This week is fully underway, my friends, which means that it’s Coach Tip Tuesday!!
Today I am talking about something that comes up a lot in my work, and it’s advice that I usually need to hand out multiple times. It’s a hard reality that most of us (and I was this athlete once) don’t want to accept each time it happens.
Today’s Coach Tip is this: Listen to your body when it whispers. If you do that, it won’t have to scream.
Any athlete who I’ve worked for can tell you that I instantly scale things back at the first “red flag” that I see. Why do I do this?? It is SO critical to manage a potential issue before it actually needs to be managed. My number one job is to keep the athletes who I work for safe and healthy ALL of the time. If I see a “red flag” (and there are ALL sorts of things that can be red flags), I’ll talk to the athlete about it and modify things immediately. What I don’t want for athletes is for them to wait until it becomes a full-on injury; in my experience, it’s usually too late to “fix” things without significant modifications of workouts or goals.
Modifications at the first sign of a whisper don’t necessarily mean “bad” things. It could mean making a speed workout an easy workout. It could mean swapping days in the schedule so that the day becomes a rest day. It could mean swimming instead of cycling, or it could mean hydrorunning instead of running on land. Or, it could mean an unplanned rest day so that things have time to recover a bit more so athletes can get back to what they love doing most.
In my experience both as an athlete and as a coach, ignoring whispers can lead to bad things. It can create situations where the whisper turns into a full-on, serious injury such as a stress fracture, tendonitis, or plantar fasciitis that can force athletes to the sidelines for extended periods of time. Our bodies are designed to tell us when something is wrong, and we have built in safety systems to do this. Inflammation (which manifests as pain), swelling, abnormal tightness, and excessive fatigue can all be signs that our bodies need something.
How does one see red flags and learn to manage whispers?? By learning to *truly* listen to one’s body (and sometimes this does mean putting what our hearts and minds want aside). This is a difficult skill to learn, and in my experience, it’s one that is best learned with someone else’s guidance. Working with a coach one-on-one can really help; a good coach who is working with an athlete on a personalized coaching plan will review data (qualitative and quantitative) almost daily and give feedback so that they can help the athlete manage anything that pops up in training. Having an outside set of eyes and an outside brain really takes a lot of the guesswork out of things. I am someone who has learned this lesson (the hard way) and while I can manage how I feel very well at this point, I still utilize a coach to help me make sure I’m staying on top of things so I can continue to become stronger while remaining healthy.
Our bodies are amazing machines, and it’s important that we honor that. Do yourselves a favor: keep your ears tuned for whispers so you can stay strong, healthy, and injury free in order to stay active and reach any goal that you set for yourself. Don’t force your body to shout at you. :)