Whatever the requirements of your job, school or sport, I believe in the principle of being conditioned beyond the capacity which is required.
When I used to train in Ju-Jitsu, my conditioning was well below average. I was not unfit, but I was not particularly fit either.
In sessions where we would do many shoulder throws and hip throws, I would often get winded, could not get enough oxygen. This made everything harder, you basically start moving in slow motion and everything is a struggle. It was like walking through knee deep mud. Every move you made became ineffective.
The solution? I read a an exercise regime called the Spartan Health Regime (along with other various books and programs before and since) which promoted a lot of old time strength training and conditioning methods. One of the many exercises and training methods Spartan recommend was hill sprints, another was interval training. I didn’t have any hills in my neighborhood, nor a car to drive to one. That left interval training.
I started in my local park mixing up walking, jogging and flat out sprinting. I’d never done any kind of running since being a kid in school where they made you run. So it was all new to me. After a while I settled into a routine of alternating sprints with jogging, and also did a session each week of just jogging non stop for 45 minutes. Most days I also walked an average of two hours, as without a car you don’t have a choice.
This made an enormous difference to my overall conditioning. My heart and lungs grew stronger and more efficient. I could perform better in Ju-Jitsu class without getting winded. Five or ten shoulder throws? Hell twenty shoulder throws in quick succession would no longer wind me, and I felt great after classes, exhilarated rather than tired. I had more gas in my tank, and my bodies ability to use oxygen was more efficient during high stress activities.
But then I could not run so much because my shoes were wearing out. I had to walk everywhere at the time as I had no car. I usually walked 5-10 kilometres most days on average, so adding in the running was wearing out my only pair of shoes out rather fast.
I had no money back then to buy extras shoes just for running. That is a luxury now that I truly appreciate.
LIFE FINDS A WAY
Back in the day, I only had the one pair of shoes. I didn’t know what to do. Eventually I just started turning up to Ju-Jitsu class an an hour early, and running in the spare training area that was not in use, in bare feet on the matted floor. And sometimes I ran in my local park in barefeet.
“Where there is a Will, there is a Way”
I would do 45 minutes of interval sprints and jogging or just light running/jogging. Then do a one hour Ju-Jitsu class. My jogging/intervals became a warm up for the class. Then the 30 minute walk home.
My conditioning got even better, my ankles and feet felt great running in bare feet on the soft Tatami straw mats. I turned what could have been a set back (lack of money to buy shoes) into a strength. Now I could perform even better in Ju-Jitsu class, each lesson I was able to perform whatever tasks were necessary, my body now conditioned well beyond the capacity required for an average one hour class.
Running in bare feet also meant that my ankles got stronger, and my balance improved. I love to run in bare feet, but I stick to shoes anywhere in public as there is too many hazards on the ground that can cut your feet to bother with it. Sidenote: years later when I moved interstate, I got to do regular hill sprints and I LOVED them to pieces. One of the finest overall conditioning methods available to humanity.
After you have run barefoot and cut your foot with broken beer bottle glass, you tend not to do it again. The bee stings were an annoyance, but glass is taking precious time away – time to heal when you need to be able to use your feet properly to do more important things. So you use what you’ve got, don’t make excuses – but also don’t fail to use your own intelligence too. I tend to do things the stupid way out of the gate until I slowly learn not to.
Ever since then, I’ve embraced the principle of being conditioned beyond the capacity required for my job, or for whatever routine I do in the gym, or just in daily life, and I’ve never looked back.
If you always have a little gas in the tank, if you always have a little extra strength, extra breath, power, mobility, speed and endurance, beyond what you need for each days tasks – then life and work becomes easier. It doesn’t matter what method you use so much, use whatever works for you. Over the years I’ve incorporated many different types of training into my exercise routines for various purposes. Any form of Progressive Overload where you build up gradually will do, there really are no limits to how creative you can get with these methods.
