Today, I am going to try something a little different. I am going to mix elements of my work and training as a scientist with my approach to training for sports. I am proposing a “systems” approach to training and physical fitness.
What is a “System”?
Incose (the International Council on Systems Engineering) defines a “system” as a construct or collection of different elements that together produce results not obtainable by the elements alone.
How does this apply to the Human Body, and more specifically, to Personal Training?
A system is simply a group of elements, connected by relationships and paired with a purpose. These elements can be visible and physical, but they can also be intangible, and they are held together by relationships. Within the human body system, for example, the relationships connecting the elements are metabolic processes and chemical reactions, as well as our attitudes and emotions. Feedback is key to all systems.
People often assume that if running 5 miles per day, 5 days per week, helps them to lose 10 pounds a month, then running 10 miles per day, 5 days per week, should help them to lose 20 pounds per month. However, the body (and other systems) don’t necessarily operate that way. The excess mileage can contribute to injury, fatigue, and general burnout syndrome. Our bodies may not be capable of handling this much.
What is the Solution?
Since we cannot fully understand our system (our body), predict its behavior, or have control over it, we must study its behavior and the patterns it exhibits. This will enable us to help our body to function better and to identify when we have a broken system that needs repair.
How do we do this?
We need do this by keeping a training log so that we can better understand how various factors influence our bodies. It is important to pay attention to factors that are both measurable and immeasurable. Humans tend to place more emphasis on quantifiable factors and less on qualitative factors because it is easier to measure and relate to a quantity. However, tracking your level of physical fatigue and personal well-being is just as important as tracking your weight and the number of miles you have run. By tracking all factors, in combination, you can optimize your system (your body) to maximize your performance for whatever your purpose might be: weight loss, success in a 10K race, or other.
Feedback is key to all systems. For personal and fitness training, training logs provide that feedback.