Aristotle and Exercise – S.A.I.D.

Aristotle - Colin Badali   Wayne Gretzky - Colin Badali   Outliers - Colin Badali

As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do”.  This proverb is heavily related to the exercise physiology principle, known as S.A.I.D. (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands).  The SAID principle states that the body is incredibly adept at making particular alterations to its structure and function in direct response to the type of stress that is placed upon it.  It does this, in order to able to better withstand this stress in the future.  The body makes adaptations in all eight of its systems (skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, digestive, endocrine (hormones), nervous, lymphatic, and respiratory).

In short, the body gets better at whatever you practice.  Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000-hour-rule in “Outliers”, using Wayne Gretzky, Bill Gates (programming practice), and The Beatles  as examples.  He emphasized that it is those who achieve this number of hours of practice who ultimately become experts in their respective fields, and it is often important how quickly one is able to achieve said number of hours.  Gretzky didn’t accumulate 5,000 hours of hockey practice, and 5,000 hours of dry-land training by the time he was 12.  He accumulated 10,000 hours of hockey practice.

A few notes from Todd Hargrove’s article on the matter: (link Todd Hargrove – SAID article)

  • adaptation is specific.  Mechanical stress on bones leads to thickening and hardening of bones in the area being stressed (+osteoblasts).  Dominant arm of tennis player = larger bones.  Tendon + ligaments thicken and strengthen with resistance training.  Muscular stress leads to bigger muscles, etc.
  • SAID also includes motor-skill learning (throwing, playing the piano).  With piano practice, the neurons responsible for coordinating finger actions will develop faster lines of communication between themselves.  In addition, the memory of such skills are stored in the brain such that they can accessed and executed in a more automated way without any conscious effort or thought
  • If training for a sport, your training stress must be sufficiently specific to ensure “transfer” or “carryover”
  • Failure to improve could be due to a lack of sufficient stress, or too much stress i.e. not allowing the body sufficient time to recover (progresses into a chronic injury)
  • Basic rule with regards to getting better at anything, is to progress in difficulty without getting hurt
  • How much does your training program in the gym carryover to the sport you are training for?  The suggestion is, perhaps not very much.
  • “Righting reflex vs. Titling reflex” – those who train balance on a swiss ball are no better than anyone else at balancing with one foot on the ground.  Different mechanisms at play.
  • Passive stretching as a means to improve your flexibility + prevent hamstring pull?  Studies show no improvement in injury prevention – in fact, makes you slower and less explosive (specificity of movement!).  Stretching is not a specific preparation for soccer.  Much better warmup for injury prevention: soccer-specific movements (cutting, running, etc.) This is the SAID principle at its finest.
  • Cross Training – can we enhance VO2 (oxygen consumption capacity) capacity for cycling by running and vice versa?  Studies show that there is a small carryover.
  • Carryover of cycling to running is week – running is a complex activity.  Example: Lance Armstrong (perhaps greatest biker of all time and co-owner of highest V02 max in history, despite his incredible moral shortcomings), completed a marathon (running) in ~3 hours.  It is a great time for an amateur runner, but nowhere near the time we would expect if aerobic capacity from cycling had a strong carryover to running.