Urgency can spark change. Dissatisfaction makes us re-evaluate that which isn't effective. But impatience has no place in health and fitness. "I want it now" makes no sense when we put what we're actually saying into its honest wording: right now I want a retroactive reversal of all the accumulated negative behaviors over my entire life. Begin a process, yes. Expect immediate product? No.
Rapid transformations are exciting. I don't contend that. In person I've seen thousands of examples of near-immediate gratification. I've had clients lose over 100lbs in 8 months. I once met with a girl who'd been incapable of turning her head for 2 years (after whiplash from a car accident and 2 full years of physical therapy); and after I performed just 10 minutes of assisted mobility, she regained full range of motion with no pain. There are a lot of case studies like this, in fact. But it doesn't change the truth that we cannot expect those outcomes regularly. Be open to the possibility. Just don't hitch your emotions to the necessity of a miracle. Too many factors play a role. And, even when there is an "instant healing," how do we KEEP the achieved outcome? Is it still a success if we zoom the camera out to 5 or 10 year aftermath?
Despite what the really erudite bros on YouTube and Instagram say, tissue turnover is slow. Sorry. That's the science. Regeneration takes 5 days just to turnover skin cells after a basic superficial cut (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3055648/). When we get into total redesign of deep connective tissue, the initial cascade is six months or more. Everything prior to that is basic morphological changes, nervous system skill improvement, fuller glycogen reserves inside muscles. NEW muscle and tendon lengths and size occur some time after six months. Understand that. Tissue isn't going to change substantially in a period that's less than six months. It's not opinion. It's biology as contingent on immutable properties in biochemistry. Even the heart muscle cells only turnover AT MOST 10% per year, not dissimilar from skeletal bone turnover rates (http://book.bionumbers.org/how-quickly-do-different-cells-in-the-body-replace-themselves/). Do the math, genius. That's ten years. You aren't going to revise muscular makeup in 30 days. We can reprogram certain nervous system controls of skeletal muscle in a few seconds. But the tissue's potential capacity doesn't budge for six months. So, really, I'm not sure it's even remotely honest to discuss workout plans of less than 12 months.
Most tissue stress is just damage without upside. Again, I'm sad to report this, but the majority of muscular training is permanently injurious. Even tiny injuries to muscles do not result in replacement with MUSCLE tissue, but rather collagen filler (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23733696). You read that right. When you damage muscle cells, you don't replace them with muscle cells. You replace them with collagen filler. You think you're getting a good workout; but you're actually just reducing your long term potential. Most high intensity cross-training is making people weaker in the long run. The faster the rate of strength progression, the tighter the ceiling on long term performance. Incredible soreness, excessive work load and volume do not produce benefit. Only a small handful of people appear to gain strength from "insane" training; however, this is only an illusion, since they merely survived due to preexisting genetic and environmental factors. Most "success stories" and "testimonials" are this. They survived IN SPITE of bad methodology. They did not succeed BECAUSE of good methodology. This is evident by the fact that the general populace is increasingly obese and weaker.
There is no scientific basis for the types of workouts in which people "feel" the burn and repeatedly get sore over and over and over again. Adaptations from progressive overload are real. Yes, you gain improved capacity from CONTROLLED stress. No, you do not benefit from excessive stress. I repeat: you do not benefit from excessive stress.
Even with the incredibly low bar for what constitutes activity (i.e. - even walking, camping and fishing count), about 30% of Americans are inactive (http://www.physicalactivitycouncil.com/pdfs/current.pdf). Only one sixth of the populace has any sort of fitness membership (https://www.statista.com/statistics/236123/us-fitness-center--health-club-memberships/). I know, from seeing internally-gathered stats within the industry, that only about 10% of American adults have regular access. Of that, only 10% are active users. Among active users, visit anywhere, and you can see for yourself success rates, which are less than 10% even in the near term. You don't need the insight from me or any other person who's been inside the fitness industry. You can quickly figure out for yourself that, even if there were such a thing as rapid tissue change, at most it is less than a fraction of a fraction of a percent of people who can experience this.
