Resilient's Doug Kechijian was interviewed to contribute to a Daily Burn article about running and health. The article includes "7 Ways to Run Easier on Your Knees."
Guest Post by Joe Szymanek
You have most likely heard something along the lines that age is just a number?
Let me tell you something, and remember, I am a savage.
That’s simply not true.
Your age, and the surrounding stresses that come with adulting, need to be accounted for if you want your hard work to yield physical fruits.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you can’t push the limits of training and pursue excellence as a middle aged mover. What I am saying is you have to train smarter and live better if you want to continue making physical progress as your rotations on this rock accumulate.
A real middle aged savage isn’t a savage all the time. Instead, they establish meaningful practices, operate within realistic standards, and listen to their bodies so that they may unleash their savage set of skills when it matters most.
Establishing Meaningful Practices
The first lesson in middle aged savagery is understanding the difference between training and exercise. Exercise is ok. As much as folks in the functional fitness scene will hate on curls, machines, isolation work, and ellipticals, those are much better options than the couch.
However, exercising as described will only get you so far. Begrudgingly moving around and occasionally picking something up isn't enough to inspire the quality of movement your body desires.
Training however, marries movement to meaning. With a little passion behind your movement practice you will look for good coaching and training partners, prioritize movement quality, stick to the work when things get hard, research best practices, and make lifestyle changes outside of the gym in order to fuel progress.
To make the switch from exercising to training you need to attach a performance goal to some challenging movement task you enjoy. Then, you must test that task in a public setting.
For example I train the Sport of Weightlifting.
Going on 36 years old, Weightlifting offers me an opportunity to pursue a variety of skills and competitive experiences that also go hand and hand with being “fit.” Being a Weightlifter forces me to pursue strength, practice power, and be purposeful about my mobility.
I also train all of these habits with a specific meet in mind throughout the year. As game day approaches I begin to watch the little things around my training like sleep and nutrition.
I also use the calendar to separate training days from competition/test days. This is really important, especially with the popularity of CrossFit grabbing a hold of so many. You can’t treat every training day like it is game day.
Establishing meaningful training practices is a simple, yet often neglected habit. The recipe is a simple mix of some physical challenge that you are passionate about and a competition here and there to get you out of your comfort zone.
Operating within realistic standards.
In my younger days, I was a football player. From middle school through college that is how I identified myself. After my football career was finished I took my skill set into CrossFit and was fortunate enough to make an appearance at the CrossFit Games in the team division.
Currently, I Weightlift because I’m still relatively competitive within the sport, especially at the local and Masters level. I find it fun being in the mix competitively and believe that has as much to do with my choices as an athlete as anything else.
Leveraging your past training base and current skill set toward the pursuit of new and appropriate goals is critical.
The older you get it’s just going to be harder to find new things you’re good at. Yes, you can teach an old dog some new tricks. However, those new tricks will be developed with a diminishing physical skill set, less time to train, and more responsibilities away from the gym.
This is often a tough pill for many to swallow and requires a mature level of self awareness. Folks seem to want to attempt performance feats in defiance of their lifestyle. As a middle aged savage you must operate within the constraints of your lifestyle. Simply put, if you do not have the time to learn a new skill you are better off cherry picking a task that suits your current skill set.
A middle aged savage can’t be delusional about their abilities. The further you stray from your training base and past movement experiences you must curb your expectations, set aside time for skill acquisition, and understand your place in the competitive landscape. Doing so will help you form realistic expectations of your movement pursuit and help you develop appropriate goals.
Listening to your body.
Your body is always speaking to you. A middle aged savage needs to listen and use that information to tiptoe around and test their training limits. Brutishly sprinting into training danger only leads to injury, and a good middle aged savage avoids injury at all costs.
Pain is just one language that our body uses to communicate its training readiness. Ignoring, masking, and pushing through pain is often celebrated. However, it has a high likelihood of leading to injury.
Instead, you should listen, explore, and respect the pain signals your body is communicating. I am constantly assessing training in terms of movement and programming to address pain triggers.
You must also understand that when tiptoeing and testing your training limits that slips will occur. The difference between slips and injury is that you can adjust training when slips happen. Inversely, injuries require substantial time off, maybe a session with Resilient, surgery, and the pursuit of new practices all together.
A slip in training should also be looked at as an opportunity, never a set back. Slips mean that it is simply time to take the information your body is providing and then pivot your training approach.
Also, one of the worst things you can do when experiencing slips in training is nothing. Yes, taking three weeks off will make you feel better. However, you are essentially de-conditioning yourself and creating the perfect storm for a more serious injury.
