The Athlete's Journey. Part I: The Novice
As an introduction to this 4 part series, it’s not accurate or easy to put a label on athletes/humans. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s label everyone! At times we are ALL of these and can, depending on the task, time, or skill, shift between each one. They are:
The Novice (i.e. beginner)
The Conventional (i.e. the intermediate)
The Proficient (i.e. the advanced)
The Beat-up (i.e. ‘preinjured’ or injured)
Let's begin at...uh, the beginning, with:
The beginners journey to functional fitness can be a lot:
47.56 moves to learn ("is it kipping or kipling?")
in a warehouse ("where do I park again?") &
with a group ("wait, I’m supposed to interact with people AND exercise?")
As such, it would do us a lot of good to really think and talk thru some of the aspects of this phase.
We think the beginner period could be looked at in 4 phases:
Upon starting, we receive a ton of new information. With new positions and priorities for your body to move thru, we see where we are really experienced and where we aren’t (i.e. the first full-depth air squat can be really difficult for a lot of people but for some isn’t a huge challenge. For others, hanging from the bar is a life or death scenario and for others seems doable).
There is a great, often overlooked psychological benefit here: we aren’t supposed to be good at something, or even know what to do, when we are in this phase (not just in the gym but with anything in life). We’re off the hook! It’s ok to not know…everything. Even if we come from an active/athletic background, unless we announce that to the class before hand, no one knows that or expects us to know what we are doing. What a treat!
Next comes grasping the basic principles and techniques/positions that make up the art of movement. We are beginning to drill smoother thru some of the progressions we are exposed to and can start to remember techniques we have learned from classes in the past.
In addition, we hopefully learn why it’s important to move thru these ranges of motion, the connection between a ‘gym routine’ and ‘real life’, and overall put a ‘why’ behind the ‘what’. We start to revel in the repetition we are exposed to, because it gives another chance to see if we’ve remembered and maybe progressed a bit with how positions feel.
With an understanding of basic positions, we start to appreciate the timing and coordination it really takes to produce force, move our bodies thru space & time and how, with this understanding, we can accomplish more and therefore ask our bodies to do more. In other words, we take inefficient movement and start to understand that ‘being in the right time at the right place’ will really do us some good from an efficiency standpoint as well as a safety standpoint.
This last portion has a lot to unpack. There is a misconception with exercise (as there is with many things that are worthwhile and therefore difficult) that it needs to be hard to be effective (when we say hard, we mean a high perceived rate of exertion and correlated to things like sweat, soreness, discomfort, even extremes like nausea or pain).
However, if we are trying to solidify acquisition, make sense of something and give our brains enough reps to understand patterns (another way of way 'neurological training'), do we really think that we have to make it harder...too?
Stay tuned for the answer to that question in part 1a, of this 4 part series (ok, so 5 parts)!