Don’t Be an Absolutist!

When it comes to strength and conditioning, fitness and the movement arts, it is not uncommon to find individuals arguing with each other about the BEST practice to rule them all. Whether Crossfit, yoga, Pilates, Zumba, running, triathlon training, etc., it is not difficult to find loyalists that absolutely identify themselves as a practitioner of one method (a Crossfitter, a yogi, a cyclist, a runner, etc.). In my opinion, this mindset is very limiting. No matter how versatile a specific method of training may be, the human body is way too complex not be open-minded to a wide variety of training practices. The concept of finding balance in the body is vast and goes way beyond building physical capacity by training a variety of movements. I will agree that a keystone to a good movement practice should be incorporating a wide variety of movements, therefore, practices such as Crossfit, yoga, and Pilates, have an advantage for optimal movement over single activity movement practices such as running and cycling; however, the idea of variety must be discussed beyond simply what movements are being done and instead be contemplated in regards to the specific focus of the movement based on specific goals. This idea of specificity, is unlikely to be accomplished in a holistic manner with one movement practice. Factors such as intensity, speed, breathing, environment, and competition all play vital roles in how similar movements effect an individual, and many times these factors are in opposition within different practices. For example, many of the movements performed in Crossfit and yoga are very similar in their fundamentals, however, I don’t think many would argue that the environment, intensity, breath focus, and speed of motion are very different. In these instances, it is common to look at the differences in these practices and decide that one practice fits you better than another based on the identity you have created for yourself. In this instance, it may seem sensible to say that yoga is best for me because “I like a low key environment and I do not want to lift weights”, or Crossfit is up my alley because “yoga is for girls, or I thrive in a competitive environment where exercise intensity is a major focus”. My intention here is not to deny that individuals have differences and that some are more suited to certain environments than others, but simply to point out two major factors in this line of thinking:

1. Exclusively training one style of movement, inherently limits you in areas of movement that differ from that particular style. So basically, if you train one element of movement too much an opposite element suffers. In the above example, that means if you are always training at a high intensity, you may find it difficult to down regulate your system, and instead be in a constant state of physical and emotional stress. On the other end of the spectrum, if calming, lower-intensity, body weight movements are the only elements in your practice, your body will not be prepared for tasks where short-duration, high-intensity effort is necessary (i.e. sprinting across the street, lifting furniture, etc.) and injury can often result.
2. Regardless of how individuals label themselves physically, daily life creates obstacles that incorporate a versatility of movement and emotional demands that no single practice can optimally prepare you for. Our bodies work best when our systems (musculoskeletal, nervous, cardiovascular, hormonal, etc) are in balance. That means that elements that you feel most comfortable with, may be the elements that need the LEAST training.

With this in mind, I leave you with this sentiment. Be open-minded in your approach to movement, and you will find you have more potential and versatility than you once thought.

Check out this video demonstration utilizing Pilates-based training to enhance Crossfit-style movements: