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  • Chris Mullins

What's in a Name?





What exactly is behind Connect Health and Performance? I initially chose the name "Connect" to reflect my perspective on fitness and training: that what we do outside the gym impacts the energy we bring to the gym, and vice versa. I also thought it was a fitting representation of all of the great personal connections I have seen forged in the fitness setting.


Over the past 15 months+ as I've continued to train clients, develop my systems, and connect with other professionals in the industry, the meaning and philosophy of Connect Health and Performance has grown and evolved. The following is my current philosophy: the meaning behind the name.


The Connect Health and Performance philosophy


Connect


Connect represents 3 things:


1) A connection between coach and client (interpersonal - micro)


To better provide you with what you want and need to improve, I need to understand you better. Why do you want to train? What do you like/dislike about training? Where are you now fitness-wise? What's your ideal version of you? How do we use fitness to bridge the gap between the two and move you closer to that ideal self? While an initial intake questionnaire and evaluation is the starting point, this goes well beyond that. The learning process doesn't stop. I am still learning new things about clients that I have been training for 7, 8, or 9 years!


This continual learning process about you helps guide my decisions for designing the best approach to get you where you want to be.


2) A community connection (interpersonal - macro)


Small group training is one of my most popular training services. Group training is also hugely popular within the industry as a whole. Look at the popularity of spin classes, bootcamps, and group dance classes. Crossfit in particular has done a great job of creating communities. But group exercise is nothing new. As long as people have walked the earth, we have used group physical activity as a means to connect. And this makes complete sense, as we are social beings. We all have a desire to feel welcomed into and respected by a group, yet appreciated for our uniqueness.



I began in group fitness in 2009 as a run coach for Team Challenge, the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation's charity half-marathon training program. Shortly thereafter I began a full-time career in fitness, coaching 1-on-1, small group, and larger group fitness classes, sometimes working with groups of 20+ people. The energy in those large groups was amazing. However, exercise customization and individualization was limited. Everyone did more or less the same workout, with the occasional on-the-fly modification for individuals who required or requested it.


Through those extensive (and intensive) experiences, I've found that a small group of around 4-6 people to be an ideal balance of personalization while still benefiting from a community feel. To me the most rewarding sessions are when clients, who previously may or may not have known each other, turn the session into a community event centered around physical activity.


3) The human system (intra-personal)


The human body is a self-contained, sensing, perceiving system of interconnected systems; i.e. digestive system, respiratory system, endocrine system, musculoskeletal system, and so on, all driven and managed by the nervous system with the brain as the central operator.


All tissues of the body are interconnected either directly or indirectly.


Everything from head to toe is linked.


Furthermore, we are connected to our environment. We evolved within our environment to adapt to our environment. We shape our surroundings as much as they shape us.


In order to simplify the very complex, we like to isolate systems, joints, and muscles--which can be useful to a point. But the body functions as an complex interconnected unit, so it makes sense to approach it in that way. If we look at "parts" we must consider how they then integrate into the whole, how the whole affects the "parts," and how the entire system navigates its environment.


There are many, many layers to this concept, but in the interest of brevity, I will leave it there for you to ponder.



Health


To me, health includes our ability to adapt to our ever-changing environments and do many things really well. Good health involves our ability to shift fluidly between states of rigidity and pliability (of movement and thought), stillness and chaos (of movement and thought). It represents our ability to accept change when change is required, and steadfastness when steadfastness is required.


Within the context of exercise, I see health as including activities that drive:

  • Effortless movement in all planes of motion

  • Change in tempos (no movement<—> slow movement <—> fast movement)

  • Vertical displacement (changing levels up and down)

  • Horizontal displacement (moving forward and backward)

  • Lateral displacement (side to side)

  • Rotation

  • Varied physical effort (a combination of endurance and strength)

  • Varied mental effort (acquiring new skills and refining existing skills)

  • Shifts in mental focus (association to dissociation, or specific focus to “zoning out”)

  • Varied environmental exposure (loud to quiet, varied levels of visual distraction, temperature, etc.)

So to reiterate--health reflects our ability to adapt to our ever-changing environments and do many things really well.



Performance


Let's start with a couple definitions of performance:


An action, task, or operation, seen in terms of how successfully it was performed.


The capabilities of a machine, vehicle, or product, especially when observed under particular conditions.


In the 2nd definition, let’s replace “machine, vehicle, or product” with person. So, “The capabilities of a person, especially when observed under particular conditions.”


To me, performance is the ability to perform a specific task really well across a variety of contexts. So if health reflects the ability to be a generalist, then performance is the ability to specialize.


Performance can range from how well you execute an exercise, to your ability to complete a challenging hike, to performance in your specific sport of choice. So poor performance can be thought of as poor execution, and strong performance can be thought of as strong execution.


At this point it is important to note that it is not "health or performance," but "health and performance." Thus, I view health and performance as existing along a spectrum. The middle zone represents some “optimal” zone (or connection, if you will) where one is able to maximize health potential yet still push themselves to perform really well in whatever context they choose.




One can be perfectly healthy yet not be able to perform well when challenged (left side of spectrum). An example of this would be someone who is otherwise healthy, but has limited capacity (either strength or endurance or mindset, or some combination thereof) to push themselves beyond that to which they have currently adapted. In other words, they can’t escape their “comfort zone" and any attempt to do so throws them for the proverbial loop, so they then retreat to safety. (One could argue that this is not healthy, but there are certainly gray areas and it all depends on the individual.)


Conversely, one can perform really well in challenging situations but be unhealthy (right side of spectrum). A classic example is the elite athlete who sacrifices their physical, mental, and/or social well-being to perform their sport at its highest level. They are recognized as the best of the best, but their mind and body pay the price. This extends beyond sports performance to elite individuals in any area of performance, from musicians, to chefs, to artists and entertainers. To truly strive for the peak in any area requires trade-offs and sacrifices. You get to choose your trade-offs and sacrifices (most of the time), hopefully understanding the potential consequences along the way but sometimes not until it is too late.


 

So, Connect Health and Performance is about:


  • Making a connection with other human beings, whether it be your coach or training partners.

  • Creating a welcoming environment by recognizing similarities between people while respecting and appreciating differences.

  • Understanding similarities between tasks across various contexts.

  • Realizing that your mind and body, and environment are interconnected.

  • Determining where along the “health and performance” spectrum you would like to be.

  • Understanding that your exercise and lifestyle choices have consequences that over time will move you along the spectrum one way or the other.

Interested in learning more? Email me at chris@coachchrismullins.com

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