Training: More than Following the Program

“In training, you listen to your body. In competition you tell your body to shut up.” — Rich Froning, Four-time CrossFit Games Champion

The alarm went off at 3:45am. Regardless of the reason, beginning the day while there is still a three on the clock is difficult. On this particular morning, it was even more of a challenge because 800-meter repeats are on the horizon. At 4:30am, my training partner and I stepped foot on the track to begin the warm-up. Mentally, we were on point. The cool breeze and silence of the morning created a calm and peaceful atmosphere. Training at that hour, while the majority of the city was asleep, provided motivation and cultivated a sense of accomplishment. We understood that if executed at the proper intensity, the required split times were realistic and achievable. However, physically, neither of us was at 100%. She had been battling shin splints and due to the bilateral quad tendon tears, I was experiencing significant discomfort and pain. Following the warm-up, we began the training session. The goal: 4x800-meter Run (400-meter active recovery walk between each round). We ran the first 800-meters 20 seconds faster than the required split. On the second 800-meters, we dialed in the pace and hit the desired split time. Following the second run, during the active recovery walk, my partner was limping. The pain from the shin splints was no longer manageable, and I was also at my threshold for the pain I had been experiencing in my knees. Disheartened and frustrated, we concluded that it would not be smart for either of us to continue. We did not complete the training session.

What’s the morale of the story? Training is a complex process. Several factors need to be considered: exercise history, training goal (General Physical Preparedness (GPP) or performance), training frequency, modalities, time, intensity, volume, work-to-rest ratios, equipment, etc. However, one component that individuals often neglect to consider is their body. Although there are exceptions (e.g., sport performance training and competition), people (including my training partner and I) need to begin listening to their bodies. Those of you training for GPP, the ultimate goals are functionality and longevity. Training to the point of injury (NOT SORENESS), will only hinder your ability to express your fitness in life.

Some of you reading the post may be asking yourself, “Why in the hell would anyone train to the point of injury or train through significant pain?” There are several reasons that individuals find themselves in this situation. However, the most logical explanation is of no relation to musculoskeletal physiology or training methodologies. The answer: motivation and competition. ‘The mind is a powerful thing.’ The body has the capacity to execute any and all demands of the mind. Individuals whom are intrinsically motivated and have developed immense mental fortitude are capable of performing practically any physical task. This mentality, in conjunction with multiple training modalities, greater volume, and high intensities can lead to overtraining and injury if not managed properly. It is critical that these individuals become aware of their physical limits. However, the solution is not merely a matter of education. The psychology associated with this mindset is complex and cannot be reprogrammed overnight. It is a process; patience and empathy are essential to success. In time, these individuals will come to the realization that it is acceptable to modify training programs in order to accommodate physical limitations and injury, ultimately enabling them to train at greater intensity, longer periods of time, and increase the rate at which they achieve their goals.