How to Setup a DIY Fitness Plan For a Broad Range of Goals – Training Q+A

posted in: Lifestyle Design, Q+A, Uncategorized | 8

QUESTION:

Hello John, Thank you for your site. It is a tremendous resource. After years of running and swimming regularly (a few pull ups and push ups mixed in) but without any sort of training strategy, I’ve become more deliberate about my “physical living” over the past several months. Bodyweight training has figured prominently in this shift, as it aligns with my lifestyle and physical goals. Gyms don’t let you bring the dog along, or provide sunshine! I’ve collected a few tools along the way to add variety- a rope for climbing, homemade parallettes and adjustable straps, a timer for HIIT sprints, a sledge hammer, jump rope, sand bag, pull up bar, and balance ball. I’m learning more about the work of individuals such as Steve Maxwell and Scott Sonnon. Also, I’ve just started Intuflow.

I appreciate your emphasis on tailoring workouts to individuals. My training goals are oriented towards long term physical health. Though the idea of sophisticating movements is very appealing to me, I seek general preparedness for activities like hiking and surfing. Given these generalist tendencies, and my desire for variety and the ability to alter workouts due to weather conditions, daily schedule etc., I don’t think programs like the 4×7, prescribed workouts of the day, or alternating complementary cycles are for me. At the same time, I don’t want variety to descend into randomness.

It is difficult for a novice to wade through the sometimes heated disagreements between proponents of different training strategies. For elite athletes, the consequences of poor training can be serious and severe, but it is hard to know how and whether these arguments truly apply to someone with my goals. Since I am coaching myself, I lean towards safety, and do not push my limits in the way that an elite athlete might. I am willing to work hard, hoping to work smart, and interested in sophisticating my skills. Many programs intensely focused on maximizing particular results, however, don’t fit me too well.

I wonder whether you might provide some general training guidelines for someone in my situation. I don’t want random variety without any direction or deliberation, but I like the ability to just go on a nice run in the woods when it fits the weather or my mental state. I realize my question may eventually lead to a more intense engagement with the CST system (ideas of compensation and functional opposites), but in the meantime, are there some guidelines I can follow to fit balance variation with the desire to train safely and progress over time?

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
James

ANSWER:

James,

What I’m hearing is that you want a more structured plan for general health that you can do yourself, but also something specific that will help you enjoy hiking, surfing, and all of life’s pleasures.

Circular Strength Training (CST) was designed for maximizing the conditioning process for peaking towards specific training goals, and this is exactly what the 4×7 program was created for. It works within that framework because of the law of Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID), meaning that we only adapt specifically to those activities in which we subject ourselves to. It’s a perfect approach for athletes or people who have very clear goals (and everyone should, in my opinion – even if your goal is just “better health and fitness,” why not refine that so that you can measure it and know when you’ve met a landmark goal? Then you have a clear path towards getting what you desire.).

Even though CST programs were created to serve a very specific conditioning purpose, they can be adapted upon and used for general fitness goals if you intend of truly making a lifestyle out of your physical practice for the long haul. This is actually why I think CST would be an excellent fit for you. You don’t seem to be in a hurry, and you’re ready to make this into a lifestyle and that’s where CST excels. It’s not a quick-fix method in the least.

For instance, you’ve made a great choice in beginning with Scott Sonnon’s Intu-Flow joint mobility program. That’s probably the single best thing you can be doing for your goals, and it’s going to especially help you get the most enjoyment out of your hiking and surfing. Intu-Flow is comprehensive, in that, it’s like an encyclopedia of human movement. Therefore, it can be used as a reference manual of sorts for assigning specific movements for specific goals (like drills to improve the shoulder mobility of kettlebell lifters or baseball pitchers). BUT, if you apply the Intu-Flow program as a whole, you are using it essentially for general fitness purposes (even though you’re adapting specifically to the imposed demands, it’s also contributing to your overall health, fitness, and sense of well being). Many of the CST programs can be adapted in this way. Although they were each created to serve a very specific purpose, they can be adapted to serving a broader range of purposes.

The upcoming TACFIT program is a perfect example. This was created specifically to cater to the needs of special forces units (such as having access to minimal or no equipment) and the conditioning they require (tactical-specific movements). But that doesn’t mean people won’t use TACFIT Commando quite successfully to lose fat, build muscle, build mental toughness, or any other general fitness goal. Even thouth the marketing will have you believe that it’s hands off for us mere mortals and reserved exclusively for the best of the best, it can be used for many training goals because it’s scalable. That’s another reason why CST resonates so well with me: it has movement sophistication built-in to all of the programs. So, even if you’re not an elite athlete or special forces personnel, you can still begin a program like TACFIT at the recruit level – it’s relevant for beginners and experts alike because difficulty levels are programmed in.

