The Hidden Variable in a Training Program (and Life)
A little background and preface:
I stumbled onto this topic after spending sometime on Facebook having a particularly mature discussion over the value of Faith. The individual I was debating with was of the theory that Faith is a form of gullibility, and that if science cannot predict, assess, or defend something - then it simply doesn't exist, or is immediately dismissed as useful information.
My point, however, was that faith is more than just a belief in something you cannot prove. Rather, it is a basal human instinct that helps bridge the gap between reality and the unexplained. Furthermore, it is the emotional and spiritual backbone to provide strength during elongated periods of time without answers. It is more than just a religious expression.
Now, our argument was one completely centered around religion and the presence of Faith within it versus the scientific perspective that many have adopted. Yet, as someone who enjoys writing and content creation I found myself contemplating the overarching value of Faith - especially when removed from the context of religion.
NOTE: This article/blog/electronic-thought-dispenser is not intended to continue the argument about religion and atheism. Nor is it intended to sway anyone's opinion on such delicate and personal matters. Rather, this is fodder for the mind and a consideration for any endeavor one may undertake that can not be justified immediately.
You can have faith in your spouse, faith in your favorite team, faith in your child to do well on an exam, etc. These things are not tied to any deity, oversight, or omniscient presence. Rather, these are all physical world manifestations of believing in something that you can't justify in that exact moment.
Sometimes you are going to be let down and your Faith is going to be violated. Your significant other will hurt you in some way or your kicker will miss that field goal; the exact transgression does not matter - it only matters that Faith came up short.
Other times it will prove you right. Faith leads a man to stand at an altar awaiting his beautiful bride and a woman down the aisle to release her father's arm. Faith puts a kid back in the batter's box with two outs at the end of the game just before they stroke a home run to win it all. Faith puts that losing pitcher back on the mound the following week.
Regardless of the outcome of any situation it is a safe bet that the majority of people on this planet have exercised their Faith in something, anything, at least once. Unlike distance, which can be measured in meters, feet, yards, and miles - faith has no unit of measure. There is no amount in pounds, watts, or miles-an-hour that can quantify it.
Faith makes you take a leap...
It is a bit of an intangible in life. It isn't meant to be measured.
Much as a professional athlete may be spoken of as a "high motor, high awareness, or gritty warrior" - so too can the common man or woman. These descriptive phrases all point to things that can't be measured in a laboratory or during a proctored exam.
They are those things that show themselves when you look at the tape. They pop out when moment after moment shows a level of effort, commitment, and willingness to exceed expectation. Or, as I see it --- these moments show Faith.
The athlete has Faith that their intuition, effort, and drive will put them in the right position to make a play. With every ounce of effort they put in there exists an unshakable belief that they'll get it back as a reward as some time, whether it is immediate, on delay, or well down the road.
Sometimes they are wrong and sometimes they are right. Regardless, they still believe.
Everyday in common life presents opportunities to flex this intangibles as well. Every morning you put your foot to the pedal of your you exert Faith that you'll make to work and home again safe and sound. Every hour spent on the clock with hopes of a raise or promotion is an example of Faith driving your actions, even more so when looking at the hours you won't be paid for.
Sometimes you are wrong and sometimes you are right. Regardless, you still believe.
This could be a classic case of eternal optimism - a "glass-half-full-guy" telling you to not see the glass as empty. I could just be trying to spread my happy cheer like Santa spreads Christmas.
It could be as American philosopher William James once spoke:
"Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism leads to power"
"Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact"
Thus, in life we have a decision to go through our journey with the expectation that all will happen regardless of our outlook. We can go by the numbers and build our lives based around the metrics that govern the physical world.
There is nothing existentially wrong with this form of life. The data that can be verified by the scientific method is valid and the data that cannot is no longer pertinent. The world becomes very black and white, and in that contrast decisions become yes or no.
It is a life based upon certainty - one that I can certainly understand the appeal to.
To the contrary, a life with the addition of Faith is one that allows for a bit more of a gray area. Certain storms may be weathered because of the intrinsic belief in a positive outcome. Time can also be wasted on adventures with no future due to the double-edged nature of Faith.
