Everybody is different. This seems obvious. Then why do most training programs and advice start with this premise – “it worked for someone else, it should work for you”? Even when advice targets a group of similar people, there is still a broad assumption that everyone in that category is the same. They may be in some ways (e.g., age or years of experience), but in every other way they are likely quite different. Everyone comes with their own strengths and weaknesses. Consider this:
- You have unique physiology, motivations, lifestyle and preferences.
- You have genetic potential which is characterized by the size of your bones, limb length, muscle leverage, etc.
- You have had your own unique prior experiences, environment, and diet.
There is no chance that you are the same as anyone else. Two people with similar builds, age and experience may respond completely differently to the same training run, strength training routine or equipment. One may have experience running in the heat, the other not so much. One may have an injury history that impacts their performance the other duck feet. We get better at some things and worse at others over time. We change our nutrition and environment. What worked for us at one point may not anymore. How can we know what is going to be effective for us?
Fortunately, our brains can tell us! You just have to know how to ask. You can perform assessments to understand whether what you are doing is beneficial at this particular time. Assessments are critical in determining what your brain considers threatening or non-threatening to you. It might be worth thinking of something that assesses well as reducing overall threat and something that assesses poorly as increasing threat. And the greater the threat, the more your brain is going to constrain your performance. Think of it as putting on the brakes. Conversely, reducing threat is like stepping on the gas.
For example, a pebble in your shoe is very unlikely to assess well. Your brain can predict that over time the pebble will likely cause harm. You will likely perceive pain and a reduction in performance until you fix the problem. That response is going to be pretty common for everyone. Now imagine two people wearing the same make of shoe. The shoes may be perfect for one runner and awful for the other. Neither runner may be able to cognitively perceive the difference. However, their non-conscious brains will perceive the difference and the shoes will assess differently for each.
You will find that you are not always conscious of threat, so assessments are critical. Over time you may find that you become more intuitive about the process and be able to feel a positive response to a change. But by assessing regularly, you will improve the specificity, efficiency and results of your training. Doesn’t that beat taking training advice that worked for someone else?