If you are conditioned beyond the required capacity of your daily activities – job, study, homelife etc- you can get through the day without being exhausted, no matter what is required of you. You can complete a day of hard work, go the gym in the afternoon, and then Yoga at night without being exhausted and run down. You’ve got energy to spend with your brother, your kids or your partner. Instead you feel exhilarated, satisfied, and fulfilled. You sleep deeper, and awaken more refreshed.
WE CAN REBUILD HIM, STRONGER….FASTER
One of the things I love about Batman, is that he is conditioned beyond his required capacity. His body, his mind, fighting spirit – the whole shebang. You know that crazy dude has put the work in, so that when it really matters he has his training and conditioning to rely upon. However, Batman runs into new challenges and unique situations all the time.
How do you condition yourself to be like Batman, mentally and physically?
Should we mix up our training and do a whole heap of different things?
Should we attempt to do many things at a basic level, or attempt to do one thing well?
In my opinion, we should specialize and work on one new thing at a time. Something that requires a degree of skill, learning, strength, flexibility, endurance and also helps you develop mental focus – all at the same time. For that reason I find any sort of SKILL based training that involves new learning (as opposed to just generic exercise) to be more demanding of ourselves, and have a greater sum total result for the time put in comparison to other activities. There are 101 things that fit this bill, it’s not up to me to choose what you do, that’s your business.
The more effective we become at any task or activity, the more we train that skill, the more presence and concentration we are able to bring to that task and other arenas of life
The more fitness and readiness we are able to bring to the table, the faster we are able to learn new things. The fitter we are, the better we learn, the better the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain and entire body – the better off you are. Good training, good practice makes you smarter, more alert, more aware. But too many people switch off when they are supposed to be learning or focused, when you should be at your most Switched On they are vacant and braindead.
Once we have fully learned the basics of our various modalities, we can combine multiple modalities into a single workout. But trying to learn how do a deadlift at the same time as learning how to throw a punch or kick in martial arts divides our limited attention. We focus on one or two things at a time, bringing all our attention and focus to that activity.
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times – Bruce Lee
Even in skills that require constant movement or transitioning from one movement into another in a series of infinitely variable combinations such as in dance, martial art or Yoga, we still need to learn the pieces that make up that movement individually, as well as how to put them together.
Once we learn things, one at a time – really learn something – then we can put it together. Then I can have a day where I flow from a morning walk, a day of work, yoga or weights in the evening – effortlessly with full focus, concentration and attention. With energy to spare. With a bounce in my step and a cocky can-do Batitude – rather than my usual moody isolated default setting.
The more new things you learn, and learn well – the more things you are able to put together. The more new combinations of different types and modalities of exercise you can combine into single session, or single day. Building a cohesive whole that is unique to each of us.
But you’ve got to take the time to sloowwwwwwww down, learn something basic and simple, that works, in your own time, and get good at it. Not good according to what someone else can do, but good as in fulfilling your own unique potential for your body.
THE CAPACITY TO BE GREATER THAN YOU WERE YESTERDAY
Yoga, martial arts, lifting weights, bodyweight exercises, dance etc, every movement flows into another movement, and can be performed in almost any combination. You can take that same principle of flowing combinations into any endeavor in life. The more you do it, the more whole workouts, training sessions, whole days and whole weeks Flow together seamlessly.
Whatever you use, you do a *little* bit more than you need to, and your conditioning will be beyond what you require to function each day. We don’t need to go to extremes like Batman, jumping into one death trap after another, punching sharks and escaping burning buildings – we do what makes sense – no need to overthink it. No need to kill yourself just to get fitter and stronger.
To be conditioned beyond our required capacity means that if we need to lift for example twenty to thirty kilos regularly at work, (around 45 pounds) over several hours, then we should have the capacity to lift 30-50 Kilos (110 pounds) repeatedly for several hours. This is something I did have to adapt to doing when I worked manual labor in a factory for several years. It’s also the reason I got into strength training as a practical requirement for my daily job.
My body started out weak, and underweight for my height. I had plenty of energy from years of doing walking, running, yoga and martial arts. But I had no conditioned capacity to lift heavy things repeatedly for eight hours a day, five days a week with few or no breaks. I’d never done anything like it before. And doing so put me in a lot of chronic pain, as my body could not handle the work load. All I would do was work and sleep.
