Where is the balance point?

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I am writing this blog post from the couch under a blanket in my lulus (ok that’s pretty much what I wear at the gym all the time… but some pairs are much more worn out than others). This morning after going into the gym to do an extra treatment in the clinic, on my one day off a week, I declared myself exhausted. Not sleepy tired, not sore, quite hungry, and exhausted. I am someone who prides myself on having a very balanced lifestyle. I work a lot, and work out a lot, I eat a lot and I sleep a lot. Most of the time it balances out perfectly… but every now and again it catches up to me. Since coming back from my trip I have worked a full clinic schedule, taught my regular classes plus some, continued my 3 on 1 off training and have added 3 days a week of running resulting in at least 2 “2 a days” every week. I noticed I had a slightly stuffy nose last week but I hardly ever get sick and fortunately this one didn’t get me either. But on Monday when Jesse and I went for a run I noticed that an old injury that I hadn’t felt in a long time was sort of nagging at me. I spent a bunch of time trying to think of mechanical, shoe, terrain and nutrition reasons that could be the case, but nothing really added up. Then I realized that the whole situation is oddly similar to that which I see in clinic and the gym all the time.

Sometimes life catches up to us, our immune system gets challenged and then it manifests in a number of different ways. Getting sick is an obvious one. But another sneaky one, that I have noticed over the last bunch of years, is how often people’s old injuries or weak areas can flare up when they are run down, stressed or getting sick. It’s a really good signal to slow down, that most of us ignore. One of the first questions I ask people in clinic is when they first felt something in the affected area. Usually I have to encourage the person to look a little farther back to find out it’s actually been quite “tight” or “sore” or “nagging” for a while before it got really bad.

The problem is that as driven people we often lack the smarts (I’m not saying we aren’t smart, just not all the time) to realize that pushing forward when your body wants a rest is likely to make you regress. It’s shocking how often Jesse and I have to convince some of you that you need to modify or sit out a workout when YOU know it’s not going to make you feel better (or might make you worse!). Perhaps we have nurtured this beast in you as we have effectively trained many of you around your officially diagnosed knee or shoulder injuries… but there is something very different about knowing that something is injured and having a training plan with that in mind, and having a new progressing ache or sharp undiagnosed pain. Ask Cliff, they DON’T get to use the affected area unless it is strictly monitored. In Foundations #1 I usually talk to the group about how old injured tissue often gets quite cranky when forced into a functional movement range. This is often ok and we can monitor it’s progress and evaluate the intensity. However, when something is new and the pain is increasing with a particular movement or range, it is NOT ok. We usually love your determination people, but not when it has an element of “I’ll just test it out and see without telling anyone”. Sometimes this experimental phase goes on for weeks before we hear about it. We appreciate that you are excited about your progress in the gym, and that you have put a lot of time into it and don’t want to lose it. So talk to us and we will modify in any way we can before we say don’t workout. But if we say don’t workout… we really mean it. Some of you clever ones have even tried the ask Mom and Dad approach on us…. nice try.

The point I’m trying to make is that if we can honestly say that sleep, food, and stress are under control, and you make every effort to move well in the gym, not much should get you… but if something feels like it’s not quite right, it’s ok to hold back a bit in your output while you sus it out. A couple of crappy nights of sleep, a few weeks of poor eating or repetitive wormy pushups can make you quite vulnerable. You can usually turn it around again relatively quickly though if you are on it. Get some good sleep, eat some good food, and see your regular practitioners. If you feel that you lack resources for your particular case, ask us. You guys have an amazing network of people around you with good suggestions for self care and amazing recipes (food blog coming soon!!).

Don’t ignore things, note things in your log book, tell us if something is new, and remind us if it seems like we have forgotten about something.

And be nice to yourself… in the big picture your progress is grand. Look back at where you have come from and accept that there will be days, weeks or months that feel like a setback, there will be boring days on the couch (I am currently thankful for Jesse’s new TV), and there will be someone you know who is able to train hard when you can’t which is frustrating. Sometimes working out extra hard everyday is not the solution for feeling junky about something else. Think about the big picture and learn about your own patterns. Being truly honest with yourself is really really important. I can’t emphasize that enough.

And we are always here to bounce ideas and thoughts off of… Monday this week was particularly fun in that department. If confidentiality wasn’t so important I would have some really great stories for you! You guys are funny, I’ll tell you that.

Gotta go, Ellen’s on. And what am I going to do about it? Take it a little easier for a few days. I’m not injured, just tired. My body will tell me when it’s ready to push hard again.