Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Survival of the Fittest? Not....really.....

So last week I was at the Ritz Carlton enjoying a respite from my daily grind and playing with all of the new and fancy workout equipment in the hotel gym. I did yoga and pilates, went for some good runs, did some nice heavy lifting, and generally took advantage of having a lot of time to myself.

And when I wasn't working out, I attended a conference for work where I sat in meeting rooms and listened to consultants, nodding appreciatively at their wisdom and taking copious notes like the good teacher's pet that I am. Except for a few general sessions, in which I doodled a plan for the next morning's back/tricep/hamstring workout.

As you probably know, every PowerPoint presentation worth its salt these days has at least a few good motivational quotes thrown in to make the consultant look smart. And you know I love me some motivational quotes! But when I saw an old Darwin standard, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change,” the rusty old gears in my head started to lurch and groan. I immediately started thinking about cross-training.

I've always maintained that a key to fitness is consistent variety. Going for the same run every day, doing the same weight routine, or even doing the same types of exercise day in and day out are great for the biological clock, but not so much for achieving total fitness. Our bodies are so adaptable that after just a few days or weeks, what was once challenging becomes easy. Some might see this is a light at the end of the tunnel, but in my eyes it is more like a dead-end. When your body adapts, it doesn't work as hard. When it doesn't work as hard, it doesn't change. When it doesn't change, well, it stays the same. I don't know many people who work out because they want to stay the same. Even people in maintenance strive to improve.

So, I cross-train. Some days I do some moderate elliptical cardio and heavy weights, others I do sprint intervals and lighter weights. Some days I get on the bike, and then follow up with Pilates at lunch. Sometimes I want to go for a nice long run, other days I need to stretch and work on plyometrics. I'm deliberate in my spontaneity, but try to keep my body guessing a little bit.

So, I might challenge Darwin that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives, but the one that is the least adaptable to change. By adapting too quickly, we atrophy. By maintaining a constant state of muscle confusion, we grow.

Now naturally, I am applying this coffee-house logic to one tiny aspect of life - the gym. But I know for sure that I do not want my body to become adaptable to change. As soon as it starts expecting it, I'm in trouble.

I'm not always perfect at this; I have my favorite workouts and am a creature of habit. I like my routine and enjoy knowing what to expect from the day. Ritualistic exercise can be therapeutic, and I know plenty of people who's days cannot start until they have completed that ritualistic run. But while we may have a specific block of time set aside for exercise, I challenge us to fill it with something different each day. Don't adapt, don't look for opportunities to make exercises easier. Stay in that challenging zone as long as you can to remind your body that sometimes, being unfit has its advantages.

Have a healthy week!

No comments: