's the dilemma :-)

Vivian said...

Hey Andrew- it's Viv your new student. That was great today- my legs are feeling it!!!I'm so excited to start this new chapter- and you make it really fun and surprisingly easy. Can't wait for next time!!!

honkeie2 said...

Never listen to a 'guru' they are nothing but quacks lookin to make a fast buck anyway.
I have found I get the best results when I stay off any 'program' and ,like nike says, just do it. My gym days are programed in the sense of what body part I do but the exact exercise I do is a little more hap-hazard. Give the body a shock, wake it up each and everytime.

Madley said...

If I am in the gym, I am ALREADY in shock. hehehe

elsa said...

Love your blog. Thanks for this.

honkeie2 said...

Watcha got agaist Gunter lol. Muscle heads are funny, its always a gas to watch them in the gyms. I am always amazed at how much wieght they can do, and how far they cannt run haha.