RK Tip of the Week|What’s that you SAID? Specifically Adapting to Imposed Demands

Posted on December 23, 2009


The body is an amazing work of science & art – and it responds to any

Where are you evolving to?

 imposed demand placed on it. Evolution has granted us the ability to choose how we adapt our body to life & all that it brings with it. Mother of cranky 3 year old no longer hears child screaming & can carry on conversation over the din. She’s adapted to the environment to be able to function better within that environment.

 In fitness, this is called the SAID Principle. Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. The amazing thing is that the SAID Principle works for both positive, life-giving things as well as with negative, life-threatening things. For example, smoking & drug abuse, both are known for being difficult to quit, in fact, quitting heroin “cold-turkey” could kill you, despite the fact that heroin itself has the ability to kill you. The body of a user develops signals that teach the body to require the drug or fail to function. Ludicrous as it sounds, the SAID Principle in action here creates a specific adaptation (e.g. only function when a drug is present in the body) based on imposed demands (e.g. repeated use of said drug) despite being completely opposite of that which is life-giving. 

Talking about heroin at Christmas time is depressing, so let’s move on, but you get the idea of the SAID Principle right? You repeat an action or create a chemical signal enough times in a repeated fashion, your body will adapt to lean on that chemical signal or require that action step (or inaction step for those who’ve developed a lovely lazy tendency) every single time. Think of fitness, you don’t get huge muscles by thinking about it – you go out & lift heavy weights many many times, and over time your body responds to those heavy weights by growing the muscle tissue larger & stronger. it doesn’t just happen by accident.

Have you done an inadvertent SAID Principle on yourself with food or activity levels in recent months or years?

Taking a break from exercise will send signals to your body that say, “We’re not moving too much today body, save your energy, don’t do anything that requires strain or discomfort. And when we do anything beyond this basic level, we’re going to let you know right away so you can stop doing it.” A few of the adaptations to your body from this – the “SAID Principle effects” are: 

  • Lowered metabolic rate (the energy you expend to do daily function) which means you feel tired more quickly than someone who is not sedentary
  • Greater feeling of discomfort that comes on more quickly to alert you when you’re doing more than what your body is desiring to handle, even though your body is more than capable of handling the stress of huge loads.

 Sound like you? Good news my friend! This is overcome-able if you’re willing & ready to accept being UNcomfortable for the next 4 to 8 weeks. This means treading in water that previously, you would never have swam into, so that you can create a new SAID Principle for yourself. Neurological adaptations generally occur in the 1st 4-8 weeks of a workout program, which means the brain starts to send new signals to the body & its systems to adapt to these new imposed demands on the heart, mind, muscles, nerves, etc. In no time at all the body implements these new SAID Principle effects & you’re exercising regularly like an old pro!

But! You have to be willing to be uncomfortable because almost every thing you do, think, and act on is going to be different from what you were doing before. For people who never get fit, this is often where the breakdown happens. Despite being healthier & more “right” with what their body actually wants & needs, they fail to overcome the imposed demands of life as an exercising individual. It’s going to take more good decisions in a row than you care to count for the specific adaptation to this new imposed demand to stick. Choosing real food over eating-out/fast food, choosing veggies & hummus over chocolate after dinner, going to workout despite your otherwise busy life.

Your body really does want to be pain-free, strong, toned, youthful & vigorous. You just need to live uncomfortably for a bit in order for the new SAID Principle. Can you manage a little discomfort for a big payoff? We’re not talking about childbirth discomfort here…simply living with the discomfort of breaking your old pattern of going home to watch the latest American Idol to instead go to the gym for a fitness class…living with the discomfort of walking past the candy or cookie aisle & heading straight to the produce section for fruits & veggies.

Speaking of walking past the candy & cookie aisle in favor of loading up at the produce aisle…if it feels next to impossible to achieve this feat on a regular basis, it’s because you’ve re-wired your pleasure center in your brain & just like with any addiction, your body has learned to get turned on by something that is not life-giving as if it actually were- here, it could be sugar, salt or fat. In addition to tapping into a pleasure/reward center that is not wired for optimal health, you must also work through emotions that we tie to foods.

It takes a healthy dose of the SAID Principle to overcome these things in the beginning, but in time, you de-sensitize yourself to double chocolate cookies & start turning on your craving center for things that ARE life-giving, like fruit! (All you cynics can roll your eyes right about now). But it’s true, you have the ability teach your body to crave healthy foods IF you are willing to uncomfortably put them in your shopping cart regularly & acknowledge that the emotions you’ve tied to your food are not going to be what controls your health or fitness level. I mean…do you really want to die early from heart disease because you were bored & filled the boredom with cookies? I doubt it.

Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. What do you want to adapt your body to? A new body shape? New body strength? New flexibility or cardio fitness? What kind of imposed demands have you been placing on you body? Has it given you those adaptations you wanted? If not, change the imposed demand to net a new specific adaptation.

It’s almost a New Year – are you ready to adapt?