Recently, I was privileged to be able to attend the Strength Matters Summit in San Diego thanks in part to my wonderful friend, mentor, and partner in crime, Molly Kieland of FUELhouse. After three days of listening to some brilliant speakers and meeting amazing people, I left with a full heart, a melting brain, and tons of information to use not only with clients, but in my own practices as well.
Throughout the weekend, we were encouraged to take a moment after each presentation to reflect on "one thing" that resonated in our minds. If you know me, you know I struggle with information overload. I love learning, I love talking about the things I've learned, and oftentimes I get so caught up in the acquisition that I forget about the actual PRACTICE. Oooops. So, instead of taking two years to write a super detailed outline of the whole weekend, (because honestly, everyone should go to the next Summit. Just do it. Really), here are the things that spoke to me the most throughout each day.
The whole weekend I marveled, for lack of a better word, at the intimacy of the whole summit. I've been to conferences with hundreds of attendees, multiple learning tracks, and while I took home a ton of information, there's something pretty cool about chilling on the floor 20 feet in front of someone you've admired in the industry for years and basically getting to have a four hour chat with cool, strong friends about how to make your people into better humans.
OPT's first talk was a four hour behemoth on effective metabolic conditioning. I've always respected his message of finding the appropriate intensity over, essentially, beating people into the ground with 45 minute metcons every day. I know good CrossFit. I come from a great CrossFit facility that's doing it right, and I'm not quiet about that (and OPT's work is a big part of why my CrossFit home was a good one) . He went in to a ton of detail on the physiology and logistics of this and we had the opportunity to test our own capacities (Yep, there were airdynes. Come to a Strength Matters Summit, they said. It'll be fun, they said. Right.)
I managed to hold a pace on the airdyne that was 65% of my peak work output for a solid two minutes before "feeling the burn" which was actually a pleasant surprise given that I've been training for strongman for the last couple of months, and I'd gotten about 7 seconds of sleep the night before.
So, I have this data. I have fancy charts for how to time intervals and pacing and rest. I have ways to test stuff now. But what was my One Thing?
It may be surprising to people who aren't deeply involved in the world of good CrossFit to hear someone like OPT talking so passionately about longevity. Not just with elite athletes, but with "normals."
Data is cool. Numbers are awesome. Intensity has a purpose. But if you haven't helped to mold a client into a person that loves fitness for the sake of FOREVER fitness, you haven't done your job. If you don't balance your high intensity intervals/heavy strength stuff with low intensity aerobic work, you're creating clients that depend on adrenaline and cortisol to function. And eventually, that'll come back to bite them - whether they consider themselves to be competitive in a sport or are simply training to feel good and maintain a healthy body composition.
So, what does it mean? It doesn't mean intensity is bad, or that pursuing elite levels of fitness is stupid and worthless. It means that we have to correct the extreme approach and find that less-sexy middle ground (sound familiar? It'll be a repeated theme over the next few posts.) Even elite athletes need to work at lower intensities within their training week - "flirting with the edge" of their maximum capacity rather than hammering their bodies into the ground day after day.
And humans absolutely cannot speed up the process at which our bodies are designed (evolutionarily) to respond to stimuli. Any movement is better than NO movement, but there are no shortcuts to fitness. Honor the long game. Embrace movements that you'll be doing past the age of 90. This means: think beyond your next strongman competition, Meghan. Do some damn 20 minute true aerobic intervals sometimes. And instead of rolling my eyes or complaining that it's boring, learn to love it for the value it brings me.
My homework today is to go for a walk. Unplugged, unloaded, connected to the ground.
Us: But, OPT, how many minutes of walking per week should we aim for?
OPT: How long? As long as you can.
There are no shortcuts. Walking is as important to health and longevity as lifting heavy weights. Improvement comes at the edge of your comfort zone, but don't neglect the middle in favor of the extremes. #OneThing