gives us the power to rise.
I remember a story that I heard as a young boy which has stuck with me over the years. I was fascinated by the story and the possibilities it presented me. It went something like this...
The farmer's young son came to him and said, "Daddy, I would like to be strong like you when I grow up. How can I be as strong as you?"
The farmer, in his wisdom, told his son that one day he would be strong but that right now, it was more important to concentrate on the work at hand.
That same night, a calf was born in the barn. The farmer told his son that it could be his calf but that he would be responsible for taking care of it. The boy was ecstatic. His very own calf!
The farmer explained to his son that if he wanted this calf to be gentle and friendly, he would have to treat him nicely and tend to all of his needs. "It is very important that everyday you pick up the calf and carry him out to pasture. And at the end of the day, you must pick him up and carry him back to the barn."
"Why?" asked the little boy.
"Oh," replied the farmer. "It will make him as friendly as can be."
So everyday, just like his father had told him, the little boy would pick up the calf and carry him to pasture and in the evening he would carry him back to the barn. The little boy never missed a day.
As the boy grew older, so did the calf. That calf became a bull and the little boy became a man. He was a man who was strong like his father. He was a man who could carry a full grown bull!
And all the boy had ever done was, each day, tend to the work at hand.
There are so many philosophies of exercise and training within the fitness industry. Trying to sort through them can become overwhelming, even paralyzing. Where should you begin and what will work best for you? When it gets to this point, it is always best to let science guide you. Science has uncovered several principles which need to be incorporated into any training philosophy if optimum results are desired. Some refer to these principles as the "Granddaddy Laws" of training. One of these laws is the "Overload Principle".
The Overload Principle states that our body must exercise against a greater resistance or stress than it used to in order to change. This means that if we want to get stronger, bigger or increase our endurance, we need to do more then we normally do. Our body adapts to the stimuli it is exposed to. If the stimuli stays the same, then our body does not need to adapt. But as stimuli changes, our body begins to adapt in order to handle the new stimuli. Applied to fitness principles, this means that if we do the same workout everyday with the same amount of intensity and the same amount of resistance, then our body will stay the same and we will not improve beyond the point at which our body has already adapted. But if we require more of our body, it will adapt and allow us to do more.
Let's look at how this works in the areas of strength and endurance.
If your interest is in getting stronger, then you will need to progressively add more weight to your workout routines. "More weight" means either moving more weight per rep, more weight per set or more weight within a particular time frame. To achieve maximum strength you would actually use a combination of all three methods but we will look at a simplified method here.
Let's say you desire stronger arms. Your emphasis would be placed on your biceps and triceps muscles. For your biceps, your major exercise is the standing biceps curl. Assume you can perform 3 sets of 10 reps at 65 pounds. Now, see if you can complete two or more additional reps in the third set for two consecutive workouts (2 sets of 10 and 1 set of 12). Once you can do this it is time to increase the load. Add 5 pounds to the bar and use this weight until you can achieve the above requirements for two more consecutive workouts. You will then follow the same format for your triceps. Continue to increase your poundage and watch your strength grow! Your muscles are adapting in order to meet these higher demands.
If you are interested in increasing your endurance it is necessary to continually increase your exercise duration and intensity. I had a 53 year old female client come to me that wanted to run in her first half marathon. After several months of self-training, she could not push past the three mile mark. I discovered that she was training the same way, at the same intensity and at the same duration everyday. She needed a change. She needed to increase resistance. I put together a program for her that pushed her a bit further each day by alternately increasing her speed and duration. She was able to run a ten minute pace so I started by increasing her pace by two tenths of a mile for a period of thirty minutes. After several small pace increases, I would increase her duration by 5 minutes at her new pace. After several cycles of this her body was handling it very well. Her heart was getting stronger and her lung capacity was growing. After only six weeks of training this way, she completed the half marathon and did it in a time of 2 hours and 43 minutes. That's a 12.5 minute pace! Her body adapted to the higher demands she was subjecting it to.
This principle also applies in reverse. When we begin to require less of our body, we begin to weaken, lose energy and put on fat pounds. This means that in order to stay healthy and to not move backwards, we need to actively keep requiring more of our body.
What about the farmer's son? There is a lesson to be learned from him. He could have never possibly carried a bull on the day his calf was born. But he could carry a calf. And he did. He carried him everyday. And everyday, as the calf grew, the boy was carrying more weight. Not a lot more weight. Just a little bit more each day, until finally, he could carry a full grown bull! He achieved what he wanted...to become strong, like his dad.
Start with what you know you can do. And then if you commit yourself to simply performing the task at hand each day and are diligent about continually increasing it just slightly, then you too can achieve great things! It's a process and it takes time and effort. But in the end, it is worth every bit of it!
Don't be afraid to Overload,