This post presents an overview of the FitOldDog Training Philosophy or Training Wheel, which guides you through the process of developing improved mind and body awareness before you embark on an exercise program. The goal is to learn to train safely, and thus reduce risk of exercise-induced injuries.
One of my favorite books is ‘Lord of the Rings,’ By Tolkien. This mighty tome treats the females in a strange way, placing them on a pedestal (bad idea!), but I could relate completely to most of the male characters. There are all types of males in this book (i.e. male hobbits, fairies, orcs, wizards, dwarfs, and regular men of course), heroes, cowards, evil people, simple everyday folk, and so on. I think that every one of us contains the germ of each of these character types, and life’s journey is about progression from selfish child to the quiet, unsung hero state. This is the oldest story in the world, the ‘hero myth,’ except it is no myth when it is your own life of which we speak. I have done things of which I am proud, and others of which I am ashamed. Isn’t this how we learn and grow? One character I really liked in ‘The Ring Trilogy’ was Samwise Gamgee’s gaffer (Dad) who was always full of useful sayings. However, the best quote from these books, in my opinion, was made by Pippin: “Short Cuts Make Long Delays.” I watch people taking shortcuts all the time, but they rarely succeed by cutting corners. Furthermore, such people don’t seem to learn that short cuts almost never work. This is certainly true of many people exercising, and the more dedicated they are the more regularly they suffer injuries due to their haste.
After 55 years of training and countless self-inflicted injuries I would like to propose a better system, especially for older guys who recover more slowly from injuries that are best avoided. It requires one important ingredient, patience, whether you are exercising for better health or competing seriously in endurance sports.
‘The FitOldDog Training Wheel, A Safer Approach To Exercise.’
FitOldDog training wheel. Start at the top (green for beginner) and go around clockwise, until you approach the red (danger zone), learn to cope with injuries and strains through increasing body awareness, and head for the blue as a FitOldDog.
Each component adds to the previous one and will take you along the road to becoming a FitOldDog. You skip or neglect a step at your peril. Create a new goal for each turn of the wheel, which may take days, weeks, months or years to achieve, depending on the level of challenge involved. This process will result in a gradual progression of your training goals, each level building upon the previous one, whilst avoiding the error of forgetting the basic underpinnings of safe training through repetition of each critical component. This is how my reasoning goes:
- Awareness of the state of your mind and body is essential if you want to use (and not abuse) these remarkable gifts effectively. Most of us make no effort to assess the state of our minds until we are in an emotional crisis, or our bodies unless they are injured and force us to pay attention. This is like being motivated to service your car only when it breaks down on the highway.
- Motivation is essential for action, as you will not do what you do not want to do unless forced to do so. Force is not a healthy approach to life, so find what motivates you personally and apply it to your life and training.
- Nutrition is necessary for a healthy mind and body, so feed them both on the best nutrients (wisdom, food and water) available to you, and listen to items 1 and 2 above, as once you are aware of your body’s messages you can use them to motivate you to seek out the best nutrients that it will most certainly demand.
- Skills are needed to perform any activity optimally. We are born with a wide range of skills designed for our survival on this dangerous planet. Sometimes we think too hard as adults and fail to follow available knowledge – this certainly seems to be true of running. Just compare the relaxed and free running of children with adults plodding along the road in their running gear. You will accumulate a skills tool kit, but each such tool takes time to learn or access.
- Training should begin when you (a) have some understanding of mind and body awareness, (b) know what motivates you to achieve your goal for each round of the wheel, and the nature of such motivation may evolve as you revolve, (c) know how to start feeding your mind and your body with the correct nutrients for training, and (d) have some understanding, even if it is just theoretical, of the skills that you will require to reach your goal with minimum risk of injury. This is really when you should set your first goal, be it a walker race in a nursing home, a long walk or hike, a 5k run, a long bike ride or swim, an Ironman triathlon, an ultramarathon or a race around the planet. Reflect upon what you are doing, and whether you are ready to find a coach to help you along the way, and seek out peers with whom to discuss your progress.
- Recovery skills are essential before you risk the rigors of competition, even if you are competing against the clock or your personal best time. If other people are involved the risk is greater, as competition is almost a reflex in most human beings. The desire to win can lead to injury. So beware. If through adequate training you have mastered the skills of active and passive recovery, for which a key ingredient is patience, you may be ready to test yourself against others.
- Competition provides me with the critical boost that I need to perform my best. I happen to be both competitive and goal oriented. We are each different in this regard, so adjust your approach according to your goals and aspirations. Once you do commence competition, especially if you are ‘serious about it,’ I highly recommend that you find a suitably qualified coach with whom you ‘mesh’ on a personal level in order to optimize communication. Your coach cannot react to anything that he or she does not know, so tell them everything. You and your coach will become members of a team that also includes your training partners, health care providers, Feldenkrais or other instructors, family and friends. ‘It takes a village to raise a FitOldDog.’
- Reward is an essential aspect of training, and it comes in many forms, including food, a movie, a vacation, some time off from training, an ice-cream, a subject I am not allowed to mention, a write-up in the local newspaper or a medal hanging on your wall. Rewards are very personal in nature – you’ll never guess mine – a MacDonald’s Big Mac and Large Fry, even though I have grave misgivings about the long-term consequences of the Fast Food Industry for human and non-human animals! Reward choices can be the direct consequence of nostalgia, which is true in my case. But that is another story!
- FitOldDog, here you come, and with it there are many trials, tribulations and rewards, making the journey an extremely satisfying one.
OK! Spin the wheel if you dare, and remember those long delays!