Don't Obsess With The Thing

March 27, 2018

I see this problem all the time when I am working with a patient or an athlete. They get fixated on the thing instead of what the thing represents. They are too busy thinking about how they don’t have the thing that they fail to understand the principles of what I am discussing and how I am using that particular thing to get a desired result. People will put up barriers to their adherence at every step. It is up to me as a coach or practitioner to help them see the forest from the trees and start working towards independence. 


This is an issue I run into all the time when I am working with someone at my clinic (or giving them work to do online) and we are using a sled. People get stuck on the idea that they can’t perform any of the work we are doing on their own as they do not own a sled. What is important about the sled is the work that is being done. The actual sled is not relevant. It just happens to be the piece of equipment I have at the clinic. 




What is important about the sled? The sled is maybe the most important piece of equipment a person can invest in for their home strength and conditioning goals. I know you are thinking barbells and dumbbells and whatever else but if you need to just get overall total body strength without putting a whole lot of stress on your back, this is the way. If you are a person with less than ideal range of motion in the hips, knees, and ankles, we can still get a whole lot of work done without having to teach you many skills or put you at much risk. It teaches total body stiffness and trunk control. It teaches you where you are leaking power. Depending on the goals of the person, it can also be used to work on overhead position for increases shoulder strength, stability, and range of motion. 


One of the biggest reasons I use it so much is because you can push it, pull it, drag it, row it, shove it, lunge with it; you get the point. It is such an important piece for people who are suffering with chronic (or acute) back pain. It teaches them to create that deep tightness around the spine that is so important to keep it reflexively stable. Not matter how stiff their hips are, they can always push the sled. It adds an element of frontal plane training that most people totally ignore. You can overload the body in single leg stance, hitting all the major muscle groups without having to have much equipment. You can go at several different paces and work on pretty much every aspect of cardiovascular health. This is extremely important if the person you are woking with is very overweight. They are not going to be able to run without injuring themselves, but they can sure push a sled. 


After all this talk about sleds, you have to understand it is only the things the sled allows me to do that I am interested in, not the sled itself. It just happens to be the most efficient way to get after it. I live in a very rural area. People here do not have extra money. If I told them to go home and buy a sled, they would laugh at me. I also do not want them to feel like the only way to get the work done is to come to my office and pay me money. As much as I like money (I do run a business), my goal is to always find ways for people to do what I think needs to be done on their own. 


One of the easiest solutions is to grab a training partner, a big flat area, and push a car or truck.  You can always find someone to help you with this. One of my favorites with the farmers I work with is to have them load bags of seed or feed onto a pallet and tie a rope to it. They can push a truck and drag a pallet (or push and drag a pallet) and have all the work they will ever need. For the person at home who does not have access to those things, you can buy a wheel borrow shell and fill it with anything heavy. Give it a shove around your yard and tell me you need to buy a sled. If you are a welder (lots of people around here are) I am more than willing to let you take one of mine home for the weekend so you can make a copy. One of our sleds is a copy of one we purchased. It works great and was a fraction of the cost. 

Once you have these kinds of discussions with people, you start to realize if they don’t do what you ask, the real barrier to adherence is priorities and the willingness to put in the work to improve. If that is the issue, you have to have a completely different conversation with the person. Now you have to figure out why they aren’t interested in getting better (or at least putting in the work to get better). That is a much more difficult mountain to climb. As a practitioner, you have to decide how much time and effort you are willing to put into the person. Some people just aren’t going to change and do the work. You can either frustrate yourself with them or tell them you have given them all the tools necessary and then move on. 


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