I’ve worked with myriad types of people from 50 somthings getting into the best shape of their lives to professional athletes in their early twenties. With both populations, and everything in between, I have observed a way of thinking and acting that holds people back from performing at their best and/or experiencing fitness in a sustainable, enjoyable, and effective way. I am not sure what one would call this, but it is something like “fitness tunnel vision”.
In the lens we have “the thing” that people are focused on and want to improve. In my line of work, it is fitness, in whatever form that may be for each individual. So, when people think of increasing their fitness, all of their focus goes into the things that most look like fitness. For a more clear example, if someone wants to get stronger, their mind automatically goes to more strength training as the answer.
What often happens is that people tend to focus on the training as “the thing” that will solely move their progress forward. People get tunnel vision towards their training and soon enough nothing else matters besides what happens in the gym. They might do extra reps, extra sets, or even extra days of strength training. Everything outside of that lens of focus gets ignored or pushed to the side.
What I hope to bring to light is that this does not serve us as whole people. Fitness, and strength, do not exist in a vacuum. To move this toward an analogy I’ll use the saying that, “It takes a whole community to raise a child”. In this example fitness is the child (What we want to grow), and community is all the things that we do to increase strength (the support). Sure, we need strength training to be part of "the community” but it is only part of the community, not the whole thing.
With most people that I work with, at the beginning of our work together they have this fitness tunnel vision. “I want to get stronger, so what should my training look like?” What is not yet in their lens is all of the other things that can be changed to improve their strength such as increased sleep, increased calories, increased range of motion, increased water intake, increased rest, appropriate programming, etc. When we zoom out our lens of focus we can see that there are a lot of other things we can focus on to improve our strength and/or fitness.
This fitness tunnel vision is so strong that people are willing to do “Fran” or similar really painful training 5 days a week, but they are not willing to put up with the comparably small level of discomfort involved with dialling in their lifestyle or nutrition. What takes more energy and includes more discomfort? Adding extra reps/sets/intensity/training sessions vs. eating two extra eggs, a full avocado a day, eating vegetables, drinking water, or turning off Netflix and getting adequate hours of sleep.
From the viewpoint of a coach, often times this over-focus on intensity and the training alone kind of looks like someone painting the front of a house when the backside of the house is on fire, or continuing trying to run through a brick wall, instead of stopping, thinking and building a ladder instead.
So, for anyone out there trying to improve their strength or fitness in general, what I’d urge you to do before adding more training, weight, or intensity, consider widening your fitness lens to include more than just the training. The training is only one part of the puzzle. If you need something quantitative to create the cognitive dissonance needed to make a change, try ranking your level of proficiency in each of the following domains. How balanced would your scores be?
Sleep Quality/Duration: 6/10
Stress Control: 7/10:
Using Jimmy as an example, if he wants to get really strong, where do you think he is going to get the most bang for his buck in terms of where to put his time and energy? Is there any value in upping his strength training to a 10/10, when his mobility is still at a 2, and his nutrition is at a 4? It may not even be possible to reach a 10/10 until his lifestyle improves. I would argue that he’ll get much more meaningful and lasting results by keeping his training where it is (or even decreasing it), and spending that extra time on eating properly and increasing his range of motion?
Something to think about…
If you feel like you or anyone you might know need help fitting all the pieces of the puzzle together to support your goals, shoot me a message and we can talk about moving forward. But, act fast, I only have 4 spots open for remote coaching.