The Philosophy Behind Breakthrough – and Why it Involves the Adaptation Loop

One of the most deeply impactful lessons for me – as I began the process of becoming a coach – was this Sports Science video. Yes, it may be over a decade old – but the message is so profound & I continue to learn from it and to teach it to others.


I wanted to share it today because it was, and still is, poignant in my development as a coach.

I didn’t know exactly how much impact this video would have on both my personal and my professional experiences the first time I watched it. I simply thought it was really “cool.” At the time my training was very evidence based and “smart.” Which really meant, I just really liked all things “exercise nerdery.”

The irony is that, over time, I realized that what it was teaching me was a basic fundamental aspect of movement – which is was the opposite of exercise nerdery.

When we are learning a new skill, or challenging the performance edge of an existing skill set, the body operates on what we refer to as the awareness/adaptation loop.

As I move through an exercise, action or situation, I can either just go through the motion to get the task done, or I can choose to be mindful of what I’m doing and learn from it.

For instance, you can do any number of squats without paying attention. Or, you can pay attention to how your spine is stacked, if your knee is rotated in or out too far, and when your coach is telling you to adjust your hips a certain way.

As you gain more awareness, you can then modify your movement and, in turn, you gain a new level of awareness which allows for even greater adaptation

This concept shines through in the video when you hear Renaldo describe his experience. As the lights get turned off, his mind automatically incorporates everything he noticed – the things he noticed before they turned off the lights.

His mind gathered all of the data from the planted leg to the swing of the kicking leg. When faced with the darkness – he asks his body to use what his mind took in when the lights were on and then he acts accordingly.

The role of the mind is to be aware, take in the information, and ask the body to do/or achieve.

This is an important point and well worth repeating.

The mind ASKS (for the movement or shape). The body figures out HOW to do it.

Here are a couple, of the many, reasons as to why this should matter to you:

1. Directly referenced in the video is the concept of practice. Journalist, Malcom Gladwell, writes about the “10,000-hour rule” which is a popular ideology about one’s ability to master an activity. Understand, it takes work and time to improve the awareness/adaptation loop.


2. Know your role. When you’re exercising or learning a new skill, it’s not your conscious mind’s job to figure it out. Intellectualizing the situation isn’t going to help, it gets you thinking – which is actually slower and takes valuable focus away from awareness.


The fastest way to learn new skills is to focus on awareness and allow the body to do the adapting.  It may sound simple, but believe me, it can be very difficult. It’s tempting to try to “figure it out”, to try harder, or to look for an easier way, but that hampers learning.


About the author:


Josh Hostetler is an experienced fitness professional and the founder & owner of Breakthrough Fitness. His goal at Breakthrough is to offer a wide range of highly skilled professionals, eager to learn and extremely driven.

In his twelve plus years in the industry, Josh has made a very deliberate effort to fill my conceptual “tool box” with a wide variety of tools to fulfill the goals of his clientele. While at Thomas More College he had the opportunity to coach four years of college football while double majoring in Psychology and Exercise Physiology under Ted Lambernides.

Josh spent a year working at the University of Cincinnati as a strength coach where he learned the intensity necessary to control a room full of 60 plus athletes. He also spent six months working with the Cincinnati Bengals under strength coach Chip Morton where he learned the value of becoming a student of the industry and devoting himself to daily reading to refine his skills.

While still in college he was also presented the opportunity to work with former Olympic sprint coach, Joe Gentry as he prepped a dozen upper level prospects for the NFL combine. That is where Josh truly began to understand the detail necessary to teach speed.

After school, in his next twelve years, he spent two years at a time learning about and refining a new skill. From his time as a head strength coach at a high school figuring out sports performance and then to the private spectrum, he spent time refining his speed program, improving his background and practice in the corrective/therapeutic realm, learning the Olympic lifts under Chris Cleary (who’s knowledge is unparalleled in the tristate area), to figuring out hard style Kettlebell training.

Most recently he spends his time learning to teach, from working with college interns to new professionals. He’s become more efficient at conveying the heart and sole of biomechanics.