Wide and Narrow Focus

Another week has passed and we are slowly making our way into summer!  At least it didn’t feel that way cause it was a lot cooler (yes 60s is considered cold here) and it actually rained out here in southern California!  This past weekend consisted of a bit of rest and relaxation.  Friday night was spent out in Claremont enjoying some live music with Amanda and a good friend.  Saturday night was enjoyed celebrating a friend’s birthday and I was surrounded with great company.  Two of the guests are respected basketball coaches and teachers with over 60 years of experience combined.  It would have been unwise of me not to take advantage of the opportunity to learn something from them.

One of the perks to being the youngest of three is that I have grown to be a keen observer of people.  Another one is that I have learned to value the experiences of those around me.  In essence, I learn to become better by learning from their trials and tribulations.  Or at least that’s the idea.

During the beginning of one of my training sessions, one of my clients made a keen observation and mentioned to me that it appeared that I was in deep thought.  She saw right through me because I was.  I had ordered a book called Ultimate MMA Conditioning by Joel Jamieson  and couldn’t help but be intrigued by it.

See back in 2009 when I first stepped into coaching (still employed as a social worker), I had very little understanding of the why’s and how’s to what I was doing.  At that time, I had a desire to be a football coach like Lou Holtz, John Wooden, and Tony Dungy.  Then in 2011, when my friend Ryan Maine became the head varsity football coach he wanted me to take over the strength and conditioning program.  This was about the time where I decided that this is what I need to be doing.  Back then, in my infancy, I didn’t have much understanding to describe why I was doing what it was I was doing.  I just communicated and learned from those strength and conditioning coaches that were simply more experienced than I was and copied what they were doing.  Coach Mike Boyle was one of those people that had an impact.  As I have grown over the years, the conditioning aspect of athletic development was my biggest weakness and I wanted to change that.  Joel Jamieson is a very respected coach and to be frankly, he is one smart person.

I never want to find myself in a position where I cannot confidently defend and explain what it is I’m doing.  After finishing his book this past week, I definitely have a much better understanding in developing the ‘conditioning’ level of an athlete or any person for that matter, which I’ll explain in a bit.

‘Wide and narrow focus’ is a phrase I learned from coach Dan John and this holds true to most things we do in life. Let me give you some examples.

  • As a football quarterback, one must possess the ability to have a wide and narrow focus. Before receiving the ball, the quarterback must understand how the opponent is trying to defend, wide lens of focus.  Once the ball is snapped and the quarterback makes the decision to throw (based on multiple variables), he quickly shifts to a very narrow focus as the ball is delivered to a precise location where only his receiver is able to catch it (or that’s the intention).
  • Which ever school I may end up, I will be implementing a strength and conditioning program.  During the planning stages, just like with any organization, I must have a wide focus that starts with the creation of my mission statement which includes my vision and the means to achieving it.  When I’m inside the weight room, I must have a narrow focus to ensure proper technique of each exercises.
  • It has been recommended that a weekly planner is better than day to day planning.  A weekly schedule, filled with your top 4 priorities (i.e. family, career, professional development, fitness) allows you to have both a wide and narrow focus.  It allows you to focus on what you need to accomplish at a smaller scale, yet wide enough to understand the bigger picture of where you want your life heading towards.
  • When you are driving a car, you must possess a narrow focus to ensure you stay on the road and don’t hit anything.  You must also, however, possess the ability to use a wider lens and understand what the cars around you are doing.
  • Developing athleticism with youths, amongst experts, has supported this approach.  Youths should participate in a wide variety of sports to develop an array of movement skills (and the cognitive ability to learn these skills) before specializing in only one.
  • Stepping into the gym, you must possess a narrow focus in ensuring you have proper technique, but you must also have a wider focus in understanding that the workout you will be doing will lead you towards your fitness goal(s).

