I am a self-trained athlete. Put simply: I love to swim, ride a bike, go running, and lift heavy things. So naturally I have been swimming competitively over the winter and multisporting during the spring and summer seasons. Throughout the year, I lift.
There have been many pitfalls to my self-training. The most obvious one has to do with my knowledge of the scientific principles of training. I am determined and purposeful in my training, 100% committed to my goals, and honestly love the fitness journey. But, to be successful, I must train smart.
What is the best way to get in all my workouts for maximum gains without overtraining?
Last November, I experienced a shoulder injury that had me out of the water for three months. And for those three months, I stayed primarily fit with strength training and doing short HIIT treadmill sessions while I gave my shoulder a break. Which was the Worst Decision Ever. Once I returned to the pool and couldn’t move my arm through ANY stroke, my heart sank. Fearing the injury was way worse than anticipated, I saw my orthopedic surgeon for a MRI. The report confirmed I had shoulder impingement and a small SLAP tear. My swim team referred me to a Physical Therapist who specializes in swimmer shoulder injuries. She believes I now have frozen shoulder, or adhesive capsulitis, which has limited my range of motion. After an injury, followed by a period of immobility, the tissues around the joint stiffened and scar tissued formed. The shoulder essentially became frozen, making movement difficult and very painful. Early treatment could have prevented the stiffness setting in, as well continuing swimming with stroke modifications. Currently, I am doing shoulder stretching exercises to bring back movement, as well as swimming breaststroke and freestyle only, doing stroke drills and lots of lots of kicking.
There are the common principles of training and then there is ME– the decisions I make based on my own experience and intuition. My personal philosophy has been More is better, Train hard. And avoid seeking medical advice, obviously. My Hubby calls this: Being a Knucklehead. Being a Knucklehead is the leading cause of my injury, my potential burnout, and my previous overtraining. By adopting a more moderate philosophy, like Train Smart, I hope to avoid these problems.
A principle of bodybuilding that I’ve come to appreciate has to do with cutting: what is the minimum amount of cardio you can do in order to lose fat. The primary aim of the cut is to lose fat and preserve muscle. Which is REALLY hard. And why I really respect bodybuilders. Losing weight is one thing, but becoming cut is an art. It takes YEARS to build up muscle, and fat loss is done carefully. So here, less is better. The small fitness gains made over a long time are better than quick fitness changes over a short time.
The idea of placing limits on training is a scary thought for me. My shoulder injury was an A-Ha moment for me. I abuse training not because I want to be a better swimmer, but because I can’t bring myself to change. I am addicted to overtraining. But overtraining is causing injury, downtime, and a frustrated me struggling to get back to previous levels of training. Like my Hubby says: the juice ain’t worth the squeeze.
I aim now to finish a workout with the feeling that I can do a little more. And when I get the itch to do another set, I stop. Which is hard. Because I don’t always trust my judgement. But rather than train hard, I want to devote my workouts around building endurance and strength, recovering, and prefecting my form.
So here’s to a safe, restful and smarter season. And to a new goal to push me not be stronger or faster, but smarter and maybe kinder too.