So as it’s my first blog for the legends at Evolutio, I thought I’d start by introducing myself. I’m Sarah, 31, former chef in both career and lifestyle. I now coach at Wards Gym and I also work for the YMCA. I promote both CrossFit and Les Mills respectively which, I’ll admit, is a confusing and contradictory combination. I generally try my hardest to not put the training style that I personally love more than anything in the world (CrossFit) on a pedestal and mindlessly criticize all others. If I wasn’t trying though, I would say something like this:
I often hear other trainers tell their clients that any movement is good movement. You’re not sitting at your desk allowing your glutes to become inactive and your hip flexors to tighten up like nobody’s business so job done. To an extent I agree with this. People are generally less active than they should be, and that is bad. However I do think that the WAY in which we encourage people to move is just as, if not more, important. Example: I have a beautiful friend who is hypermobile as anything and insists on doing literally 5 billion yoga sessions a week. She moves every day, but as a result of the volume of yoga she is doing, now has a shit back. On the same note there are members I see in the gym every day, running on the treadmill for over an hour or doing 500 kettlebell swings.
These same people are (generally speaking) the ones who should really be visiting the physio at the bottom of the stairs instead of making it up to the gym. My point is that just telling someone to move isn’t the end of the story. If someone’s daily movement is an hour on the treadmill and they get a stress fracture from poor technique, or their giant amounts of yoga results in their spine acting like the bendy part of a straw, then is that better than them not moving at all?
Part of my role at the YMCA is to ‘stay on top of current trends’ within the fitness industry. Among these current trends is the broadly marketed (although not always accurately) Functional Training, which I LOVE because this is the way that I believe EVERYONE should be training. I’m all for people working through full range of movement that improves their daily living, to the best of their ability, which is obviously different for everyone. I haven’t always thought this way though. I grew up in New Zealand with the then extremely popular Les Mills’ classes, and at my peak was squatting above parallel with a 10kg barbell, and thought deadlifts started from above the kneecap. Ten years on and I’m somewhat at the other end of the spectrum, (I deadlift from the ground) but ironically am now somehow in charge of deciding whether the leisure centre I work for puts a new Les Mill’s class on the group fitness timetable.
GRIT Strength is apparently Les Mill’s attempt to meet the current fitness trend of functional training, and I tried it myself a couple of weeks ago, under the ruse that I wanted to sign up. I thought if anything it would be a good warmup for the lifting session I had planned later that morning. (I’m the kind of person whose entire weekend is based around various training sessions interspersed with food, and yes, I AM single, what are you trying to say?) I was wrong.
The half hour ‘high intensity strength based’ workout was as far from a strength session as I have ever been. Participants were forbidden to squat below parallel, regardless of their mobility (I was repeatedly criticised by the instructor, much to my confusion), and I literally saw not one participant (besides myself, coz mirrors) working through a full range of movement, despite that being the apparent focus of the session. People were moving though. *thumbs up emoji*
I talked to the trainer afterwards and she told me how unsafe it was to get participants to squat below 90 degrees, which baffled me. If my own clients can’t squat below 90 they are made to sit on a ball until they can, I just thought that this was standard procedure. Had she not read ‘Becoming a Supple Leopard’? I know I said earlier that I try not to criticise other training styles because everyone is different and blah blah blah, but doesn’t everyone want their body to move as well as it can? ‘Just move’ implies the bare minimum of strength, fitness, and range of movement. Shouldn’t we be encouraging people to aim for optimal?
I train people from their 20’s to 60’s and the same rules apply. My job as I see it is to help people to move as well as they can for their body. I realise that everyone is different. Some people CAN do a million yoga sessions a week or run until their feet bleed and still be functioning. I guess what I’m saying is ‘just move’ really isn’t specific enough or for that matter, a good enough directive.
As trainers and practitioners it is literally our job to help people to move and function to the best of their ability, and on the flip side those who we train / treat need to challenge themselves and their bodies, not to just move, but to move well, move better, move to the absolute best of their ability, whatever that means for them.
Everyone is different, but if you can squat below parallel, fucking do it! Just saying.
Sarah currently trains and coaches out at our Wards Gym in Richmond. She's a legend and is one of a kind. She's come on board as one of our ambassadors. You can follow here instagram at sarahsfitaye which is a source of constant lols.