Richards: General guidelines for optimal fitness development (column) |

Richards: General guidelines for optimal fitness development (column)

Ryan Richards
Make It Count

It’s a rare moment when I engage a new fitness student who knows precisely what she’s seeking from an exercise program.

Most of us are seeking optimal wellness and overall fitness, which is a great goal if we closely define exactly what wellness is and what fitness looks like.

A persistent theme that has resonated throughout my fitness career is that one must clearly define their goals and expectations and then closely manage a specific path to reach those benchmarks. Nonetheless, most of us want to serve multiple masters and expect miracles. It’s all too common that most trainees want washboard abs, to be strong, enduring, lean, flexible, powerful and be able to maintain all of these qualities, year-round. This isn’t optimal, but it can be done.

Think about CrossFit. The brainchild of Greg Glassman, CrossFit’s mission is to create general preparedness using multiple exercise mediums, to produce well-rounded, overall fitness. CrossFit, apparently does a reasonable job delivering general fitness results indeed. Here’s my modifications on the CrossFit methodology that’s practical and sustainable for a lifetime.

Train Generally, Practice Specifically

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It’s a well known exercise theory that our organism only, and specifically, adapts to the stressors experienced through training. Running doesn’t improve performance in anything else; runners get good at running, from running. Therefore, it’s advisable to seek exercises that produce general strength and conditioning, and specifically practice the sport itself (if you’re an athlete). Great general exercises include, but aren’t limited to the squat; overhead presses; pull-ups; dips; lunges; sprint intervals; walking; deadlifts; push-ups; kettlebell lifting; jumping rope; medicine ball throwing; carrying weight for time or distance; sled pushes; and trail running.

Focus A SESSION On One Quality

It’s ill advised to perform strength exercises with heavy loads and then attempt a long run on the same day. Your body has limited bandwidth for adaptation.

Don’t ask your body to adapt to a strength demand, and then send a different message by logging a 10 mile run immediately afterwards. Your body will confuse itself and won’t recover properly. A few days per week, go heavy and hard with the big lifts. Spend one day a week performing mobility drills, stretching, etc. Another day or two can be dedicated to general endurance training such as running, swimming, cycling, etc.

Leave A Few Reps In The Tank

Especially with technical lifts, avoid training to absolute failure; leave at least one rep to be desired. Stay as fresh as possible and take long rest periods in between heavy sets to maximize strength and minimize injury.

Fat Loss Happens In The Kitchen

Nothing much to report here. Eat less food in general; fast, skip meals, reduce portions, eat more vegetables, drink water, etc. Exercise is mostly worthless at promoting fat loss. Just eat less. Pure gold, here.

Employ The Minimum Effective Dose

More isn’t better, better is better. If you can get to the promised land with five exercises, why would you choose ten? Also, if an exercise is really difficult to perform well, or hard to learn, ditch it. Even though I use kettlebells as a regular staple in my training, I rarely teach them to any but the most qualified students. Kettlebell swings and get-ups are hard to perform correctly. Same applies for the Olympic lifts. That’s valuable training time lost.

Play As Many Sports As Reasonable

Even as we age, pick up new games and attempt different sports. The best athletes in the world often were good at many different sports. The tricks in ice hockey work on the soccer field, too. Just make sure you wear a helmet when you pick up skateboarding or motor racing, I speak from painful experience here.

Until next time valley friends, have a great week.

Ryan Richards is a fitness professional who has been keeping the Vail Valley strong for over a decade. You can find him at or 970-401-0720.

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