2 Ways to Get More from Less

There was a great story I heard on NPR about alarms in hospitals.  One of those classic stories about how the obvious solution is actually the wrong one.  The long and short of it is that hospitals were having issues with machine alarms.  You’d think that whenever something is going wrong with hospital machines, it’s IMPERATIVE that some sort of alarm sounds to warn a nurse, tech or doctor that there’s something amiss.  More alarms, more awareness, right?  Welllllll not really.  What they found was that it was actually creating what was later termed “alarm fatigue.”  Because everything had an alarm, it was shockingly common that most hospital personnel had become immune to all the beeps, buzzes and bells to the point where even if something was going wrong, the staff had become so immune to it they didn’t even react.  Which, needless to say, is a problem in a hospital.  In this case, the less alarms there were, the better.

I think training is very much the same way.  A lot of people come to our doors with limited to no strength/conditioning background.   They invest a little and see great success.  The logical conclusion is: well if I invest MORE I’ll get MORE!!!!  A lot of people see something CrossFit Games Athletes doing 3, 4 sometimes even 5 workouts in a day and assume that’s the next logical step toward improvement.  Unfortunately, that’s not how your body works.

You’re always in a constant flux of stress (training stress specifically) and adaptation.  The right dose of stress mixed with the right dose of adaptation produces amazing results.   When you go from doing not much, to doing some quality hard work, you’re going to see some great changes.  But adding more hard work does not in and of itself produce more results.  It’s about balance.  For instance, steroids and testosterone don’t actually make you stronger.  They simply supercharge your ability to recover.  In efffect, they allow you to do more work while still keeping your stress/recovery balance in check.  Simply adding more work and not increasing the corresponding amount of recovery is a quick trip to Burnout/Overtrained/Injury Town.  Population: you.

1.) Improve the quality of your recovery.  How much are you sleeping?  What’s the quality of your food?  How much water do you drink?  Do you cool down and mobilize?  If no, DO IT!!!!!!!!  Quick rules of thumb.  Sleep 8 hours MINIMUM.  Eat REAL food.  Drink your bodyweight in water. (no the water in your coffee doesn’t count).  Cool down/Mobilize for 15 minutes/session (I’m looking at your competition people).

2.) Improve the quality of your stress. Dirty little secret?  Because the group classes are designed for everyone, they are by definition designed for no one in particular.  In all honesty the entire impetus for the ID Program was to improve the quality of stress the athlete experiences.  10-12 Box Squats is a great start, but what if Hip Extensions might give you a better stimulus? Or maybe sled drags?  You probably won’t see them in group class.  But whatever you need is doable in a smaller setting.

So if you’re feeling a little stuck or a little plateaud, more isn’t the answer.  Quality is.

EDIT: I originally wrote two times body weight but did some fuzzy math.  The usual recommendation is 1/2 your bodyweight in ounces.  But that’s for sedentary people that have an office job.  You need at least twice that.  Turns out 2 * 1/2 isn’t 2….. it’s one.  TL;DR I’m not good at math.