Fitness philosophy…. again

As you can imagine, the last few weeks I had a lot of discussions about my opinion over the transfer of the methodology of rehabilitation and fitness concepts into elite sports. And that was my intention… to make people rethink and reflect on their ideas.  A challenging statement might be a good tool to do that, even if some people might turn defensive when you shake their core beliefs or challenge their concepts.

(I would have gotten even more responses on this blog, if it weren’t for the fact that I had to switch off the option to comment; I got sick and tired of removing the tsunami of bots that invade the comments section every day, trying to convince me to buy fake designer handbags and fashion shoes. If somebody has a solution, I bet you know how to find me …..)

We have to understand that within the integrated framework of training for the top, methodologies from fitness and rehabilitation may be used as singular tools, to be used in specific conditions. They are not the foundation for the final solution to all your conditioning problems, or the ultimate answer to all your questions.  

Singular tools in itself never make performance, they are just pieces of the puzzle, to be used for the right athlete, at the right time for the right reason.

Some fitness trends promise me to make you fit in the shortest possible time: 15 minutes instead of 30 minutes per day. Well, great if you have and 8 to 8 job, need to take time to do shopping, cooking and take care of your family and yes,you want to exercise. But this instant solution has no place in elite sports, I’ll take my time for the right effects. In the old days, time often was the only thing I had, no money, no high-tech, just the time that a craftsman needs to make a perfect product.


And once again: “acceleritis” tells us we have no time, we never have time enough, because there is always something else to do, updating your Facebook-account, answering mails or tweets. So despite the promise of efficiency, we seem to have less time than ever before! We are looking for more “efficiency”, for instant results, immediate gratification, and short-term goals only and we lose attention real quick. Reading a book? Takes way too long. Reading an in-depth article?  Wikipedia saves time. Listening to a lecture? Just give me the handouts and I‘ll figure it out. Right? Wrong.

It just creates coaches who have the illusion of knowledge and only possess superficial knowledge without adequate fundamentals. They talk about enzymes without knowing what an enzyme is, they ask questions about my statements about muscle fibers without knowing what a muscle fiber is ….

They became Wikipedia-experts and in the end will tell you how to coach and train because they have read it on the Internet.

Another phenomenon is that the more complex a field becomes, the more people will tend to look for simple solutions, for easy practical protocols, for instant results.

Throughout my career as a coach I always have encountered people who tried to surprise me with the supplement that will turn my athletes into instant superstars, the shoes that will make them run 0.5 seconds faster in the 100 meters, the exercise or training tool that will make them world champions within  a few days. In other words: the “magic’ tool. But unfortunately, reality and experience tell us that it is not that easy; singular solutions or tools have little use in the multi-factorial world of elite sports. You can’t cut a tree with a screwdriver or drive a nail into the wall with a saw. Any decent coach / trainer knows that he/she should have a toolbox with many different tools.

I think that concepts or information derived from working with patients or the general fitness population have to be viewed with a critical eye before implemented into the training process of elite athletes.

Let me give an example from daily life, expressed in the picture below. WhenI damage my car and I go to see a mechanic, he will do an excellent job repairing the body and make it look like new. I doubt however that the same mechanic will do a very good job helping to tune and improve the Formula 1 racing car. And also for yourself, you might be a reasonable driver of your own car, but you can imagine that getting the best out of a Formula 1 car during a race is quite another story! A different car, much more powerful, higher speeds, more gears, different tires, different fuels, different  lubricants, much more wear and tear and different tools to improve the performance of the car. In other words: a completely different world!

Fitness levels

Fitness levels

Most people working in sports want to become experts, possessing unique knowledge and insights or a unique set of skills that very few others have in order to rise above average.However one should realize that this, at least for elite sports, might not be the road to success.

Here is another simple metaphor. When I want to point out something on the screen during a presentation I use a laser pointer. Clear and sharp, something like a torchlight won’t do.  But if I am looking for my car keys that I dropped from my pocket coming home in the evening, the same laser pointer will get me nowhere, I need a torchlight to find them!  Now successful people can easily shift from torchlight to laser and back, as the situation demands. They can go deep and wide, they have the eye for detail as well as the “helicopter view”.

Like I stated above most people love to be experts, specialists, lasers.  I see them, speak with them and listen to them every day: the “fascia freaks” , the “muscle maniacs”, the “kings of skills and drills”, the “strength specialists”, the “emperors of endurance”, the “mental magicians”. But very few are able to look outside their self-chosen box,  look beyond their specialty, leave alone respect or appreciate other fields. They create the illusion that their specialty or field is the most important/dominant one for the performance of the athletes. Don’t get me wrong, I love to work with specialists and always will try to involve them where I fall short in knowledge. But in the end I decide their level of involvement in the process and am in control of the training process.


About Henk Kraaijenhof

My name is Henk Kraaijenhof and I started this blog as a random collection of concepts, ideas, stories and events that are important or interesting to me in my work as an international performance consultant in a wide range of fields, and sometimes outside of my work. I will try to post a new entry every 3-4 days. Feel free to comment if you like.
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