A few years ago I was swimming some laps at the local pool. I saw an old friend from high school and he was looking at me like I was crazy for getting into the lap lane. He asked, "what the heck you doing here, you training for something?" My response was this: "Yea I am training for something, I am training for life". He laughed and said "I like that man, that's a good answer." I don't necessarily know what that means but it worked that day!
Training for life could mean a variety of things, but to me, it is being able to do anything physically that you set out to do. It is being able to do things without restriction or limitation. It is about being able to accomplish anything you want to do. Now, "there are many roads that lead to Rome" so it doesn't matter what we set out to do. What DOES matters is that we put ourselves in a position to accomplish anything physically or mentally. Our approach is the determining factor on whether we can or cannot do. Once we make a decision on what we want to accomplish (within reason) there are a few questions to ask yourself:
Question #1: Is this safe?
First and foremost, your safety and your health is the only thing that validates the training you are about to embark on. You can run all the miles or lift all the weights but if you can't walk down the stairs without feel a little pain here or a little pain there, then you are not getting it done properly. You are not healthy if you experience pain. Being able to move without restriction or limitation is what being healthy is all about. Training for life is about doing everything in your power to stay healthy. You can't train if you're not healthy.
Question #2: Is this structurally sound?
Now once you begin the planning, you understand what Point B is. This is your final goal. That is the easy part to figure out. The hard part is being honest about Point A. If your goal is to run a marathon in 3 months but you currently struggle to run 2 miles, you are setting yourself up for failure. Take a look in the mirror and err on the side of caution when structuring your training program. You want to be able to complete every training session, start "easy" and slowly progress it along the way.
Question #3: What are we accomplishing by doing this?
There is always a risk vs. reward when making a decision. Is our training effecting my health? Is it effecting my work life? My family life? All of that stuff that occurs outside of the training session. You might accomplish your goal but at what cost? There is going to be some times when you're going to ask yourself, "what the heck am I doing all this for?" If you aren't able to answer that then I recommend a new goal! Does the risk outweigh the reward? Keep that in mind as you progress through your training!
Question #4: Do we understand the training and what the residual effects are?
In training, it is impossible to go hard every single day. Well, I guess it is possible but it is also pretty reckless and potentially damaging to the body. Training sessions break the body down. If your body is not able to repair itself, the cumulative effects of this will eventually catch up to you. Some of you know what I am talking about. It is imperative to listen to your body and know when to crank it up and when to back it down. It is important to "cash in" on those days when you are feeling like a champ but you also need to make sure your recovery matches your effort. High effort recovery needs to correlate with high effort training. Lastly, you need to understand that some days you will not have your "A" game. On days like this, take it home and call it a day, Everything you do outside of training will effect your training. Your nutrition, sleep, stress levels, self-esteem, etc.
If you can ask, and answer, these four questions honestly, then you will be able to successfully train for life. The end goal is not the most important, remember, there are "many roads that lead to Rome". Whichever "road" you may choose, choose wisely and remember these four questions!
Chris is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association. He has recently served as a high school football and wrestling coach. Chris loves swinging kettlebells around, watching football and reading books!