Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stop Hurting Yourself

This is Daniel.

Chelsea is at yoga, so I'm taking over posting duties for today.  I want to talk about injuries.

From 2006 to 2008, I trained like a madman.  I got stronger, yes, but the price was pain, burnout, insanity, and death.  During those years, I trained hard for 8 months, made a lot of gains, then crashed and spent the last four months of the year recovering from the mental and physical burnout of doing more than I could handle.

In 2009, I decided I needed to revamp my training, with a focus on consistency and health.  The result was my most productive year ever.

First, I decided to focus on deadlifting as my main lower body exercise and only use squats as assistance.  I don't compete in powerlifting, so I don't have to squat heavy every week.  This saves a lot of wear on the hips, kness, and low back.

Second, I cut down to two days per week.  I can do all the hard weight lifting I need in two days, then spend my other training days on running or rowing.  My lifts went up, I got huger, but I stayed in condition.

Third, I became very conservative when dealing with pain.  If I have an unusual pain, I back off, try to figure out why and address the problem before it becomes a serious injury.  Being conservative with injuries has three benefits:

  • Consistency.  You can't focus on goals if you're constantly injured.
  • Keeps the program minimal, since I don't have to add extra work to address dysfunction*.
  • Pain sucks.

It's true, professional athletes do sometimes train through pain, but they're doing it for money or medals.  That's basically the job description: Destroy your body for profit.  

In reality, most pros, regardless of sport, wave their training loads, peak at the right time for competitions, then take an off-season period for recovery.  Pretty much the opposite of the typical amateur, who trains as hard as possible all the time, with no goals, no plan, and breaks**.

* As a side point, it's common to deal with injuries by adding more.  More stretching, more corrective exercises, more volume.  This rarely works.  You have to do less to let the body heal itself.

** CrossFit hate goes here.