Training As A Journey Of Self-Discovery: How Much Is Too Much?


Hi folks,

The real art to training safely comes down to knowing what to do and becoming aware of how much is too much. Too much what, you might ask? Let’s consider a few key variables.

Impact: Recently I sent out a tweet, via Twuffer to Twitter (brave new world), providing a Chez Ollie in the website concerning the value of exercise for Baby Boomers. There was a statement in this article that had me concerned: “Got achy knees? Try jogging or any form of high-impact aerobics. A study review in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise finds that doing any high-impact activity will help protect your knees by increasing the cartilage in them.” I consider this to be extremely dangerous advice because it is incomplete. In my experience, more of my peers have abandoned running due to knee injuries induced by impacts associated with poor running style than any other cause. An inexperienced person who takes up so-called ‘jogging’ is putting herself or himself at serious risk of injury. There are sensible approaches that can be pursued prior to running (which is the same as jogging!), including extensive walking, water running, and finally low impact running techniques, such as Chi Running, that take a long time to master. Not to mention shoes, when and where to run, and so forth. There is a lot of advice out there, and we are each responsible for the decision as to whether to follow the advice or ignore it. Think, study, and think some more before you run, and don’t make the mistake of assuming that jogging isn’t running; this is a fallacy. The impact stresses are the same.

Tension versus Relaxation: This is a complex issue, and striving to optimize their balance is well worth the effort. Tense muscles slow you down, which becomes increasingly obvious as you attempt to move your cadence on the bike beyond 140 rpm. According to my coach, Eric Bean, serious cyclists should be able to jump directly to 180 rpm, no problem. As my cadence increases (non-bounce max achieved to date 160 rpm), I am coming to believe it.

Plant from which Curare is extracted. From:

Relaxed muscles permit rapid movement, but excessive relaxation will reduce critical support to joints, such as those in the spine, knees and ankles. As an extreme case, stand up straight and relax all of your muscles and you will fall to the floor. An alternative is to take a muscle relaxant, such as Curare for the same outcome. If you want to see examples of the effects of muscle relaxation watch Jackie Chan performing Monkey Style martial arts (remarkable), or Farm Boy in The Princess Bride (great book, great movie) when he is recovering from being mostly dead. These are examples of extreme relaxation, one effective and the other incapacitating.

Load: How much should you train, or load your body, mind and time. All three become strained with excess. In my opinion the road, which is certainly ‘less traveled,’ is simple. (1) Focus initially on body-awareness, and then you will learn to recognize the warning signs more rapidly. (2) Complete a body inventory of old injuries, and explore the nature of the effects of such injuries on your body mechanics, using (1) above, preferably with the aid of an instructor in one of the body-awareness disciplines (I use Feldenkrais, about which I have written multiple posts, but there are others of merit), and work to eliminate negative effects of old injuries. (3) Choose an exercise or sport that you enjoy or think that you might enjoy. (4) Set some simple, reasonable and measurable goals. (5) Start gently to train, and remember the 10% rule. (6) Find peers with similar interests, as they can make the best early coaches, though under no circumstances accept what they advise without studying the issue and deciding for yourself what is best for you, and find a professional coach when you are ready. (7) LEARN from your mistakes, as they are extremely valuable and it is best to not repeat them. [And of course consult a physician before you start, so I won’t be responsible if you make mistakes, even though they will be your mistakes].

You are then on the way to a journey of self-discovery of your body-mind that never ends.

Oh! Yes! I nearly forgot. Once you achieve your goal, reward yourself (ice cream, meal out, whatever seems appropriate but not damaging), and then start all over again.

Happy training.

-k @FitOldDog


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.