When our conditioning for life is inadequate, we are easily stressed, less reliable, we get sick easier, we work beyond our current biological capacity and are constantly getting run down and in need of repairs.
Training our minds and bodies to be adaptable, flexible, resilient and determined means accepting the challenge of becoming a better version of ourselves. A stronger version of ourselves. but we get there gradually, one step at a time. There are no shortcuts.
We have to take an honest look at ourselves, see where we lack, where we are a bit stupid and ignorant. I used to know nothing about yoga, nor martial arts, nor weight training before I started. Then we apply total radical honesty to our current abilities. I’m still quite stupid on all of those topics, but I know more than when I started.
It’s not about judging yourself or putting yourself down. Hell, if I had two arms today, but one arm tomorrow – then I work with what I’ve got. I don’t make excuses. I don’t complain. I don’t bother. If I’ve injured one part of my body, I work with another part of my body rather than doing nothing.
In one of my old jobs I used to take a guy who could not walk to the gym in his wheelchair. He would exercise his arms, lift some of his torso and do what he could. He worked with what he had. His grip was strong, his mind was sharp and fiercely determined. He didn’t let ideas like “can’t do it” or “too difficult” into his mind. There was no room for that in his thinking and self-belief.
I look at what I lack in ability and skill, in conditioning and then go about rectifying it, learning from whoever is useful in that field of knowledge. We’ve all got limitations.
We can only truly accept those limitations once we’ve explored to see what we can actually do, which is often beyond our present ability to imagine what we can do. It means getting uncomfortable, learning new things, feeling dumb and clumsy like a baby and a bit useless for a bit, but slowly incrementally learning and applying.
I used to be able to lower myself from a standing position, into a wrestlers style bridge with my head backwards, nose (or chin) to the floor and hold that position for about five minutes. Or do a gymnastic style bridge with arms extended. But in recent years I’ve had chronic neck pain and have lost strength and flexibility in multiple areas from work related issues. It’s gonna take consistent persistent work to get back what I lost in Mobility. But I can get there again.
So, whatever your daily requirement in life – if you are Conditioned Beyond the Capacity required things will go smoooooother. You don’t have to be Supergirl or Hercules, you just that need that *little* bit extra gas in the tank, that little bit extra strength, flexibility and mobility and you’ll find that whether doing physical tasks or long hours at an office job – you’ll be able to focus longer, accomplish the same work with less effort, and have energy to spare when you go home after work, or after the gym.
The easiest way there is incremental progression. Walk a little further, run more often, lift something heavy etc. If you need to be able to walk for thirty minutes non stop at a fast pace, build up to being able to walk fast for say a full hour, then when your requirement to do thirty minutes comes up, you can do it easily with energy to spare. That was one of my old favorites, fast walking for an hour – I prefer it to running.
With practice things get easier. Your concentration improves. Your focus improves. I once read comic books for twelve hours non stop. Another time I was on a forklift for fourteen hours (just bathroom breaks), no food, no coffee, no nothing with full concentration and alertness. I don’t know a single person from my old work who can do that – without getting drowsy. There’s nothing magic about it I credit my exercise habit, along with Yoga and Meditation (and reading lots of books) that increased my ability to concentrate for longer periods of time on monotonous activities.
You never know what you may be called on to do tomorrow, that goes beyond you every day expectations and current ability – so put a little extra time, a little extra effort in TODAY, to Condition yourself Beyond your Daily Requirements, your current expected capacity – and you’ll not only see the difference, you’ll be a little more Like Batman. Challenges will still come, life will still kick your ass regularly – but rather than cowering in fear – you’ll turn to face those challenges with a determined confident grin on your face.
*Batman’s a Scientist and Batman lifting weights from Batman #232, 1971, DC Comics
*Batman in a mudhole from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Animated Film, 2012, Warner Home Video
*Batman in the Rain by Jim Lee
*Elliott Hulse motivational image by Elliott Hulse