The addition of Faith is not include a blatant disregard for science, fact, and data. In fact, a truly wholesome life is one that utilizes the strengths of both to help offset the weaknesses that one may present.
Blind Faith is irresponsible and hopeless analysis is too rigid.
There is a perfect balance between the two that can be achieved, and I believe, or exude faith, that all of us can find such a fulcrum to rest on.
Now, this entire piece has read as an existential examination of the human condition up to this point. It is best if I can tie it back into exercise and nutrition as correctly as possible.
Here Goes -
An Exercise Program is a Manifestation of Faith and Science Merging Together
A quality exercise program is one that is built upon and around scientific principles that have been researched in laboratories and confirmed in the field. It is the appropriate application of hard sciences such as anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, endocrinology, energy systems, and even psychology.
Understanding how the human metabolism works is critical to causing weight loss.
Comprehending phenomena such as EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption), Strength Curves, and Lactic Acid thresholds is critical to building a safe and challenging exercise program.
The human body is a scientific marvel. Therefore, anything meant to challenge and change it needs to be equally as marvelous.
This statement is even more true when looking at a long term program for someone with an exceptionally challenging road ahead of them. Significant weight loss, recovery from an injury, or overcoming medical conditions and disease can all present incredible challenges that require far more than just perfect programming to overcome.
Yet, all the science in the world doesn't do a damn if the person executing the program, and the person living it don't have a belief in its validity. There will be absolutely no drive to persist through the valleys if there isn't a strong Faith that the peaks even exist.
Faith needs to be present in order to even exude the grit necessary to commit to a major lifestyle change. There needs to be an unshakable belief that this is the time that the change is made, and that success is realized.
In my time as a trainer and coach I've spent thousands of hours working with people of all ages, shapes, sizes, sex, religion, political party, and favorite colors. When they come to me they want to know that I am qualified enough to deliver a scientifically proven, fundamentally sound exercise program that can get them the results they desire.
They want to know that I know my stuff. I can easily turn a session into a science lesson about the mechanisms of protein synthesis and lipolysis. I can explain the benefit of varied force vectors for full athletic development.
I can speak with confidence and certainty that my Faith in my programs is based upon proven science.
More importantly, I can ask for them to put their Faith in me and my programs and understand that I'm in this to make their lives better. I need them to believe in me, the program, and most critically, themselves. They need to believe that there is a leaner, more fit body on the other side of the program. They need to visualize a life of pain-free movement and brighter days.
It is that optimism that will push them through the days when the scale doesn't move a pound, or the pounds on the bar feel triple what they should. It'll be that Faith that makes them pass over the Nachos at dinner and order the Salmon. It'll be that intrinsic belief that leads them to repeat the same behavior over-and-over again until they achieve their desired results.
Open your Mind
Open yourself to the possibility that success is within your grasp. You don't need a trainer per se to achieve all of your fitness goals. You simply need a program that designed with the intention of accomplishing something that matters to you, and the Faith that you can successfully follow it and reach your end point. That program should be supported by science and backed by others who have successfully tried it.
Understand that you can go through your program with a pessimistic, "I'm just doing this because I have to" attitude, or you can wake up everyday eager to get better.
You won't be able to quantify your Faith. It won't fit on your tracking sheet next to load or repetitions. You can't add it to your MyFitnessPal app. However, you can feel it. You can sense the intrinsic drive it gives you on a daily basis.
It will drive you to keep pushing even with the going has gotten more than "tough".
Faith is about more than religion. It is about being willing to stand for something that you can't prove in the moment that you are standing for it. Some may try to discredit you for believing in something you can't even see. Others will be quick to judge you for being willing to exact so much effort in a direction without knowing the destination.
Let them be.
Just as a child who believes in Santa sprints to the kitchen to prepare cookies and milk and rest them by the tree - you too should be excited. There may be nothing more magical in this world than watching a child who believes an entire day was orchestrated by a heavy-set man in a red suit, or a bunny with a sweet tooth.
A child has Faith because they don't have a lifetime of empirical evidence to become cynical over. An adult has information and experience to question everything.
A better life and a better body might be found right in between these two extremes. I have Faith that you'll achieve just that!