This is a very grey, and an important lesson so let me clarify it with a recent training slip of my own.
Like many folks I recently experienced a low back slip. Unlike many, I was fortunate enough to get it on tape, I mean video! Remember I’m middle aged! Check it out:
To provide a little context, I had just come off an intense 3 month training cycle, performed well at a meet, and did a good bit of traveling yet wanted to continue riding the gain wave.
I could have exacerbated the issue and pushed through the pain to continue the training cycle. Another terrible option would have been doing nothing at all.
Instead I took the clues my body was providing and pivoted my training for a few weeks. I replaced barbell variations with kettlebell work. Deadlifts turned into swings, clean and jerks became get ups, and presses turned into arm bars. I didn’t stop strength training, I worked on a different kind of strength.
Also, to make sure I did not lose my barbell capacity I kept my toe in the Weightlifting pool with partial barbell movements that focused on skill, not load. One example of this was the incorporation of the drop snatch into my training regime instead of full snatches.
Instead of letting a scratch fester and my mind fall into a false sense of security by doing nothing at all I modified my training so I could get back to the barbell. I also listened to what my pain was telling me and took it as an opportunity to refine skills, solidifying positions, and experience some contrast in training. What many folks may have seen as training set back became an opportunity to freshen things up.
Too often we pursue means to mask and hide pain when what we really need to do is embrace it.
Experiencing an injury while training is not a badge of honor. Its stupidity. Listening to your body is essential if you want to avoid the ladder and unleash your savagery in all of its glory.
William Wallace once said, well, Mel Gibson as William Wallace once said, “I never lie, but I am a savage.” He also showed just how smart he was by saying it in multiple languages.
Don’t lie to yourself about your abilities. As brutal a savage as any man, or women is, they must also operate with a level of intelligence to truly express their savagery over the long haul.
Sacrificing your livelihood for training doesn’t make a great deal of sense. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense to play it safe and forgo the pleasures associated with trying new things, and challenging your mind, body, and spirit.
In my opinion, applying a healthy dose of meaning to your training, being self awareness about the type of athlete you are, and trusting the pain clues your body is leaving are all critical characteristics of a good middle aged savage.
The idea isn’t training like a savage all the time. Instead, one must conservatively hone and utilize their skills in training so that they can unleashing their savage gifts in the proper setting.
Joe is the head coach at Joe’s Barbell and Co-Host of the Doc and Jock Podcast. To read his most popular articles, listen to relevant podcasts, check out his YouTube Channel and try out the full 6 week training template described briefly in this article click here.
By Doug Kechijian
It is uncontroversial at this point to suggest that manual therapy doesn’t “work” for the reasons many of us have been taught. Muscles and joints aren’t so malleable that any manual therapy technique is capable of inducing immediate and lasting histological changes. Manual therapy can improve mobility, desensitize provocative movements, and alter one’s experience with pain. Manual therapy does seem to change something (sometimes), just not tissues. The research in this area is pretty definitive and futile are further efforts to legitimize manual therapy with explanations that are solely tissue centric. Additionally, while manual therapy appears to “do something” the effects are often either non-specific or experimental designs are unable to tease out specific effects.
That the mechanisms and specificity (or lack thereof) of manual therapy are not fully understood does not justify the anti-manual therapy backlash that is being perpetuated in some physio circles. To be sure, physios who perform manual interventions shouldn’t deceive patients into embracing theoretically implausible explanations to justify a particular technique. Additionally, every effort should be made to maximize a patient’s self-efficacy and reduce dependency on the practitioner. Nevertheless, manual therapy, when responsibly applied, need not promote psychological fragility or enslave patients to their providers. Paradoxically, some of the same people who vehemently oppose manual therapy for the helplessness it allegedly perpetuates are adamant about the robustness and adaptability of anatomical structures. Why must the spine be more resilient than the psyche? Demonizing manual therapy in this way promotes a false dichotomy between passive and active treatments.
Is it inconceivable that non-threatening therapeutic touch might allow a patient to return to the things he/she enjoys even in the absence of any other interventions? Self-efficacy is generally preferable to passive treatment but some patients aren’t interested in altering their behaviors. They shouldn’t be patronized about the importance of finding more time to help themselves. Some people’s professional and personal demands are overwhelmingly extensive. They might have neither the time nor the desire to implement self-care strategies outside of the treatment session. Periodic manual therapy might make them “feel” better while improving objective tests. Of course every patient is unique but these people don’t necessarily turn into helpless wrecks after they receive passive treatments. Instead, many of them return to assuming an incredible degree of responsibility in their personal and professional lives.
