Saturday, November 7, 2015

Finding the right balance

I am well into my 3rd term of massage school. It's been awhile since my last blog, in part due to how busy I have been. School has proven much more challenging than I expected. And that's partly really great, because it goes to shows how much education and training is required to become a registered massage therapist. However, it also means that school has been all-consuming since September, and my stress is at an all time high! At school, if it's not a test or a practical exam, it's assessing and properly treating patients. I find I need to be constantly "on" at school. And the fact that my knowledge of any anatomy prior to starting school seems like it was almost none, has meant there has been a lot to learn! Now, don't get me wrong, as a coach I knew my major muscles and bones, but now I need to know the small muscles, ligaments, tendons, where muscles attach on the bone, fiber direction, nerves, arteries...(you get the point!). That's a lot to learn in just 5 months! Not to mention all the rest of it. My being in school does not seem too different than a high stress job. I am there over 40 hours a week, 3 nights each week until 8pm. Tests or exams are like important meetings and treating patients in clinic is very much like problem solving a difficult issue at work.

I spoke in a previous post about finding the right balance with work, training, family, friends and recovery. That you only have a certain amount of stress that you can handle before you get sick, injured, overworked of overtrained. As the work or school stress goes up, you end up having to reduce the time dedicated to other areas of your life. The most common areas the dedicated athlete will cut time to are: friends/social and recovery. This is even what I would tend to do, too. However, having a coach, and being a coach myself, I know that this WILL NOT lead to better training and performance. So, as a result of my increased workload, I decided to cut the training time instead and leave the time for recovery intact. I went from training 16-20 hours/week in the summer to training 8-12 hours now.

I have shifted my training to being more focused. The main theme of my training now is QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. What is interesting is that: (1) I am enjoying my training more, (2) I am more focused during the sessions, and (3) I feel that I am still getting stronger despite less hours of training.

So, what is my advice for the time-crunched athlete who still wants to improve?

Swim: Join a Master's swim club or get a coach. This will prevent you from just swimming aimlessly without really knowing what you are doing. A swim club or coached swim workout will help make sure you are swimming efficiently. It will ensure your swim workout has purpose. Lastly, it will help give you a little extra push to put your best effort forward.

Bike: Do interval training on your own bike. Whether outside or in, the shorter days mean that there just isn't as much time for a long ride. Block your training to make it more interesting: hills/strength training for a few weeks, VO2 max training for a few weeks, threshold training for a few weeks, repeat. This will help keep all systems sharp for spring/summer riding. There are lots of great indoor riding facilities all over the city. WattsUp Cycling offers a studio in the west end and a home cycling program specifically targeted towards the rider's physiology, and this is a great option. (And what I will be following this winter!)

Run: Lots of brick runs (15-30 minute run off the bike)! Increasing the frequency of your running versus the duration of your long run is a great way to improve and prevent injury. You are also warmed up from your bike ride, so you don't need to do as long of a warmup. Once you have a strong base, you can even add intensity into those brick runs. Joining a run group is also an excellent option. The Toronto Triathlon Club and Marathon Dynamics have a lot of great groups on varying days of the week to choose from.

Overall: As a general rule, in the off-season, include 1 swim session, 1 bike session, 1 run session every 3-5 days to maintain your fitness. Depending on the duration you may be OK with more (5 days) or less (3 days) time in between sessions. This rule can allow you to focus your off-season training on one sport if you want to improve one discipline, specifically. For example, if your goal is to get stronger on the bike, then bike more and just make sure you are getting 3-5 swims and runs in every 2 weeks.

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