Monday, July 6, 2015

How To Fall In Love With Your Sport (Again)

"Obstacles Are Put  In Your Way To See If What You Want Is Really Worth Fighting For"
I think about this statement a lot.  Inevitably, the sports you do will wax and wane with success.  No one is successful 100% of the time.   This can create frustration, and lead to the question of "Why am I doing this anyway?" 
If you go back, and re-read January's blog post, titled "Finding Your WHY,"  this can assist you in doing an "internal inventory" regarding your training.  Every athlete needs to re-motivate him/herself periodically.  "Plateaus" are part of training, & (at least for me), are the hardest to contend with.
My worst trait is impatience.  This is predominately with myself.  I work hard, and like to see results...quickly.  Yet, anything worthwhile doesn't come easy.  It's the attribute of perseverance that yields a champion.  A champion will do what others won't.  When others sleep, he/she trains.  When others seek comfort, he/she practices being comfortable with the uncomfortable.
This process is rewarding, yet can also take a toll on the psyche.  It can create "burnout," and prevent an athlete from breaking past plateaus, when they feel they've "hit-a-wall" with their training.
In Jiu-Jitsu, there's something loosely termed "The Blue Belt Curse."  This means that, often, when people get their blue belt, they quit Jiu-Jitsu.  Just when they broke through the "just-trying-to-survive" white belt stage, they burn out.  You see this in all sports.  The plateau-frustration stages that you'll invariably hit can weed out those who are serious about training, versus those who aren't.

The question is, when you hit a stage of frustration in your training ( and this can be due to many things), what can you do about it?  How can you re-focus, shift your frustration pattern of thinking back to "training mode," wake up ready to be excited again about your sport?

Let's first identify some causative factors that can produce the plateau-frustration effect.  There are many.  These are just a few. 

- Working With The Same Coach For Years On End
- Poor Diet ("I Workout, So I Can Eat Whatever I Want")
- Not Enough Water/Fluid Intake
- Training The Same Way All The Time (which can also be connected to working with the same coach)
-Poor Body "Maintenance"
1.)  Working With The Same Coach:  There are pros/cons to this.  On one hand, if you have a highly experienced coach, you are able to really practice his/her way of training, & get specifically good at that one style.  This, of course, can be of benefit.  This can, eventually, make you an expert in a specific way of training.  While this has many "upsides" to it, this also has many "downsides."  No one coach or person has ALL the answers.  If you find a coach/trainer that you "mesh" with, by all means, stay with him/her.  However, to keep things "fresh" with your training, it never hurts to get a 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th opinion.  Work with your coach, but attend specialty workshops by other experts also.  Sometimes it just takes a new perspective to get you excited to train again.  Sometimes it even takes a fresh voice to say the same thing you've heard, repeatedly, but said in a different way.  It then "sinks in"...you get excited at your new understanding...and are ready to get back...and give it 100% again.  Always seek new knowledge in your sport.  Always attend workshops, seminars, watch videos about it, read books to increase your breadth of knowledge.  This will keep things interesting, and you excited to get up, yet again, and give it your best.  Every expert has many teachers behind him/her.
2.)  Poor Diet:  I can't emphasize this enough.  I blow up social media with this message.  As a health care provider, fitness trainer and "CrossFit" coach, I can't help it.  My passion is motivating people to better lifestyle choices, and this always starts with your nutrition.  As an athlete, it's even more vital that this becomes top priority.  You can't put bad fuel in a car, and expect it to run properly.  Your nutrition is paramount to preventing "burn out," and helping you move past training plateaus.  You need to pretend you never heard the saying "You Can Eat Whatever Your Want If You Workout."  I couldn't disagree more.  In fact, I'd even reverse that, and say, if you want the benefits of being an athlete, you have to have a disciplined nutrition plan, no ifs, ands, or buts.  Repeated injury can happen, not only from training incorrectly, but from poor nutrition.  Not giving the body adequate nutrients, thereby, not feeding the body properly is a recipe for training disaster.  "Bonking" is a common term amongst athletes.  It means being past the state of hypo-glycemia, and therefore, far past a "negative checking account balance," of vitamins and minerals.  Its difficult to recover motivation at this point.  And, let's face it, an injury (and repeated ones, at that) are deflating to the morale.  Good nutrition is a large percentage in preventing both repeated injuries and "bonking."