Looking at fitness through a wider lens understand the following:

  • Training is a long term process.  There are no short cuts or magical formulas.
  • All training programs work for so long and nothing works forever.  There is no such thing as the perfect program. Are you achieving results through your training program? If not, it’s time to move on.
  • No system in the body works alone or independent of the other system.  As a result, everyone is unique and therefore responds differently.  Program A may work great for person A, but not for person B.  Using a one-size-fits-all training and/or nutrition program does NOT account for these differences.
  • Your body has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years for one purpose. Survival and the strive for energy efficiency (to use the least amount of energy).  You must understand how your body responds to stressors and be proactive rather than reactive in maintaining your health.
  • What really matters most is not the exercise you choose or the training methods you use, but rather the adaptations that result from using and applying them. Your means better align with your end results, your fitness goals! If you are creating a major caloric deficit and sticking to nothing but long duration typical cardio exercises and/or group classes, your body will not adapt towards fat loss!  After about a month or more, your body will be storing fat and burning muscle! Quite the opposite reaction of what you’re hoping for!
  • For the majority of people, exercising for the sake of exercising won’t develop your ability to get strong, build muscle, and achieve long-term fitness.  As I wrote in a previous post, HERE, the calories you burn during your exercise doesn’t make a significant impact.  Proper strength training, however, is more vital to your long term development towards reaching any of your fitness goals, read about it HERE and HERE.  Most people, however, don’t take the necessary time to build a solid foundation to increase their potential to getting strong!

Now that you understand the bigger picture in your fitness development, I’m going to narrow the lens and provide you with important information I found after reading Joel Jamieson’s book on conditioning.

Joel describes the concept of biological power.

Joel Jamieson

Joel Jamieson

Using an analogy, the best way to understand this concept is to think of your body as an engine capable of generating horsepower.  Think about this concept.  This horsepower in your engine is what your body uses to do the everyday things you do in your life, from walking to running!  When you increase your engine’s horsepower, you increase your potential (energy) to do all of these activities.  You ultimately increase your quality to enjoy life!

With your training program, the greater your biological power the higher your level of work capacity and the more training you will be able to adapt positively to.  This explains why beginner clients whom are training after a long layoff or absence of training can only handle only a few exercises.

This concept also helps you understand that there is an interconnectedness between various systems in your body and they all must positively work together to increase your potential of producing more biological power.  So like I mentioned earlier, every exercise has a purpose and what’s most important is your body’s adaptation to the specific exercises and training methods.

So with this understanding, you must approach fitness using a systematic approach.  What does that mean?

  • Have a plan!  If you have absolutely no idea, find a qualified fitness professional.  Trust me, it will save you time and frustration in the long run.
  • Just like a car, the amount of horsepower that can be generated comes from many different factors (such as size of engine, type of fuel you use, efficient cooling system, car’s computer chip, etc).  This is similar to how your body operates except your body’s systems relies on to generate horsepower is much more complicated and dynamic.  If all four systems aren’t properly developed, your performance will suffer!
  • I know slow steady state cardio has taken a beating over the years over high intensity interval training.  However, it plays an integral part in developing your aerobic energy system with the specific adaptation of increasing the size of the left ventricle of the heart (an adaptation that high intensity training does not achieve).  This results in a lower resting heart rate, lower working heart rates, and greater cardiac efficiency.  Put it simply, your body will be able to work more efficiently to deliver oxygen to your muscles.  You will be able to recover quicker from your strength training sessions.  So it has its place in your overall training program.
  • A systematic approach means that you focus on improving one or two qualities of your fitness (aerobic, endurance, strength, power, muscle mass (aka hypertrophy)) at a time then you move on to focus on another quality.

In closing, I will follow up on these concepts by attempting to applying some of what you learned to your metabolic system. Many of the people whom I’m around suffer in developing or maximizing this system’s potential.  Once again, I want to thank Joel Jamieson for the knowledge he has provided me.  If you want to understand more I highly recommend his two products (his HRV has made a significant impact in the strength & conditioning community and I have also experimented with it personally).



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s