You can SAID that again!

Last month in my column, Defying Gravity, I wrote about clients over fifty, many of whom have experienced a change in priorities related to exercise, shifting more in the direction of increasing or maintaining their function. This functionality is about enhancing or preserving one’s lifestyle: sports, recreational activities, travel, playing with children and/or grandchildren, yard work, socializing with others, and more. As one of my clients said so well, “I want to continue to live my ordinary life for as long as I can.” Put another way: “I want to move like I’m fifty until I’m eighty or more.” 

This begs a couple of really good questions: What does it mean to move (functionally) really well, and how do you train for this? 

In this month’s column I’m going to address the second question by providing a brief explanation the SAID Principle in training because it has a strong bearing on the choices we make. 

SAID stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand, and is one of several principles that all personal trainers learn as part of their certification courses. The very basic idea behind SAID is that your body and brain will adapt to the demands that you place on them, and that adaptation will be specific to the stimuli presented. SAID can be applied in a narrow sense, such as comparing the effects of aerobic and anaerobic training on one’s vertical jump (the former helps, the latter does not), or in skills based training where pitchers need to practice throwing exercises to improve their curve balls. 

SAID can also be applied more broadly to the types of movements that we, athletes competing in the game of life, might perform on a daily or weekly basis: 

  • If you want to be able to sit down on a toilet without holding on to a counter or rails, you must practice squatting. 
  • If you want to be able to load boxes or dishes into overhead cabinets, you must practice pushing exercises, with weights, at a similar angle
  • If you want to be able to do yard work with a wheel barrow without getting quickly exhausted, then farmer’s carries are a great training tool for you. 
  • If you want to feel safer and stronger while riding your bicycle, spinning class will only take you so far and you will have to practice by riding outside.
  • Finally: If you want to be able to get up and down from the ground without assistance until the day you die, you can’t spend all of your training time on the Pilates Reformer.  

Wait, what’s that? Patrick, did you really just say that?

Yes, I really just SAID that, with love, of course. The Reformer is a great training tool that helps build muscular endurance in a variety of movement patterns, but it’s limited in its scope because there are very few exercises that you do standing up. In the spirit of defying gravity, we need to make sure that there are many types of exercises that we perform vertically. This is why you will see all of the instructors at Practice Fitness drawing their clients to the mat area to work whole-body, compound movement patterns, including those that have us standing tall, squatting, hip-hinging, and yes, getting up and down from the floor repeatedly. 

You might argue that we are capable of moving in many different ways and there is much more to moving well than doing, squats and get-ups, and if you did I would say to you that you are absolutely right. By expressing varying ranges of motion through a combination of the many joints we have in our bodies, we can generate hundreds of movement patterns; that’s a fact! Here are a couple more:

  • As we get older, we lose competency in the patterns we stop practicing (think of jumping, sprinting, somersaults, and handstands as examples of big, compound movements, and catching, throwing, and balancing for simpler patterns).
  • We can regain many of these patterns through training, provided the training follows the SAID principle. 

If we can move in hundreds of different ways that, when put together, help to give you the “ordinary life” that you experience today and want to continue to enjoy well into the future, how in the world do we plan for this, train for this, and know that the choices we are making represent the best use of our time? This brings us back around to the first question above that asked what it means to move (functionally) really well, one that I will answer in next month’s column.

Best wishes to you for a great May,


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