3.)  Not Enough Water/Fluid Intake:   A reduction of just 2% of fluid can result in reduced athletic output by as much as 10-20%. This is not insignificant. Ponder for a moment the amount of energy that goes into training to improve by just 5%. All that, and more, can be lost by inadequate hydration.  Water intake is something I'm constantly working on.  Its something that every athlete should pay attention to.  The times I tend to forget to drink water is typically when I'm doing something in the cold (like snow-shoe running), and swimming.  You are expending more calories in the pool than you think, but for some reason, when I lap swim, I get "in the zone," and forget to drink water in between laps.  This is something I'm now making a concerted effort to do.  Pay attention to the times that you tend to forget to bring, or drink, water.  Then, make an effort to change that.

Jiu-Jitsu at "Clark's University of Martial Arts," Bend, OR.

Girls That Lift Are Strong & Confident

4.)  Training The Same Way All The Time:  This can be connected to #1.  After all, if you work with the same coach, day in, day out, you may get in a rut, working out the same way.  People often ask me how I can do so many different sports, and not get injured.  I share with them "It's because I do so many different sports that I don't get injured."  I truly believe that being a "mono-sport" athlete is not the way to go, for most, in the way of fitness and longevity.  Even the top mono-sport athletes, now cross-train.  At least, the best ones do.  I know several ultra-runners that also weight train.  As they should.  Weight training will do something totally different (and necessary) for their body that cardio won't.  I also believe it goes both ways.  My big power lifter/strength patients lack agility, speed, and flexibility, because they rarely do cardio, and stretch.  My motto is:  "I will cross-train your cross-training."  You body should have zero idea what you're going to ask it to do, when you wake up each morning.  It should be ready for anything:  run, jump, lift, climb, swim, bike, row, bend, stretch, dance, whatever.  The minute you become a "specialist" in any one area of fitness is the minute you hit a "plateau."  Whatever your given sport is, consider cross-training as your ticket to staying in that sport.  Anytime you train the same way, for months and years on end, you're asking for overuse/repetitive injuries.  Why do triathletes tend to suffer less injuries versus runners or cyclists alone?  Because they're constantly asking their body to train differently.  Even though more sports are involved in a triathlon versus a marathon, you're less likely to get injured.  It's counter-intuitive, but the more different types of activities you do, the less likely you are to get injured.  The body wasn't designed to eat the same food, over and over, and it's no different for exercise.  Cross-training also prevents boredom, and keeps things fun :)

5.)  Poor Body "Maintenance":  Now I put on my acupuncturist hat.  I'm constantly amazed at how well we maintain our cars, homes, and care for our pets...but, not ourselves.  People have a funny notion that it's "charitable" to put themselves last.  Not one of my Mom clients/patients have said this has worked well for them.  We run ourselves ragged care-taking everyone else, yet our own "gas tank" is on "E."  You must put the same amount of effort (if not more) into taking care of your body.  My guy patients only typically come in to see me, because their wife/girlfriend made the appointment for them.  They grumble their whole first treatment, then come back to the second treatment reluctantly admitting that they feel better.  Once their symptoms start to disappear, they then ask me how often should they come in.  I (only semi jokingly) say "You're On The 'Jiffy Lube' plan.  When that sticker on your windshield says it's time for an oil change then you come in for one of your own."  That seems to work.  I have my own plan, which I highly recommend for every athlete.  Every 3 months I do CPR:  "Crack," "Poke," and "Rub".  That stands for chiropractic, acupuncture and  massage.  I play hard, and want to continue playing hard.  I know my body needs "tune-ups" and "oil changes," just like my car.  In fact, it's more important than my car, because it's the "house" I live in.

If you give your attention to the following things listed, you will skate over training plateaus easily.  Molding your body into an efficient, strong, capable machine is a joy.  There are bound to be a few  "obligatory" bumps and bruises along the way, but don't lose your enthusiasm.  Sports offer us limitless bounds to test our capabilities in so many ways.  From the inner to the outer levels of who we are.  Frustration is normal.  It can be a way of doing an inventory in your life to see where the "holes" are in your training.  This can be a powerful way of participating in your health, and enriching your life with success, confidence, and growth.
Climbing At "Smith Rock," 2015