“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are many things a human being can do to get fit. There are machines and videos and classes and pills and drinks and sandbags and big pieces of metal, and none of these will get you fit unless you follow the principles of training. Depending on who you ask, there are anywhere between two and ten basic principles. Outlined below are four that should be kept in mind at all times when planning your training.

OVERLOAD: You’ve got to ask your body to do more than it’s currently capable in order to stimulate improvements. I frequently use the analogy of learning to read; unless you challenge yourself with harder and harder books, you’ll never get past Green Eggs and Ham.

SPECIFICITY: Our bodies adapt to exercise very specifically. If you want to get better at running, run. If you want to get better at jumping, jump. Although there is a great deal of crossover between certain sports and exercises, you’re going to be most successful if you simulate your goal activity in your training.

INDIVIDUALITY: We all adapt to stresses differently. When two friends start an exercise program at the same time, it’s inevitalbe that one will progress more quickly. Faiulre to adjust your training to your own abilites will slow your progress.

ACCOMMODATION: Accommodation is an athlete’s decreased response to a continued stimulus. When one does the same exercises at the same weight / distance over and over, the body ceases to respond. This leads to one of the major conflicts in training: an athlete’s need for specific overloads and his need for variability in training.

The bottom line: It doesn’t matter if you ski or run or bike to improve your cardiovascular health. What matters is how hard you try and the duration of your effort. Likewise, there’s nothing magical about pilates or yoga or training with kettlebells, it’s whether you overload your body regularly that matters in producing desired results.

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