Watching health trends come and go and then come again reminds me of the old saying “the more things change the more they stay the same”. Sure, they are repackaged as new generations of experts seek to make their mark and establish credibility, but the repackaging is not enough to fool the discerning eye. It is quite prevalent in the field nutrition: eggs are good, then bad and then good again. The same goes with meat and supplements and most every diet under the sun. It is similar in the fields of exercise and fitness as most things are becoming increasingly complicated in their presentation in an attempt to separate themselves from the crowd. Don’t get me wrong, there has been a lot of very positive additions to the fitness field that ARE new – mostly in how we assess and measure our activities. Watches, phones, apps, GPS, fitbits, wifi projected stats to name a few are letting us know more and more about WHAT we are doing. The thing that has not changed, however, is that we still need to be DOING something. And one of the challenges I see with athletes (especially endurance ones) is that we spend so much focus and effort assessing what we are doing that we lose out on being present in the experience of what we are doing.
I am a big fan of anything that encourages people to be active, but we should aspire in our fitness to find pursuits that we simple do not have to “get through” or distract ourselves long enough to endure. I like listening to music when I train as much as the next person, but I would encourage you to not do it all the time. Learn to listen to what your body is telling you – both the good and the bad. The more you listen to your body, the more likely you will be to learn and understand the cues and feedback it is giving you. I have seen quite a few injuries clinically that were clearly the result of someone not paying attention to what they were doing or not listening to signals the body was giving them – or both.
One of the drawbacks of constantly being “on-line” with our fitness is that it causes us to be constantly comparing our numbers to previous numbers or previous sessions or previous races. Although it is always nice to achieve new highs and to reach our goals, human nature is such that we generally spend more time being disappointed in ourselves and our numbers than being truly motivated by them. Fitness should be improving us physically AND mentally and it is not good for our emotional well being to be frequently focused on what we are not achieving from minute to minute. What I am trying to get at in a round about way is that we need to “unplug” more frequently and get back to the basics. I gave up using most electronic training aids several years back and although I may not be quite where I would be with them numbers wise, I am surely enjoying my training more. Seriously, how much can you stare at a power meter on your bike? It is enough already.