Knowing when to take your foot off the accelerator- an article review by Intern, Mike Haggerty.
A few weeks ago I read an article (link below) titled “The accelerator can be your worst enemy.” It ran through a few different body building legends' professional careers focusing on their eventual collapses and how they may have been prevented. I was not so much interested in the body builders themselves, but more the bigger picture message that the article was getting at.
The first example it gives is of Ronnie Coleman. For those of you who do not know who this man is, please take a minute and check out this video clip – https://youtu.be/TRcR-_nF84o. The man has some legendary quotes, probably the most famous being “Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder… but don't nobody wanna lift these heavy-ass weights!” He was a beast, an absolute monster – known for how hard he trained and winning 8 Mr. Olympia championships in a row, among many other achievements. In 2014 Coleman had double total hip replacement surgery, he is 52 today.
The article goes on to mention other body builders I have never heard of; citing injuries which cut their careers short – injuries the author feels could have been avoided had they trained smarter. He provides some quotes from one or two of the athletes admitting to this exact fault. Training 'hard' does not always mean you are training 'smart'.
As we know Crossfit can be taxing on your body. Some of the movements can be very technical and cause injury if not performed correctly, especially when being performed at the high level of intensity Crossfit demands. Most of us never worked out like this before – think about how sore your entire body was after every class the first few months you were here – that does not happen at your traditional fitness class. And because of that no matter how healthy our nutrition and/or lifestyles are, every now and then your body needs a break from Crossfit. Taking a week off every few months is without a doubt the best thing I do for my body when it comes to helping my muscles recover. Much better than a protein shake, paleo diet, getting 8 hours of sleep, etc. can be. And I would recommend to everyone to do the same thing. Take a week every now and then to stretch, use the mobility balls and foam rollers on some overworked muscles, do some light exercise (go for a run, a hike, ride a bike, etc.), and then come back the following week feeling refreshed and ready to keep building.
The biggest goal here shouldn't be to deadlift 400 pounds, or finish Grace in less than 2 minutes. Those are certainly good goals to have, but the biggest goal here, and I am going to steal this quote from a current member John Longyear, is “just to come back tomorrow and do it again.” John hits the nail on the head here. If you can keep yourself healthy, and keep coming back consistently month after month, eventually you WILL get that heavy deadlift. But if you push yourself too hard you are increasing your chances of some sort of injury or setback. And that will not just set you back on one goal, but will take you away from Crossfit in general as you recover.
And to take this one step further, let's look at the big picture here, the thousand foot view. I say this because it is very easy to think of our lives in a vacuum, getting wrapped up in what we are doing today and tomorrow and not placing enough emphasis on what we will or want to be doing in 5, 10, or 20 years. I see it all the time when sitting down with clients and talking to them about retirement planning, or saving for college, or many other events that are many years away. We are all here because we love Crossfit. And while the intense workouts get all the press, I think it is fair to say that most of us are here because we love the lifestyle that Crossfit represents; healthy eating, staying active, staying fit, community, and many others. As much as I do not like to admit it there was life before Crossfit, and there will come a time when Crossfit will no longer be in our lives. Whether that is because some other fitness rage has overcome it or something in our lives change where doing Crossfit just is not possible. But with or without Crossfit you will still want some of those same elements in your life. What I am getting at here is that if you are training too hard, and not training 'smart' to achieve that heavy deadlift and you end up throwing your back out, you risk not only hindering your Crossfit career, but you risk altering your lifestyle for what could be a long time if not forever.
So on days when you are not feeling 100%, or you are worried about being able to properly execute the 50 front squats the workout calls for, remember that hitting the 'RX' button for one workout is nowhere near as important as being able to show up the rest of the week and keep getting your workouts in. Train smart and listen to your body and your coaches. It may take you an extra month to reach your next goal, but at least your body feels good and you are able to make another goal versus going to physical therapy or the chiropractor or sitting on the couch while your body heals. And further down the road you can look forward to staying active throughout your life, not just until you turn 50 like the legendary Ronnie Coleman. Like John Longyear said, the biggest goal is just to come back tomorrow and do it again (and again, and again, and again…)