By Andrew Ellem

What are the toughest challenges?

For many people, defining “the toughest challenges” might not be so easy. So I asked around. After gathering my responses, the nutshell definition I'm going to put to you all is that the toughest challenges are the ones we are not conditioned or ready for.

Training when you have a specific goal in mind is “easy”. You simply identify what it is you need to do and do it. There is certainly work that needs to be done, but your direction is set. If you have some good support around you in the form of coaches, etc., then things get easier still. You periodise your program, eat well, hydrate well and recover like a superstar.

But what if you don’t have a target?

I don’t have a specific goal. I train to be ready to do pretty much anything at the drop of a hat, to keep myself moving well and feeling good. Now when I say “anything,” that broad spectrum comes at a cost. It means that I won’t have the specific conditioning required to complete a marathon and be competitive. I’ll finish it, but I certainly won’t be at the pointy end of the field, but neither will I be at the other end. I can sprint, I can jump, I can climb, I can crawl, you name it. I do all of these things because one day when I think “you know what? I’d really like to go and try *insert challenging and possibly obscure event here*”. I can. I'm physically and mentally capable of trying things if I choose to. A few years ago, I thought it would be a good idea to try out for the Australian World’s Toughest Mudder Team (you know that 24 hour obstacle race). At that stage, I was far away from being conditioned for that level of endurance, but thanks to the type of training I had been putting myself through I managed to make it to the final stage of selection, down to 30 people...but didn’t make the cut of the final 4.

Now you may be thinking that sounds like a lot of work. But I can tell you, it doesn’t require any more effort than a standard exercise regime might. I need to stress that I am by no means a professional athlete. Yes, I am a Trainer and I spend a bit of time in this environment of activity, but my job is not to train me, it is to train YOU. “for a free trial click this link”...just kidding.

Even though I lack a specific target, there are still things I enjoy doing. I work my movement regime around those things and add on from there. Here is where PTAGs 3D Checkpoints come in handy. Using 3DC, you can take any movement and change it to better suit your needs, allowing you to move with less repetition. Take a squat for instance - you can prepare for the unexpected by simply adding a reach to your squat. Then by changing where you reach (which side? How high/low? How far?), you change the demands of the move, preparing your joints and tissues to better handle loads in different directions. Even altering the position or angle of your feet will create a change too, more than you might think.

What about the upper body? Do me a favor - take your arms and swing them around. Make big circles with them. Go both directions. Now start to twist your body as you do this and feel how much space your arms cover. Okay stop. Can you feel just how big a range of movement we have to play with here? Now I want you to imagine you're at the gym. You've got a barbell in your hands and I want you to do a Shoulder press. Think about the range of movement we just utilized for our circles. How much of that available range is being used here? Not much. You are most definitely going to be able to lift a heavier weight if you simply go straight up, but by manipulating your loads and directions, you can start use more of your shoulder, preparing it to survive a more varied assault from whatever you have a go at.

Move In Multiple Directions and Be Ready For Anything

There are many benefits to moving in multiple directions. But firstly, let’s clear that up a little. We have 3 basic planes:

Sagittal (that’s straight ahead);

Frontal (this one is facing forward, but moving sideways) and;

Transverse (twisting and turning).

You can find a lot of what we do in the sagittal plane, so I use as much frontal and transverse as possible. There are still times when you're going to want to use the sagittal plane and a well-rounded routine will include that, but including the other two will prepare you for just about anything.

But what’s the benefit of moving in multiple directions if you’re not going to move in multiple directions? Well, if you train your body and move your joints in different ways, you’ll be creating what I like to call ‘movement integrity.’ With good movement integrity, we understand that the work you do when going sideways supports you when you need to go forward. You will also be minimizing wear and tear. When you use more variation, you call upon more varied tissues to get the job done. You may not feel like you're someone who moves in multiple directions, but when you're simply going about your day to day life, I’m sure that if you take note of your movements, you’ll see that something as simple as getting into and out of a car involves direction change.

And let’s make sure we don’t forget recovery. Without recovery, there is only injury. In my experience, it seems that everyone is willing to put in the work (well...almost everyone), but when you put time into recovery, only a few manage to keep the effort up. When you exercise, you are breaking yourself down. You don’t finish a workout stronger or faster than when you started it. It is after you recover from that particular session that you can reap the rewards. The world it seems is still sold on the “No Pain, No Gain” mentality, and it’s one of the toughest battles I can have with clientele when I'm trying to reassure them that it’s okay to have sub threshold sessions. In fact, it’s MORE than okay, it’s recommended!

So, in a nutshell, if you stress your tissues and joints with changing loads and directions and if you recover well from your sessions, you will be in better condition to tackle any event (or real-life situation) that you may find yourself looking at.

Andrew Ellem Having worked in the fitness industry for more than 10 years I have seen a lot of trainers come and go. It is definitely a tough industry to navigate yourself through as a beginning trainer with so many flash courses, gimmicks, trends and 28 day challenges to wade through whilst still maintaining your professional integrity. I have been fortunate enough in my career to link in with seasoned professionals who have helped guide me in the right direction, exposing me to the quality of education provided by PTA.

I feel I have a lot to offer PTA Global as my values and principles as a trainer always put the relationship with my clients and their individual needs at the forefront of my mind. These unique experiences and the anecdotal evidence of results I see from my clients and from myself are something I would be truly honored to share as my mentors have shared with me. Sharing our experiences as trainers, bouncing off each other and giving feedback is what I believe to be key in raising the bar in a fairly unregulated industry.

My personal fitness and professional journey doesn’t stop when I walk out the door of my studio, I carry it through my everyday life encouraging my family and my children to adopt good healthy habits to promote the longevity of their body and happiness of mind. As a family we regularly break away from the city to go bush walking and discover new places. We spend time climbing, running, walking and exploring, taking advantage of the playground nature has provided for us. I am enthusiastic, driven and passionate about a fitness industry that promotes a high standard of expertise to clients who need safe, realistic and healthy advice.