Other people prefer to be educated about movement and lifestyle modifications and don’t tolerate manual therapy nearly as well, particularly chronic pain sufferers who have been through the medical ringer. What “works” for a high level athlete or busy executive might be calamitous to somebody else, which is why we can’t generalize best practice from specific subgroups. Moreover, not every patient within a particular subgroup is identical. One can appreciate data collected across broader populations while also refining the plan of care for individual patients. Unapologetically embracing n of 1 need not render one dismissive of research or “evidence” to which it is often fallaciously referred. Published research is not the same as DNA or fingerprints at a crime scene, though what is known empirically about a particular phenomenon generally provides a solid cardinal direction when leaving port for clinical waters. However, burying one’s head in a compass does not ensure safe arrival at the destination. The implication that manual therapy is generally synonymous with defeat or disempowerment is intellectually dishonest.
Moreover, assuming an identical outcome, why is a “non-specific” manual intervention less legitimate or virtuous than a “specific” non-manual intervention provided the former is acknowledged as such? What if the non-specific intervention yields superior objective and subjective outcomes? These scenarios are completely plausible, ones that physios who overly fixate on mechanisms rarely discuss. What medical professions achieve clinical success solely via specific effects? Even many of the benefits associated with exercise are non-specific. So what? Exercise probably yields the greatest overall health rewards at the lowest risk regardless of the mechanisms involved. Puritanical and impractical is the notion that all physio treatments must achieve some utopian level of specificity and self-efficacy. Fortunately, the specific/non-specific dichotomy posed here is abstract and not an either/or clinical decision.
Some physios are emotionally and commercially invested in manual therapy nihilism. The identity of other physios is contingent upon “fixing” patients with their own hands. Neither position advances the profession. Outpatient physio has become too compartmentalized. Physios discredit themselves when they inquire about providers in a particular geographical region that are certified in a certain continuing education model or singular intervention. This type of tribalism is becoming all too pervasive and undermines the profession because it equates acronyms and tools, including manual therapy, with proficiency. Physios should demonstrate competence in every academic and clinical domain pertinent to the population they treat. Medicine is not lacking manual therapy specialists or manual therapy deniers. Specialization is not warranted in outpatient physio as it is in some surgical fields. But for the emotional and political cliff from which they hang, professions that define themselves by specific tools like manual therapy, spinal manipulation, or penetrating the skin with medication-free needles are obsolete.
Manual therapy can be ego driven. It can provide a theatrical platform for a practitioner to display his/her skill. Conversely, manual therapy opposition can be self-promoting pontification in disguise. Intransigence is typically maladaptive when so many variables influence an outcome. Not all statements deserve to be met with an open mind, however. Everything can matter to the point that nothing does. Often though, ego and the seduction of certainty confound the knowledge and context through which claims about manual therapy should be filtered. Anti-tribalism and diversity of thought allow for a more authentic filter.
Manual therapy is just another way to baby step.
Dr. Russ Roberts is the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at Standford University's Hoover Institution.
Roberts hosts the weekly podcast EconTalk--hour-long conversations with authors, and thought leaders in economics and beyond. Past guests include Milton Friedman, Thomas Piketty, Nassim Taleb, Michael Lewis, Christopher Hitchens and Marc Andreessen. Over 570 episodes are available at EconTalk.org and on iTunes at no charge.
His latest project is "It's a Wonderful Loaf," an animated poem about emergent order and markets.
His two rap videos on the ideas of John Maynard Keynes and F.A. Hayek, created with filmmaker John Papola, have had more than nine million views on YouTube, been subtitled in eleven languages, and are used in high school and college classrooms around the world.
His latest book is How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness (Portfolio/Penguin 2014). It takes the lessons from Adam Smith's little-known masterpiece, The Theory of Moral Sentiments and applies them to modern life.
He is also the author of three economic novels teaching economic lessons and ideas through fiction. The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity (Princeton University Press, 2008) tells the story of wealth creation and the unseen forces around us creating and sustaining economic opportunity. The Invisible Heart: An Economic Romance (MIT Press, 2002) looks at corporate responsibility and a wide array of policy issues including anti-poverty programs, consumer protection, and the morality of the marketplace. His first book, The Choice: A Fable of Free Trade and Protectionism (Prentice Hall, 3rd edition, 2006) is on international trade policy and the human consequences of international trade. It was named one of the top ten books of 1994 by Business Week and one of the best books of 1994 by the Financial Times.
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