My advice for you

For you personally, I would recommend you make it a daily habit to go through a full Intu-Flow session, and especially to include the Four Corner Balance drill (demo here). The 4CBD will help better prepare your legs for hiking along with help them recover from the rigors of hiking. It’s a balance of strength and surrender. This will also help immensely with your surfing for the same reasons.

When deciding on a strength training program to pursue, ask yourself, “what will I enjoy?” and then invest in that. Unless you’re planning extended backpacking trips or long surf tours, there’s not much reason to specialize in strength training for those activities. I don’t get the impression that you’re doing these activities for competition, but for pleasure. So, leave it at that – enjoy them, and don’t treat them like work. The Intu-Flow joint mobility will be an excellent complement, and as you get further introduced to CST you’ll also learn about compensatory exercises (which are based on Intu-Flow), which you can do after your longer hikes and surf sessions. If you’re interested in learning that now, then Ageless Mobility, the Prasara Instructional DVD, or any other Prasara BodyFlow materials will be suitable for general compensatory exercise. As you practice it, your understanding will evolve and you’ll be able to cater specifically to your individual needs.

So, for strength training, pick something that resonates with you – something that gets you excited, something that you know you’ll be able to stick with because you’re enjoying it. It could be clubbell training, bodyweight exercise (the Bodyweight Exercise Revolution is a good one), TACFIT, or many other things.

As far as physical conditioning for surfing goes, I think you couldn’t go wrong with clubbell training. Either a heavier single clubbell, or a moderate weight pair of clubbells would be an excellent addition to your home gym. The reason I recommend clubbells for surfing is because they require you to learn how to be grounded throughout complex movements. They teach you to “root deeply” into the ground – and thus, that will condition you to root deeply into your board while surfing. I really don’t think there’s a better tool for teaching grounding through complex movements than the clubbell. If you find clubbell training fun, it could double as a general fitness training method for you.

Final Words

And as a final note – this is probably better advice than all of the above recommendations. If you feel inclined to go for a run, a hike, a swim. If you hear a local mountain calling you to the summit, or the sea sirens singing you a beautiful tune, don’t ignore those intuitive whispers. Your physical practice, your fitness program, is meant to support and enhance your lifestyle – not hinder or replace your lifestyle. If you feel like you can’t go for a jaunt through the woods because it doesn’t fit in with your program – you’re too tired, too sore, too busy… then there’s a good chance that your program is not right for you and needs to change.

Put no limits on your inner creativity and physical exuberance. Whatever your spirit is telling you to pursue, go and do those things. When all is said and done, you’re probably not going to care an ounce about how strong you were, how much weight you lifted, how many pushups you could do, or how far you could run. You are going to remember the experiences you had and you’ll cherish them. That woodland run which beckons you when the weather cooperates and your mind is ready for it – that’s one of the best nudges that you can give into.

To your health and success,

CST, CST-KS, NSCA-CPT
Fitness Professional

8 Responses

  1. John,

    Many thanks for your thoughtful response. I agree that goals can be very useful. SAID tells us your training is always going somewhere, whether you acknowledge it or not. Best to harness SAID rather than ignore it. In my own experience, preparation, structure and planning are not necessarily opposed to spontaneity. In fact, they are often essential to pursuing the moment when it arises and following those “intuitive whispers.” I’m certainly interested to explore how CST’s concepts and practices can help me find my own balance. I like that one can aspire to implement CST (and thoughtfully incorporate a variety of workout tools)for themselves rather than simply follow set routines.

    I do have a question about the idea of “cocktailing” because it sounds like it may apply to me. What is cocktailing, and does it apply to combining different levels of intensity, different kinds of movements, etc.? Should someone with my inclinations be very concerned with it at this point?

    Your suggestion of clubbell’s applicability to surfing is intriguing! Perhaps when expenses allow…

    Again, thanks for your time!

    James

  2. Glad I can help, James. If you read the CST article archives, you’ll find a common mantra: cycle or circuit, but don’t cocktail.

    A cycle is a specific training period (like a 4X7 28 day cycle). A circuit is a group of drills or exercises that are used to accomplish your goals, and they are a part of your training cycle. Cocktailing refers to practicing training strategies completely randomly, without any thought of your overall plan (in CST, a Training Hierarchy Pyramid or THP). Cocktailing your training can be applied to your exercise selection, energy systems work, intensity, duration, frequency, or any other training variable that is part of your overall plan.

