Human Durability: Withstanding The Test Of Time
A lot of people ask me, “What is Durability?” My response used to lack confidence and clarity. You know how they say that when you are selling something, that “you need an elevator pitch”? Well I had no elevator pitch. So I went to the dictionary to see what the actual definition was and I memorized it:
able to resist wear, decay, etc., well; lasting; enduring.
So now when I’m asked about Durability as a component of a fitness program, I can clearly explain it.
Everyone wants their body to be able to resist “wear and decay, last and endure” right?
Of course they do.
Having the ability to be durable is not only an element that professional teams look for in their athletes, but something that the everyday person is looking to achieve.
As we get older, our body has a tendency to not work the same way it did when we were kids, or even the same it did just last year.
Repetitive actions and stresses, often built upon dysfunction can lead to little nagging pains and signals that are often indicative of larger issues. We address the symptoms, while neglecting the root cause and sometimes these deeper issues lead to greater personal injury.
When discussing Durability, we have to break it into 3 Categories:
The first two forms of Durability are very important to an athletes overall performance and longevity. However, the third form of Durability is often overlooked in our daily lives.
Mental Durability is usually discussed in terms of a person’s mental fortitude or toughness is usually developed over time. Elite level athletes are usually very tough mentally.
Do you have the mentality to push through the pain and anguish of one more rep?
Do you have the ability to keep going and rise to the challenge when your mind is telling you it’s too difficult?
Do you have the ability to remain focused when the body has reached exhaustion?
Challenging the body and breaking through mental barriers and being able to withstand the battle within is all a part of one’s mental durability.
Emotional Durability is the ability to withstand the emotional highs and lows associated with things in life. Winning and losing brings about many emotions. Achieving a Personal Best or failing on a lift can impact your emotions in uniquely different ways.
How do you respond emotionally when you achieve?
How do you respond emotionally when you fail?
Do you get too high or too low in those times?
These are things to be aware of as an athlete or even just a general enthusiast. Knowing myself, I tend to be very emotionally excitable. This is something I continually work to get better at.
Physical Durability however is the area that is most often neglected.
We break our bodies down daily with Metcons, Heavy Lifts, Running, Jumping, Playing, etc, but we don’t spend nearly enough time working on our body’s ability to cope and return to homeostasis after it takes the repeated punishment we dish out.
We may provide our body with some protein, some supplements, etc. But how much time do we spend working on our flexibility, mobility and fascial health?
Spending more time improving our range of motion through multiple planes of motion, improving our joint stability and mobility will not only help us improve our recovery, but also help us lower the chance of injury. Working on the “not so sexy” things as I like to call them, is what will help give us the ability to do what we love for a much longer “lasting, enduring”.
What good is a body that was only good for a short span of time?
What good is it to be able to Deadlift two times your bodyweight for 2 years, only to breakdown in year 3 and never have the ability to do it again?
The purpose of physical durability is to help you achieve longevity and maximize use of your body over the years to come.
Joint health is directly related to the movement of the joint. If the joint stops moving, then it doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to remain healthy. If you don’t move through certain ranges, then why would the joint move through those ranges? It’s a use it or lose it mentality with your body.
This is one of the reasons that during therapy, a therapist will mobilize your joint for you. It’s painful, but in order to get as much of the range back as possible, they have to push a bit and then you have to continue to push. But pushing doesn’t mean over the “edge of the cliff”, a metaphor used by Onnit Academy Master Coach Shane Heins.
What it means is walking up to the edge… just about the point of discomfort and breathing. Let the body know it’s ok, we’re not going to jump. Allow your nervous system to be ok and once it’s ok, it’ll allow you to stand there without as much resistance.
This concept is also found in one of the oldest Durability practices of Yoga.
This concept is also found in one of the oldest Durability practices of Yoga. You should not be in pain or discomfort. In Yoga you are learning control through breathing. Our response to resistance is to hold our breath, but it’s through breathing that we are able to relax and calm our mind and nervous system.
With most people spending 5 minutes out of their entire workout for warmup and cool down stretches, I’ve realized that this is not enough. So I often integrate and weave mobility work throughout workouts. This way, clients and athletes are able to get what they need while still getting what they want in a training session.
If you want to withstand the test of time, increasing the percentage of time spent on specific durability training must increase.
This is the core of your performance and longevity, and building a stronger core and foundation, will pay dividends that will help you last and endure.
Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts.