Recently I visited Bali to enjoy a week of sun, surf and movement with the family. Our resort was perched high on a cliff and the way down to the private beach was via an inclined lift, which was out of order or 350 steps! A steep, windy and unforgiving set of concrete stairs.
As you can imagine, the protests from the (mostly) ‘high end’ tourists was loud and vociferous. In a way who could blame them. 5 star accommodation comes with 5 star expectations.
[For the record. I managed to source a super cheap deal to be able to enjoy THIS perk!]
But for the ‘glass is half full’ residents, this little challenge proved to be a perfect example of the S.A.I.D. principle and a great insight into why travel and movement training is a perfect combination.
Let me explain.
S.A.I.D, also known as the principle of specificity, is a foundational concept in sport science. It stands for “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands” and it represents the way in which the human body adapts to any specific demand placed upon it.
A simple way of explaining the principle is to say, “You get what you train for.” Or as I like to say, “Your body learns by doing.”
The kind of adaptions that can occur in the human body are varied and complex and there is never just one adaption going on at any one time.
The adaption might be a performance adaption like muscle strength, endurance or aerobic power. Or an adaption related to bone and connective tissue like bone density or ligament strength. And as I’ve said, there is always more than one adaption occurring as a result of any one imposed physical demand.
As an example of SAID in action, take a look at the difference between Roger Federer’s the left and right biceps and forearms! Noticeably different and for obvious reasons.
Or how about this excerpt from one of my favorite movement books, ‘Move Your DNA’:
“Cycling athletes tend to have lower bone density than running athletes. Why? Because sitting on a bike creates less of a vertical load than carrying your weight on your legs.”
A cyclist certainly creates loads by pushing and pulling on the pedals, but the loads from running or walking are different from the loads experienced during cycling. If you want your bones to stay dense enough to carry the load of your vertical weight, you must actually load them with your vertical weight.
Of course, all [kinds of] cycling does not have the same effect on a body. Off-roading cyclists, with body parts subject to bumpy, jolting trails, and who stand more on their bike, fare better, bone-wise, than their smooth-road riding pals. Even those little jolts to the body make a difference to your cells.
So, “You get what you train for. Your body learns by doing.”
A very important thing to understand about the SAID principle is NOT the need to be mindful about the adaptions you WANT to achieve through exercise.
The most important element of SAID is the need to be careful about the adaptions you DON’T WANT to happen from the things that you do often!
Take sitting for example.
Those who sit for extended periods of time will force their body to change structurally and adapt to the demands of sitting.
And because the human body is built to stand upright, the adaptions related to prolonged and excessive sitting are serious.
So what about those Bali steps?
For me to enjoy the beach I needed to negotiate 350 steps twice daily! And on one of those occasions I had my son in toe; meaning, I had to lug a baby carrier, supplies and a toddler: an extra 15kilos.
The Ascent Results With The Toddler & Carrier:
- Day 1 Ascent: 7 rest breaks (one rest every 50 steps).
- Day 2 Ascent: 6 rest breaks.
- Day 3 Ascent: 4 rest breaks.
- Day 4 Ascent: 2 rest breaks.
- Day 5 Ascent: No stops! Made it in 4mins 30sec.
- Day 6 Ascent: No stops! Made it in 4mins 05sec.
“So put simply, getting what you want out of your body means doing what you want to get!”
In a word: SAID.