Specialized Training or Abilities
Now, let’s look at the top of the performance pyramid – special abilities. This should be the icing on top of the cake, but instead is the starting and ending point for many people.
What I mean by special abilities is a singular focus on one physical quality such as strength, or a program of sport-specific or occupational specific movements. The human body can be trained to do some amazing and very unique things. Some of these abilities are more along the lines of developing a certain physical quality to the max, such as sprinting 100m as fast as possible or running a marathon. Others are more highly developed skills – think professional golfer or circus performer.
By nature, a very narrow focus on certain abilities requires an imbalanced approach. It often takes an incredible focus of time and energy to get great at something, and this leaves little left to train toward being well-rounded. Now, this doesn’t need to be a big problem if specific work is done to minimize imbalances and you have your foundation in order.
If you’ve followed this series to this point, it should be pretty apparent why special abilities should be the top of the pyramid. If you are hormonally balanced and your nervous system is responding well, if you sleep well and digest food well, then you will respond to and benefit from a lot of special training. If you move well and have proper mobility in your joints, you’ll also respond better and be far less likely to injure yourself doing special training. The flip side is that if you don’t have these things in order, you will get sub-par results and might even make yourself less healthy.
Most folks today try to get fit by doing a sport – becoming an endurance athlete, or doing some form of bodybuilding, or maybe playing a sport. It’s easy to see why – specialized programs are offered everywhere and often bring with them a like-minded community. Also, most folks – even some trainers – still tend to think of the body as a collection of parts that need to be trained, and the more fatigue you can create, the better.
Many issues can crop up if someone only focuses on specialty activities. You may make compensated movement patterns worse. You may create new ones by overusing unusual sporting movements. If your body is already in survival mode hormonally, you might make things worse.
Another example: If a child begins specializing in a sport at too early of an age, they never develop basic athleticism and ironically limit how good of an athlete they eventually can become. Also, overuse injuries show up much earlier in a career due to this early specialization.
What if you are an athlete or deep into training and realize your foundation is not in order? I wouldn’t suggest you stop your sport, but make a bigger priority to focus on fixing your foundation if it’s not in order. Even if this means less time spent on direct sport training, you’ll be a better and more resilient athlete in the long run.
So, specialization or doing a sport is great, just make sure the lower tiers of your foundation are in order if you expect to reach your individual potential or have good health and longevity.
Now, let’s wrap this all up and outline a basic plan and checklist to get your foundation in order.
If you’ve followed this far, it should be fairly apparent what you need to focus on. To streamline this process, I am going to wrap up this series with a series of checklists and from there you can create some potential action points.
This is not an exhaustive list in each area, but it does give a very good starting point. I have written on many of these points in the past, so refer back to some prior writings for more information or I am happy to give you some other resources if you like.
Level 1 checklist – functioning as a human:
Do you get 8 hrs or more sleep consistently? Do you fall asleep easily and stay asleep thru the night? Do you wake refreshed (but not wired) in the morning?
Do you eat on a regular schedule? Do you frequently skip or miss meals, or eat very lightly?
Do you eat enough overall?
Do you have daily time for relaxation or unstructured fun?
Do you get outdoors nearly every day for at least 20 minutes?
Do you have a relatively low mental/emotional stress level in your life?
Do you have a balance of Parasympathetic state inducing activities to balance all the sympathetic stuff?
Assess yourself and implement the needed changes over time!
Level 2 – moving as the body is designed to:
Can you move each joint thru it’s full range of motion without compensations?
Do you perform at least a short joint & mobility maintenance program daily?
Does what you do for exercise have you move thru many different movement patterns, or does it focus only on high repetition of a simplistic pattern or patterns?
Do you have a plan to address your personal mobility or stability issues or are you working with someone to help you?
Can you breathe diaphragmatically at rest? What about in a wide range of positions?
Level 3 – special abilities:
If you’ve got the foundations set, then build on it!