Training Smart: Opportunity to Improve.

So I’m week 10 of an intensive workout cycle. And week 2 of physical therapy (PT). If you follow me on instagram, you’ve likely picked up on this fact based on my instastories last week.

Before I start to explain, I already know that some will point to my exercise choices and current program as the reason why I am in PT. It is a contributing factor. I won’t deny it.

However, this round of PT really is a great thing. I have not broken or severely damaged anything. I have aggravated a few things. I stopped when it happened. I obtained an evaluation and I am taking a step back to address the root of problem before any serious damage.

So let me back up a few steps and explain what’s going on here and why it’s the best thing that could have happened to me (athletically and for everyday life).

Training and racing isn’t easy. In my experience, it doesn’t come easy, it never has. I was never ‘gifted’ as an athlete but always enjoyed the challenge and comraderie around sport.

At the end of the day, irregardless of what anyone might say or lead you to believe on their social media – swimming, biking, running, climbing, sailing, weightlifting, push-ups, basketball, pull-ups, baseball, pole vaulting, scuba diving…. I could go on and on, you get the point – none of this stuff is easy on day one. It takes time, effort, patience, and perseverance to master skills. Sure some people might find it easier to pick up certain skills, but even if you have ‘talent’ it still takes hours and hours for this stuff to suddenly seem and appear effortless.  And even if you are ‘talented’ that talent will not result i
n mastery without hours and hours of practice – consistent hard work and dedication will beat talent every damn time – no matter what area of your
life you apply it to … athletics, education, career, etc.Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 7.02.44 AM

I seriously wish I had realized this at a younger age. Some
how I figured this out about my formal education and career
but never realized it could be applied to my athletic endeavors until my mid 20s… Anyhow, when you are learning new skills (which I am), there are often (always?) bumps in the road.

This year, I added crossfit to my training regimen. I know, I know, that there is all sorts of controversy around crossfit – and some of you are thinking – that’s it, that’s the reason for the PT and you you could validate your point since there are articles published that would explain exactly why should not do crossfit. On the other hand, if you looked, you would also find article on why crossfit is the best sport for you.

Anyhow, the reason I added crossfit to my training is that I needed more strength training (which crossfit has), I needed direction in my strength training from a ‘how to’ standpoint (enter crossfit coach), I wanted variety in my training (the workout is different each day), and I really really really needed a sport that forced me to move side to side and backward instead of just forward all the time (which is the desired direction of triathlon…)

Which coming back to my PT, crossfit is the reason that I landed in PT but not for the reasons you might think. My issues stem from years of sitting behind a desk or in a car for work (hello 8-12+ hours per day) and then years of training and racing in triathlon. I then placed crossfit on top of those two items and voila, weaknesses and instabilities that I have been able to compensate for and hide could no longer hide.

Ultimately I was diagnosed with “glenohumeral instability” which means my shoulder is not strong in all the areas that it needs to be. Specifically my left is weaker than my right and I need to strengthen some of my smaller muscles in the shoulder. For years I’ve known that my right was stronger than the left when I was swimming – it’s the reason that I primarily breathe on the right side of my body when I swim, it was easier. I always could pull harder with my right than my left and when I had body work done in the past, the practitioner would constantly make comments about my shoulder and the work it needed.

Retrospectively, it is no big surprise that when I incorporated overhead strengthening into my life, I developed some pain (and a pinched nerve) on my left side. This was from this instability and my body’s attempt to subconsciously compensate for the weakness by pushing the shoulder (and first rib) up in an unnatural position.

In short, I definitely was not doing this properly:

overhead snatch

AND because of this, I have been placed on a restrictive workout schedule – no swimming  and no overhead movements until I am able to strengthen my shoulder and even things out again.

At the end of the day, I’ve learned A LOT about my body and I now have a plan to work forward. It has also forced me to slow down and relearn some basic mechanics of how to move and strengthen little by little instead of trying to jump in. Arguably, I would agree with some of the critics of crossfit that the program tends to move a bit too quickly in throwing people into classes instead of really trying to identify weaknesses to ensure the proper mechanics and working on developing the necessary base… but overall I love the variety and challenge of the sport so I’m going to be doing more work on my own to ensure I develop good habits and continue with the sport rather than being someone with more of a fixed mindset that claims that nobody should do crossfit due to the potential injuries from incorrect form.

While I’ve made the decision to place my PT work in a positive place, I do have to admit that it’s frustrating at times. I was coping well with the swimming restriction for the first 2 weeks but now I’m craving the pool again and getting anxious to get back in the water.  However I know that remaining patient will pay off in the long run. I just have to keep remembering that… and keep reminding myself that the swim is my strength and that it will likely come back quickly. I started this year as a year to rebuild my base, regain my speed, race shorter distances and focus on the love I had for triathlon.

Really, this PT and discovery of the weakness could not have come at a better time. I’m using it as an opportunity to become stronger and to also assess other weaknesses I have in my body from all the time I spend sitting for work and from all the time I’ve spent moving in a forward direction in triathlon (hello hips and glutes, we’re revisiting you too… that’s the reason I was in PT back in 2014…).

For now, it’s just a matter of patience and rebuilding. Doing the boring monotonous stuff that nobody likes to show on their social media. The stretching, the rolling, the little strength moves that include 3 lb weights and rubber bands. Unglamorous but ultimately so important for performance.



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