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The Ten Dollar Spend

June 21, 2011 08:00 AM

AndrewRead ART 
My name is Andrew Read and I am a training ADDICT…
I have at various times trained: while concussed; with eighteen stitches in my right knee and no skin on one hand; while on crutches and most recently while barely able to walk due to pain in my hips from inflaming an old injury.
Somehow my body has held itself together despite all the years of torment and torture and still works reasonably, although my FMS score can range from a thirteen to an eighteen depending on the day.
One of the hidden silver linings in having done all this to myself is learning how to be smarter about the way I train and prepare myself to train. I’ve spent a lot of time speaking with guys, like Master RKC Mark Reifkind, about training and how we now view it and what is "vital" and what is not.
As we age, and particularly as those of us with previous big injuries age, we need to become more realistic about WHAT it is that we are training FOR. Mark recently posted on his blog that once he realised that his primary training goal was now mobility and flexibility – to recover movement lost from his injuries –it made the rest of his training plan quite easy to mould.
For me, the same thing holds true. I am currently unable to squat due to this hip injury – nothing below a ninety-degree bend at the hip and have actually been told to lay off squats permanently with load.
At the same time I have some recurring issues with my shoulder. Nothing painful but I’ve got severely restricted rotation to my right. Poor rotation leads to poor scapulae function which leads to poor shoulder movement and ultimately will probably lead to injury. So I’ve been working for a while on how to modify my training to make do with my current circumstances as well as get me as far back to "normal" as possible.
And I think it’s this concept of modification that many would do well to adopt. In the RKC manual there are many alternatives given for various exercises such as:
• If you can no longer one hand swing switch to two hand swings.
• When that becomes problematic switch to low/ small swings.
• When that becomes a problem switch to deadlifts.
• If you can’t deadlift from the floor then go from a raised platform or box.
By starting to look at my limitations in various exercises and work WITH them, instead of butting myself up against my limitations all the time, I am steadily making progress again. One of my all time favourite quotes about training comes from Lance Armstrong saying, "training is to build the body, not break it". Yet I see people try to break themselves all the time. I hear Senior RKC Dan John speak about not giving into the temptation to "test it" all the time. Because those fun workouts, the ones that make us sweat and near collapse on the floor, those are testing the limits of our fitness. Some will be hard enough that not only will we find the edge of our fitness we will go too far and require extra recovery from them.
And exercises are the same way. We can find exercises, such as the options listed above, to help us on our path rather than force us to struggle through an exercise and movement pattern we are not ready to do. As a trainer one of the hardest things to do is get someone to put the bell down when they are fatigued, or worse cut a session short because you are no longer helping the person instead you have started hurting them. And then, when it becomes US who is the client, how many of US are willing to put the bell down and admit we are not the man or woman we thought we were today and go home or do mobility work instead? Not many people can be subjective enough with their own training to do this, and THAT is a great reason right there why training with a coach can be of great value.
I have this concept, stolen from racing motorbikes, about having ten dollars to spend. Every exercise we choose, every movement, every load and every rep costs us some of our ten dollars. Say, for instance, that you choose to do a Get Up with a new PR weight. A large majority of your ten dollars is going to be spent on making sure that weight stays overhead! Now, if you have grooved the movement well enough you will need precious little money to spend on the actual mechanics of the movement and can spend the majority on keeping the bell up. But, if you are not very skilled in the movement, haven’t done may reps, your attention will be divided by the mechanics and the load and you will likely fail simply because you overspent.
Taking this concept further, some movements require our body to spend a lot of its movement skill. For instance, with my current shoulder stuff going on a lot of heavy pressing will lead to monumental stiffness and soreness the next day. So, I could choose to spend my money on pressing or save it by substituting in other movements.
• Instead of Pressing I am doing heavy partial Get Ups.
• Instead of Snatches I do heavy double Swings.
• Instead of Squats I do heavy Single Leg Deadlifts and Static Start Swings with a heavy bell.
Make no mistake. These are still hard movements - twenty to forty minutes of partial Get Ups with a 40kg bell will still work you hard, and so will the same length of time of One Hand Swings with the 40kg.
The point is I am picking exercises that don’t force me into my restrictions, but allow me to work around them. This way I can continue training while working to concurrently fix my issues, spending my money on restorative training rather than on increases, and make progress in movement related areas that ultimately will increase my performance. While it may be seen as backing off to some, only those who have never really peaked will see that. To reach new peaks you must enter valleys to rise again to a higher peak. Improving these elements will have greater longterm impact on my health and fitness than stubbornly continuing to Press, Squat or Snatch will in the short term.
Adaptation is the key to survival. Darwin knew it and if you plan to stay active into later life you should too.

Andrew Read, RKC Team Leader and director of Dragon Door Australia, has been in and around sports for almost thirty years. With a history that includes olympic team selection, special forces and day to day training he has become one of Australia's leading functional movement trainers. His articles can be found in Blitz, UltraFit and Inside MMA as well as on his blog at