Richards: Optimal fitness is meaningful fitness, seek balance in your workouts (column) |

Richards: Optimal fitness is meaningful fitness, seek balance in your workouts (column)

Ryan Richards
Make It Count

There is nothing greater in the kingdom of fitness than an authentic, optimal balance of fitness qualities. Unless you’re a paid professional that cashes checks in exchange for specific physical prowess, most of the general population must seek, and optimize a range of qualities that reveal self limitations.

Fitness qualities are measurable. For example, quantifying the time required to run a mile is a precise assessment of running capability, at least as far as running this specific distance is concerned.

The challenge is that too often — based on misinformation, or because we embrace our own biases — we end up pursuing the wrong qualities yielding a poor outcome; chasing unnecessary fitness qualities is detrimental at best.

Gray Cook said “The modern running shoe allows us to ignore a sensory perspective of running that is only second to vision, and, as you know, the increase in running-related injuries paralleled running shoe development. When running barefoot, over-striding and heel striking is not an option—it produces jarring, discomfort and pain because it is not authentic. Is it not a bit peculiar that the quick twinges of pain refine the barefoot runner’s stride to help avoid running injuries, while the comfort of the modern running shoe later exchanged those friendly twinges for debilitating pain.”

You can’t cheat while running barefoot. The nature of running barefoot forces you to maintain proper alignment, speed control, and mechanical expertise or you can hurt yourself.

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Modern shoes are a band aid for poor movement quality. Running barefoot is the tip of the iceberg for genuine fitness development. Here’s a few contrasting fitness ideas worth considering to promote this point.

Some tips

Pull-up: your success is limited by your body weight or your strength; you can’t perform a pull-up if you’re too heavy, or weak. However, using a pull-down machine, if the weight is too heavy, just lighten the stack.

Deadlifting: even though the squat generates all the hype, I’ve rarely seen barbell squats performed correctly. Usually, the trainee squats too much weight sacrificing range of motion that decreases strength, while increasing injury. However, deadlifting — which is the successful lifting of weight from the floor — is an obvious winner. If the weight is too heavy during a deadlift attempt, the trainee cannot stand up successfully.

The take home message is that we must pursue exercises that challenge our understanding to develop meaningful fitness. Without self-limiting movements, our development will be altered. Thanks for checking in, and 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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