Reconstruct vs Reinforce

Property Brothers

You know when you start getting old because you wear sneakers with jeans and your t-shirt tucked in, check the weather at least twice daily (as if it’s ever accurate here in Seattle) and watch HGTV with your significant other, judging every couple on House Hunters and Property Brothers. Not that this is my life, but there’s this guy I know… Anyway, you’ll often hear the realtor comment on a home having “good bones,” meaning its foundation and structure are solid. Often this observation is made as a way to place a positive spin on a location that might be lacking appeal cosmetically. I think we can all agree that a great paint job might mask internal issues within a house and would rather choose a home with a “good bones” and great plumbing/electrical over a place with new shutters that don’t shut and new first floor drywall to soak up the leak from the toilet on the second floor. After all, most of the cosmetic fixes are simple and less expensive, and require less assistance if any from technically skilled professionals. When a home has weak bones and poor plumbing/electrical, it’s time to rebuild it, rather than reinforce existing structure, or redesign it cosmetically. Also, this is probably a job best left to a qualified/certified professional. Your human body is no different.

Foundation & “Bones” = Strength & Capacity

Cosmetic Features = Beach Muscles

Electrical = Movement Quality

Plumbing = Nutrition

What happens to even the strongest structural beam (strong legs) when there’s an electrical fire (poor movement quality)? It burns, sometimes all the way to the ground. What happens to the new chandelier (sexy beach muscles) when the ceiling around it rots away from a leaky pipe (poor nutrition)? It probably crashes to the floor. What happens to your abs (cosmetic features) when you can’t train because your low back (foundation) is pulled due to inability to stabilize your core (faulty electrical)? They likely get mushy like the ceiling around your chandelier.

In training, much like in the world of home ownership, there is a time to reinforce and a time to reconstruct. Heck, there’s even a time to buy new but let’s not make that our goal just yet. Be sure to keep these priorities in order or you’ll pay the price twofold later. Move and eat with quality first. Train to create a solid foundation of strength second. Only once these two objectives are met have you earned the right to paint an accent wall and tack up the crown molding.

Feel free to reinforce and redesign areas of your body not negatively impacted by movement dysfunction while reconstructing the faulty movement pattern. In other words, train appropriately within your abilities while working to expand them. You don’t always need to build from the ground up. Also, keep in mind that the more technical the fix, the smarter it is to involve a qualified professional.

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Athlete Input – Where Your Bread is Buttered

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Goal oriented processes are driven by a series of inputs and outputs. These two variables are assessed and adjusted throughout the process until achieving the desired end state. Let’s say you wanted to make toast. The inputs might include a couple slices of Wonder Bread and the heat needed to toast them. Several devices exist to generate that heat and each has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on the properties of the bread involved. You place the bread in the toaster and when it pops, you observe that it hasn’t yet toasted to its potential. As the chef (or food coach) in this scenario you make an expert decision based on this premature output to toast the bread for another minute. Upon their subsequent leap from the toaster the slices of bread have reached a golden brown and are begging to be buttered.

Now that you’ve mastered the culinary art of toasting Wonder Bread, let’s take on Texas Toast. Relying on the same system and device used on the Wonder Bread, you cram the thick slices of Texas Toast into that same old school toaster. After a few minutes you hear the springs pop but the bread doesn’t surface. Damn… It’s stuck. Now you need to extract it (preferably without a metal utensil). You eventually wrestle it out of the toaster, only to have created four mangled slices of bread instead of the original two. It’s going to take a colossal amount of butter to cover up your breakfast disaster. Frustrated with the result, you toss the Texas sized toast and return to your Wonder Bread niche. 

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Now that I’ve exhausted my cooking knowledge and made my dietitian friends shake their heads and roll their eyes, let’s connect this incredible culinary tale to strength and conditioning. Training should be a goal oriented process driven by a series of inputs and outputs, continuously assessed and adjusted by the coach until the athlete’s desired end state is achieved. The unique nature of each input and output must be appreciated along the way to be successful. Infinite input considerations exist such as technical ability, physical capacity, nutrition, training, sleep, exercise selection, and the list goes on and on. Various results typically dominate output. Some of these are acute and some of them are delayed, with the intent to eventually arrive at the athlete’s goal (the ultimate output).

What happens when a coach ignores inputs? More importantly, what happens when a coach ignores the two most important initial inputs – athlete assessment and athlete goals? In a best case scenario the athlete wastes time and experiences sub par performance results. In a worst case scenario the athlete suffers an injury due to inappropriate training inputs. Either way, the coach has displayed an ignorant disregard for what should be the primary source of programming inputs – the athlete. 

Coaches – Create a program based on what an athlete brings to the table (assess!) and what type of delicious meal he or she ultimately desires to feast on (the goal!). Do not force feed them.

Athletes – If your coach does not assess (and reassess) you and program your training with both your abilities and goals in mind, find yourself a new coach. Dine on gourmet toast instead of choking down some lazy chef’s Wonder Bread.