By now a lot of us have set our goals and targeted some activities and events for the coming year. This is good, since goals turn intention into action. Once some goals are set, then the plan has to be made for doing the work to achieve the goals. For many of us, the goals will be either directly or indirectly related to improving or refining our health or skills. As you plan the activities to accomplish the goal, remember that if you want new or different results, then you must plan on doing new activities.
By new activities, I don’t mean to imply that you must take up rock climbing to improve your cycling (Though you might be surprised how it could help, but that is a topic for another column). New activities in this context simply means that you must plan on learning something new about what you do in order to refine what you do. If you continue to do the same thing you always do, you can improve only to a certain plateau. In theory, this concept makes basic sense, but in reality it is often harder to accomplish than most of us appreciate. It has been said that in theory there is no difference between theory and reality, but in reality there is. One of the best ways to identify critical refinements to target is to seek out the opinions of others.
It is hard to be objective when analyzing yourself and your movement because your only basis of comparison is the personal experience that you have always known. A friend of mine helped me understand it with the Dairy Queen example. Suppose that the only ice cream someone had ever eaten was Dairy Queen ice cream. If you asked that person if ice cream was good, they would answer yes, and if Dairy Queen was good ice cream, they would answer yes as well. But after you then let them sample Maple View Farm and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, they would still answer that they liked ice cream, but Dairy Queen would probably fail to be categorized as good ice cream any more. The opportunity to sample more options allows one to change their frame of reference and come to new conclusions about what is achievable for them. Having someone else analyze what you are doing can provide this valuable extra frame of reference.
Habits can be hard to change. In the case of Endurance athletes, those habits are often movement patterns, muscle imbalances and training patterns that have stagnated to the point of creating inefficiencies. While it is true that know one knows your body like yourself, setting up a training or workout plan without assistance runs the risk of people pursuing an exercise or form improvement program while obliviously just repeating the same patterns that they have always used. It can manifest as strengthening a flawed form or returning to the gym to do the same set of exercises that you have used for years. If you want to continue improving, you have to ask your body to learn new skills and exercises and develop new patterns. Minimal variation in workouts simply strengthen existing patterns of motion and weaken other patterns perpetuating an imbalance cycle can create injury or performance stagnation.
Physical Therapists, Athletic Trainers, Personal Trainers, Coaches and other professionals all have a variety of skills to offer for assisting people in meeting their health and performance goals. We all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A majority of the injuries that are seen clinically in endurance athletes are things that could have been easily prevented if a professional had consulted with the person a couple of months before the pain began. Pain is just the body’s way of telling one that it can no longer recover from the stresses being applied to it. Therapists, trainers and coaches make their living by being able to recognize these stresses before the pain begins and provide direction for correction. As you plan your year, find someone who can provide this help to be your friend, and then get by (better, all the time) with a little help from a friend. (Apologies to John, Paul, George & Ringo)