I had an interesting conversation yesterday with an older athlete, and one of the subjects that came up was both a positive and negative consequence of group classes: competition. It is obviously one of the things that makes training more enjoyable here and pushes all of us to work just a little harder than if we were to do this on our own. That is something that can’t be replicated by training alone for 99% of us. But with that competition, we sometimes neglect the reason we are here in the first place, which is to improve our “fitness.”
I say “fitness” because we all have our own ideas about what constitutes our ideal version of fitness. One thing I can assure you about your pursuit of improved fitness is that if you focus on improving the efficiency of movement instead of the quantity or load you lift, you will likely see a substantial development in your fitness that will allow you to handle heavier loads or higher volume. I just said this in a post a couple weeks ago, but it bears repeating. Look at the elite athletes in any sport, the one thing that is common amongst the best of the best is that they move with impeccable technique and efficiency regardless of how fatigued they are. They do this because they have learned that efficiency is the key to improving their skills for their sport and is what makes them the best at what they do.
The reason I bring this up is that the competitive atmosphere of classes often causes us to lose our focus on technique in pursuit of trying to beat others in class. This is also the point when we get hurt most frequently because of that loss of efficiency. Efficiency is synonymous with technique as far as I’m concerned since technique is all about trying to move in ideal muscle/movement patterns. Think back to that one time or few times you’ve done an olympic lift and it felt easier than usual. That was all because you moved that barbell in a more efficient movement pattern than usual. That lift felt easy and you are probably trying to replicate that same lift time and time again merely because it felt so easy.
Back to that conversation I had last night. We discussed everything I just said and I encouraged her to approach training with efficiency in mind. She can still be competitive, but if you focus on efficiency, in the long run you will move quicker because you are conserving energy and will have more to apply to the rest of the workout. So that is what I am encouraging you to think about when you train. Training efficient on our training/practice days will transfer to those days where we are trying to compete instinctively because we are training muscle memory through movement patterns. So let’s begin to move better so we can perform better.