    The key to remember is that you need to always focus on your goals, which will determine your cycles and circuits. What’s most important is that you allow time for adaptation to occur before changing your cycles or circuits. 4-6 weeks is a good general time for SAID to solidify for your current conditioning work.

    To prevent yourself from cocktailing, it might help to include your personal exploration as part of your goals.

  3. John,
    First I would like to say thank you for all of the helpful information and instruction you provide. It is very much appreciated. Your selflessness and sharing seems to be indicative of the CST spirit.

    I can relate with James, his situation seems to be very similar to mine and I would like to say that I am so stoked that I found the world of CST a few months ago.

    I was looking for an exercise program that I could comfortably integrate into a lifestyle pattern that was flexible and not totally based on the macho gym push till you puke mentality. My main focus for the majority of my life has been around surfing, it dictating where I live and even my occupational choices. Also, I have always been into bodyweight exercise since I was a teen. What attracted me to CST was that every aspect of the programs seems to incorporate flow and balance, things that are so similar to the act of riding waves. As well as the fact that tweaking and creating your own versions of the programs seems to be highly encouraged.

    Unfortunately, surfing is not something that you can plan too many things around due to the fickle nature of, well nature, and when the weather decides to produce waves so I don’t think I would be able to incorporate a 4×7 regimen into my training but I have been performing Intu-Flow daily, first thing in the morning no matter what, and as a warm-up to my daily exercise/training.I have seen excellent results in my mobility and joint flexibility from this daily practice. Heck, I have always been flexible but never even thought about the fact that my joints affected my range of motion and overall health. But what a difference this has made as I move deeper into the movement based training.

    I recently received Flow-Fit for Christmas and wow, what a program. I have been working on also building a base of some basic yoga movements with the intent of moving eventually into the Prasara wing of CST. Coach Ryan Hurst has an excellent resource at his site “Yoga for Men” and particularly his “Yoga for Spies” flow has been invaluable at aiding in strengthening and training for the basic Flow-Fit sequence. At the first couple of tries with the Flow-Fit routine I have to admit that I was a little frustrated with my performance (or lack of) but after revisiting now with some regular YFS practice I feel much more proficient and I am really amped at moving forward with the Flow-Fit.

    I do eventually want to move into some Clubbell training, but for now I am concentrating on building a really strong base by working to become efficient at Intu-Flow and Flow-Fit along with my regular fun activities like surfing, mountain biking and basketball. These too I try to perform at a high level of performance and can be a high-intensity day unto their own. Of course Intu-Flow warm-ups and compensatory yoga flows after have been invaluable.

    Sorry for the long winded response but I am really pumped by finding the world of CST and want to pass along my experiences and perspective as a new practitioner in the hopes that it may help encourage some other new-comers. I have to say too that at first it seems almost overwhelming because there is so much material to choose from and try to do. But that is why I chose to focus on the programs that I have, and follow along with the rest of the CST developments and incorporate more as I feel ready. I think the main point is to be consistent and do something everyday.

    Thanks,
    Dusty

    • Hi Dusty,

      Thanks for sharing your story with us. CST is truly remarkable, and reading your story has me reminiscing about when I first started to get deep into it. You won’t regret it. Feel free to keep us updated on your progress with FlowFit and eventually clubbells. I’m happy to have my readers contribute their stories to encourage others to dare something worthy.

      Best,

      John

  4. Those final words were especially great!

    I must say, that I am probably one of the most guilty of “cocktailing” at the moment (at least it feels that way!). I guess I do have some goals that I am working towards, mostly in the area of Clubbells, but I don’t know if I am doing that in an effective manner or not. I am definitely not following any sort of cycle. Perhaps I have to give this a little more thought.

  5. John Paul Tan

    Hi John,

    It really brings me joy to see people like you preaching physical exercise as a lifestyle base choice. This is something I try to preach to my friends. To see exercise not as a necessary evil, nuisance or punishment but as a lifestyle activity choice. A choice that can help you grow as a person and actually make you happy. Too bad most exercise programs and equipment being hawk to mainstream people are marketed as punishment in as little as 10 minutes a day. It sometimes sadden me when I see people taking up exercise because they just want to lose 10 pounds on their hips. That is when I know they are just in it for the short term. It’s funny how you mention the word “cocktailing.” First thing that came into my mind is the Crossfit.

    • Thanks John – there is such a dichotomy between those who view exercise as punishment versus pleasure. Unfortunately, I think there’s more strength on the punishment side in our culture, which is why I’m desperately trying to show people that it doesn’t have to be that way. People need to WANT to believe that before they can believe it, though.

      Ah yes, the CrossFit WOD = standardized cocktailing at its finest ;)

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