Vary Your Training to Facilitate Your Outdoor Goals. 3 Ways to Implement.

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By Melissa Sher

To make movement sustainable for a long period of time we need variety in our training. Variety helps with physiological adaptations, longevity and to maintain balanced strength. If you have a singular sport or activity you love - it calls upon training certain muscles, joints, tissues and patterns in order to perform. But only strengthening said parts in the motion of your sport will create imbalances and can even hinder your performance. Rather than saying I run, I bike, I (fill in the blank) it is easy to get pigeonholed into the language: I am a runner. I am a cyclist. I am (fill in the blank), thus creating an identity around our sport.  This can lead to the thinking that doing something else, even if it’s in the name of improvement, maybe feels like wasted time not spent on the thing you want to be better at.  Old thoughts are that to get better at a sport you should do it as much as possible: running; “I run more. Or, I run faster, or longer or in bursts.” While there are proven benefits to variations like these, goal depending, you are still just running - in the same cyclical pattern, striking your same feet, on the same spot, using the same good or bad form you might have and in the same plane.

I am an outdoor enthusiast who would pick a day in the mountains any day over a day at the gym. BUT, the gym can be a vital tool to strength and safety. Mastering movements in a controlled environment increases your adaptability to take that strength outside the gym. For example, if I train and become efficient at stepping onto a tall box and jumping off in the gym - I feel safer in my ability to step onto a rock and jump down from it while outdoors. You can spin this a million ways but the point remains: while I don’t like to think of a gym as the only place a person can achieve their movement, I do like it as a tool for better more adaptable movement as well as a space to create variety in our movement patterns.  

Here are 3 ways to implement variety into your movement routine. You can apply these to any sport or activity to enhance your strength and balance your body.

  1. Groundwork - Can you get down to and up off of the ground efficiently? I’ve seen people who can run an ultra marathon but can’t get down to the ground in any sort of efficient, painless way. Getting on and off the ground and moving around once on the ground takes your body into varying planes of motion. It also points out imbalances: Can you only sit on the ground with a rounded spine? Can you only move around by rounding your spine? In this case you are letting your spine/back do the work that your hips should be able to do, which probably speaks to how you move when you are off the ground as well. Establishing a sound ground movement practice is an awesome addition to start or end your favorite sport with.

  2. Crawling - Crawling is a non-impactful way to build core strength and stability. It also trains different neural pathways in our brains as we need to sequence our body parts in contralateral patterns and at the same time.

  3. Lifting - You don’t have to max out and follow it up with muscle juice. BUT lifting things is a part of life! We should be able to bend down and pick things up efficiently (a deadlift) or sit down (a squat). Training these muscles under appropriate load is vital to sustained strength as well as balancing strength in muscles that might get overlooked if we only did our one sport all the time.

Overall, if we think about what the activity we do the most is lacking, we can start to create a picture for the types of movements that would be best added into our routine. It might mean replacing a day on the bike with a day in the gym, but in the end, you’ll be better for it! Not sure where to start? Check out any of our Training Maps. They are great tools on their own or as supplements to your outdoor activities. Happen to live in Portland, Oregon? Come check out POINT Gym and Kitchen, owned and operated by your DHC founders!