Don't be an idiot. Look around your gym. The same guy who squatted 800lbs five years ago MAY still be squatting 800lbs, but not an ounce more. Go ahead and find your superhero online. The same strongmen who were deadlifting 1000lbs years ago are lucky if they still can. People outstrip their recovery timetables. They get hurt. They replace damaged muscle tissue with collagen and get weaker. Be smart. Go slow.
A current client of mine would, by most measures, be considered impossible. Some weeks he may perform zero workouts. Most weeks he does one to two. He's a busy professional, but a young guy with persistent back pain. Correction: he WAS a guy with persistent back pain. Most of my peers with ten or more years of experience would have appropriately assessed his imbalances and obvious weaknesses and mobility issues. However, for someone who will not realistically practice mobility with frequency, how are we going to correct those issues? I can get people 30-150% improvement in certain angles of flexibility in one session. But they can't keep that if they don't practice. And, in my experience, people with this level of rigidity do not/cannot benefit from static stretching/long-held poses. They usually get worse and/or hurt. Vinyasa helps some people with high inflexibility, but, again, only if they enjoy it and practice frequently.
For this guy, the only answer was patience. If you are honest and admit that you won't commit to high frequency, you have to honestly acknowledge the timeline. In fact, even if you committed to high frequency, you have to honestly acknowledge that your health and fitness behaviors have a timeline that is precisely equal to your remaining years on earth. It isn't six weeks. It isn't six months. Like a college degree or new language learned, you can certainly house the intense period of study within a more finite period. But the maintenance lifestyle behaviors are lifelong, not months or even a few years.
I bring up this client with former back pain for a few reasons. Firstly, he is completely transformed. He could not safely bend over to tie his shoes when we met. All attempts at yoga, strength training, and even just day-to-day work and activity yielded irritation. It took months to retrain his proprioception such that he would brace his spine appropriately and properly control eccentric loading in the hamstrings. Simply put, he had trained himself to flex at the spine almost exclusively for a life time. He could not bow at the hip with his gluteal weakness and hamstring/adductor immobility.
Like most advanced practitioners, I can get him to change patterns immediately. Look around the fitness, chiropractic, physical therapy, and sports performance worlds, and you'll find all kinds of techniques which gift immediate gratification, from old school PNF, to AIS, to MAT, to the nouveaux sequential firing assessments. But if he won't practice, it won't stick. Rather than just keep performing a mini-healing every time he shows up, we decided to map out workout programming he WILL perform. Novel idea, huh?
This meant we had to restart and retrain certain exercises. His deadlift, for example, was a mess. I could cue him into proficiency; but I had low confidence in his ability to replicate in homework. So we adapted to a sumo stance rack pull. Trolls would disapprove, of course. Many fitness "professionals" would skip this step, hurt him, and forget about him among the graveyard of other "failed" clients. But I know better. Slow and steady wins the race. His risk of injury on his own was reduced as much as possible while still approximating the movement. His confidence improved. His strength improved. He didn't get hurt. Thus he stayed the course for over a year.
It's not sexy. But it laid the groundwork for athleticism with all of his givens. Also, it allowed us to gain enough resilience, control, and mobility, that after a year we could safely take his deadlift to the ground, though it still needed to be sumo/wide stance. I could see his active flexibility slowly improving. I felt confident he would gain full mobility by continuing to stay patient. He did.
I know that a lot of other coaches and trainers don't take this tact. I know, because many of my clients over the years come to me after they got hurt or discouraged with someone else. This is also why I've repeatedly decried rapid transformation testimonials. They happen. But they're exceptions and almost exclusively survival stories. When you see pages of rapid transformations, remember that you need to multiply that number by 100 to understand how many people aren't featured because they didn't survive the "methodology." Rapid transformation itself is folly.
So, let's get back to this client with former aches and rigidity. Today, in standard position, he can deadlift 250lbs for reps. Most importantly, he hasn't been hurt for over two years. So he can keep building. Ten years from now, he will be stronger, as long as he continues being patient. The funny thing is, at that point he will also be stronger than most of the current social media gurus. They'll be stagnant, weaker, or long since quit. He'll be going to the gym a few days a month, but consistently, and in better shape than them all. It's all due simply to the fact that impatience doesn't yield real health and fitness.
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