STOP WORKING OUT!! Yes you! You over-caffeinated, push-yourself-to-the-limit, closet A-type personality, fitness disaster-in-waiting. Stop it! Is this a weird thing for a personal trainer to say? Not really, and here’s why. We all love to push ourselves to the limit, in life and in fitness. But we seem to forget about the maintenance that goes along with the thrill of pushing it to the edge. This is the equivalent of taking an extremely expensive race car and racing it without a pit-stop. They do it for a car, but we can’t do it for our own bodies? Pushing yourself to the limit every day without upkeep is going to lead to injury. Period. Maybe not tomorrow, the next day, or even a year from now… but that major, or nagging, injury will come to haunt you. Unless you are one of those freak individuals (you’re not) who never seems to get injured, the Ghost of Fitness Past can stick around for a long time. So stop ripping the race car around the track and pull into ‘pit-lane’ for a tune-up. Here’s how:
Periodized Training: Have a plan and chart your plan. Recovery is important… PUT IT INTO YOUR PLAN! Your periodization should:
1. Progress things harder every week… gradually (how this is done is a 10 page article on its own) .
2. Have on ‘off week’ every four-five weeks. This off week is goal dependent, of course, and does not mean you do nothing. It just means you dial it back a notch. After this down week is over you progress through another 4 hard weeks again — just slightly more intense this time.
3. Have recovery days as well as hard training days put into your plan every week. I have put some suggestions below (yoga, massage, foam rolling) in regards to what I mean by a recovery day.
Yoga (stretch): Plan these days as part of your periodization. Can yoga be a training day? Why not?? If you are so OCD that you can’t take a rest day, then go to a yoga class. This will not only force you to stretch, but actually breathe and slow down for an hour.
Massage: The only Canadian Cyclist to ever win a cycling grand tour, Ryder Hesjedal, randomly thanked the team’s massage therapist twice in his post-race speech after winning the Giro d’Italia. That says it all right there regarding massage… go get one! I give you permission. You need it and deserve it!
Foam Rolling: The poor man’s massage. Buy a foam roller and google what to do with it. Use it pre-workout or post. It’ll hurt but you’ll love it after! (note to you A-types… you have to relax into it) Check out Gui Spiteri’s foam rolling article coming next week.
Cross-training: Cycle,cycle, cycle; run, run, run; and lift, lift, lift. We do what we like and we keep doing what we like. Your body needs change. Not only to keep from overtraining (a very nasty word, this one) but to shock the body and progress. It also gives those overused, beat-down fibers a chance to rally because you are using them in a different way. After several months of doing your favorite sport/training, switch to something new for a short period. Cycling season is over and you still have the itch? Go hit the Grouse Grind… that’ll scratch that for you!
Sleep and recover: There is a reason that major sports teams chart all their players’ sleep patterns: the studies on recovery and performance have been backed up a million times. So you’ve done three awesome workouts this week but you are only getting six hours sleep a night? Well, we all know that isn’t enough. Your results will not progress and quite possibly will regress. Your ride time up Cypress isn’t improving but you’re training hills like a dog? Check your recovery and sleep times.
At the end of day it comes down to balancing the fine line of fitness and living the rest of your life without injury. If you choose to be the manic fitness person and just ignore the preservation of your body it will catch up with you. Honestly, this is the hardest advice to follow. It seems tough to do, but personally I try to get to my yoga on Fridays here at Rep1 and I get a massage bi weekly (schedule permitting). Schedule the time and stick to it… your body will thank you with the results.