Dear MizFit readers,
My name is Chelsea. I blog at AskFitnessCoach, and today I have a confession: I’m tired of hobbling toward my fitness goals.
By hobbling, I don’t mean “moving slowly.” I mean actually limping.
You see, when I leave the house to walk Greta, my dog, I take the hill instead of the stairs (it’s three paces closer). Overeager, I launch onto the slope at a funny angle and twist my ankle.
I limp to the dog park.
I do this every day.
Since this is a community of amazing fitness enthusiasts, I wish my first guest post could be a herald of my own fitness accomplishments. Or that I could be sharing hard-won advice. Instead, I’m humbly confessing one of my biggest fitness mistakes in hopes that you’ll help me stop doing it.
But before you go forgiving me, you should know that my leaping-before-looking doesn’t end with the above mentioned shortcut. I’m also behind in my training for Little Red Riding Hood, an annual bike ride that takes place in Northern Utah every summer.
I got a late start in my training last year, too, and dove in too quickly. Two weeks into my rigorous catch-up training, I shipwrecked, catching a brutal cold and losing two weeks of training time. I never really regained my prior energy and on the day of the ride, I barely crossed the finish line.
Whoever said ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ was an idiot. Or at least, he wasn’t talking about exercise. If physical overload doesn’t kill you, it will wear you down slowly and gradually. Or in my case, instantly and epically.
I’m acting like this is big news, but of course it isn’t. You already know it’s important to gradually ramp up your training. I know it too. So why do I always start at FULL SPEED?
Yes, it’s impatience—who wants to be in shape later rather than sooner? But I believe it’s more than that.
Confident that I’m not a total idiot, I set out to pinpoint the reasons it’s so easy to take the crash-n’-burn route. Here they are.
Obstacle #1: The Fitness Epiphany
Fitness ambition does not come in tidy, measured bursts. No. It comes in sudden, overwhelming epiphanies. For example: I’ve been on the couch “Glee”-marathoning for 10 weeks and if I don’t run an actual marathon, my body will turn to sludge between the couch cushions. That sudden, overwhelming wake-up call? It makes it really damn hard to start a fitness regimen “slow and steady.”
Obstacle #2: Pent Up Energy
It seems that exercising in the outdoors taps into some innate desire to be free. After 10-hour days in the cube, what can we do but go crazy and rebound? Some head to the bar and get drunk. Others spring senselessly forth into nature and twist an ankle.
Obstacle #3: The Deadline
Planning ahead isn’t always an option. And when we’re behind, doubling up on training seems more sensible than showing up on the big day half-prepared.
But truthfully, paying that looming deadline too much attention will add physical and mental stress on top of the stress of overtraining (thereby doubling your chances of getting sick). In other words, overtraining never works.
Perhaps the better way to reach a sky-high goal is to pretend it isn’t sky-high. By ignoring the deadline (at least at first), you can ease into your groove and use momentum to carry you there—or as close as you can get. Besides, if you feel way too behind, you might just not start at all (not productive).
As for channeling fitness energy, it just takes a bit of self-control. Or a lot. For me, I’m mapping out a concrete training calendar so I can force steady progress rather than just letting my energy fly. It seems to be working. And I’ll be following this training rule of thumb: increase mileage or intensity by NO MORE THAN 10% per week.
Perhaps most importantly, I will enforce the “taper” even if I’m behind. I’ll need that strength stockpile for the big day.
Training oneself ragged is obviously counterproductive, but we do it anyway. From now on, if we fall behind, I say we follow this mantra: overtraining inevitably leads to injury, illness or colossal burnout—regardless of whether or not you’re a wuss.
Acknowledging reality, then, let’s train for our summer 10Ks and bike rides the right way. After all, slow and steady is better than fast… and limping.
So what about you? What big summer goal are you working toward, and how are you getting ready?