Thursday, January 17, 2008
I get a lot of e-mails about how one should train for fitness (as opposed to a specific sporting event). I like this question, but I’m sure my answer will raise eyebrows among the exercise and sports-training experts. Here it is:
I view myself as training for the game of life, and in life there is no off season, and one day is not more critical than the next , they all count and they are all here only briefly before they pass into our history and are gone forever. I want each day to be as perfect as it can be. Therefore, I want to be optimally fit all the time – regardless of the season.
Having said that, it is important to recognize that we cannot train "full-speed" all of the time. This will quickly lead to an "overtraining" syndrome and a decline in our overall health.
I regularly fluctuate the intensity of my workouts to avoid this issue of overtraining. But, (and you may be surprised to hear this) I am much less "scientific" and rigid about the structure of my workouts than most people. I workout seven days a week without fail. And I do specific routines each day (Monday is upper body weights and an aerobic component, Tuesday is leg weights and another aerobic component, etc.) But, some Mondays I feel really strong and so I do a really intense workout on upper body. Some Mondays I feel tired - I still workout, but maybe I vary the workout to be less intense. Sometimes I feel tired at the start of a workout and so I plan to lighten up a bit, but then as I get into it I start to feel really good - so I pick it up.
Basically, I create a broad outline of what I am going to ask my body to do, and then I listen to what it has to say about how we do it. I NEVER let my body tell me "I just don't feel like doing this today, lets take the day off." I just change the intensity.
In 1994 I got an unexpected phone call from the American Society of Anesthesiology (ASA). They wanted to know if I could take the place of another anesthesiologist who had volunteered to teach anesthesia for six weeks in Africa, but had to back out at the last minute? The hospital was in Tanzania, located at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Ever since I read the Hemmingway story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” I had wanted to climb that mountain (volcano) – here was a chance to do it. The ASA would pay for my plane ticket to Africa, and they didn’t care if I went a couple of weeks early in order to climb the mountain before I started teaching.
To take advantage of this unexpected offer of a trip to Africa I had to leave in two weeks. Kilimanjaro is just over 19,000 feet high. Could I be in shape to climb it in just two weeks? Irrelevant question – I train every day, year in and year out. I knew I was ready.
This photograph is a picture I took from the summit of Kilimanjaro looking past another peak at the first rays of the sun coming up through the clouds below me to shine on a new day. The moment was an emotionally powerful one for me – and one that I would’ve never had if I hadn’t been fit enough to make the climb on short notice.
My personal tag line stemming from that experience is this: “When life calls, will you be ready?”
Have a great workout.