One of the greatest functions of the human body is its adaptability. It is this ability that has allowed human beings to survive as the dominate species on the planet for centuries. As with all great things there is always a flip side to the coin, even though adaptability has helped us survive and evolve through the ages we find ourselves now in a unique time where this attribute can be doing more harm than good.
We have seen over the decades how the human body has adapted to the new lifestyle our species leads and the adaptation is not a good one. We spend our lives wearing shoes that changes how our feet interact with our environment, walking on hard surfaces we weren’t designed to walk on and spending most of our time sitting with a machine that was built to move. The paradox of adaptability is that it is a two way street. Your body will just as easily adapt to negative surroundings as it will to positive. For example;
When we exercise and stress the system the body grows stronger to better handle the stress next time; Win.
When we spend all day sitting with poor posture our body adapts to that and now crappy posture is the new normal; Fail.
As fitness professionals we have to respect this process and be very careful of how we use it on our clients. When we choose to always throw “hard” workouts at people and enter each workout with the goal of how challenging can I make this sessions, understand the body will adapt and rise to meet the challenges but that is not always a good thing. The body does not know what is good and bad it just adapts, so when we spend all of our time challenging and never teaching or practicing movements the body will find a way to get the exercise or workout done but the end cost of injury or chronic pain might be a steeper one than your clients want to pay.
We also have to realize adaptations happen over time and are a slow process. One workout will not lead down a dangerous road but continued travel on this path for a long period of time is another story. If the foundation of a building were shifting one inch per year the structure would slowly begin to show signs of weakness little by little and continue to add up until one day the whole thing collapses.
Sometimes things are just simpler if they are working or broken with no in between. If the first thing wrong shut down the whole system it would force us to stop and address the problem instead of continuing to work around it and making it worse. Keep this in mind next time you gauge the success or effectiveness of a workout based on “if they could do it” just getting to the finish is not always a win. Adding quality control measures to your training through understanding, education and assessments will help us get people where they need to be.