The Dichotomy of a Great Workout Program

Published by Jason Narog on

I’ve been on a Jocko Willink kick lately, first listening to Extreme Ownership and then moving onto The Dichotomy of Leadership. And the concepts he lays out in the book got me thinking about how there are dichotomies in every aspect of our lives. Google defines dichotomy as

a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.
a rigid dichotomy between science and mysticism

So I started thinking about my own workouts and how that translates to what others may be up to. There is a dichotomy within workout programs to keep them balanced for the human being.

Yesterday I went to look at a space for me to train clients in. The gym is called “The Gem PDX” (located in Portland, OR) and they are working towards / have already created a dichotomy for wellness and training. Instead of focusing only on getting people sweaty with a workout, they focus on the entire mind, body, spirit package. Fitness / personal training classes, yoga, meditation. You can work hard, then recover correctly.

This is the dichotomy I’ve been struggling with and attempting to solve for myself throughout the 2018 calendar year. Push really hard at Kettlebell training, have one muscle become dominant over another (either due to imperfect form or perhaps the body just identifying a more “efficient” movement pattern) then wind up with a sticky muscle somewhere. Attempt to clear it up through either foam rolling or yoga, then go back. There has to be a ying to the yang of training.

This led me to thinking about martial arts training as well. There’s a line in the original Karate Kid movie where Daniel Larousso says

Daniel: So, karate’s fighting. You train to fight.

Miyagi: That what you think?

Daniel: [pondering] No.

Miyagi: Then why train?

Daniel: [thinks] So I won’t have to fight.

Miyagi: [laughs] Miyagi have hope for you.

Read the entire quote at IMDB

Muay Thai, Karate, Jiu Jitsu, etc, etc. We show up and learn how to cause bodily harm on willing training partners so that we can improve our self esteem, self control, and overall well being so that we can avoid confrontation in the real world. A confident martial artist is more likely to avoid trouble in the real world simply because of how they present and conduct themselves in public (unless they have a bad teacher, like the Cobra Kai Dojo leader in Karate Kid.)

The Jiu Jitsu Cruise I went on had a dichotomy of work and play. We trained as well as enjoyed every aspect of fun the cruise ship had available to us. Sean’s Muay Thai Retreat started the day with relaxing meditation / yoga before we’d start punching and kicking pads and bags.

The StrongFirst way of training includes both relaxation and tension. You learn how to create tension throughout your body to protect yourself while lifting heavy while at the same time knowing when to relax your muscles so the movement can be performed smoothly. Matt Brown at the UFCPI spoke of how he worked with Pavel (of StrongFirst) on applying those same principles to the phase of a punch. There are both relaxation and tension phases within the punch (or a kick) while it’s being whipped towards an opponent.

These are all examples of the balance one needs while training or putting together a workout plan. You need to foam roll (or visit a massage therapist / physical therapist) to help your tight (overactive) muscles be less tight. You need to stretch to improve flexibility / mobility. But you also need to strengthen said muscles to bring your body more into balance.

Typing on the computer messes with the balance within your wrists and forearms. The bottom gets looser, the top gets tighter. Stretching, massaging, and doing finger exercises to strengthen can help bring this more into balance.

When training, be mindful of what you are doing and why. Include recovery days with intense training, or combine something like the warm up and cool down of the Yoga For BJJ program before and after your BJJ training. Look for the balance between not pushing hard enough and pushing too hard. You don’t want to tip yourself in either direction of the scale. It’s a constant work in progress, and one I doubt any of us will ever master in our lifetimes, but it’s worth chasing after.