Friday, 29 June 2012

Training hard vs training smart - a true story

By Sabina Skala

Couple of months ago I have decided to enter a fitness competition. It is a pretty straight forward event, 2 mins fitness routine showing strength, flexibility some gymnastics and dance elements. When I started the training I promised myself I would be very smart about my conditioning and think about getting better and better with every week. In my case it meant - reducing the volume of weights session to 3 x a week and be religious about recovery (those who have ever trained me know that getting enough recovery is my biggest issue). 

The rest of the days were dedicated to my gymnastics and dance training. 6 months went great and even though I reduced the total number of my gym conditioning sessions, not only didn't I lose any strength, quite the opposite. All was going very well until last Wednesday. 

Wednesdays are always my recovery / cardio days, as Tuesdays I do a couple of hours of gymnastics. I have no idea what tempted me to jump on the session with one of the fighters I train. It was a technical session on barbell snatch, going up the weight. To cut the story short - I have dislocated my shoulder snatching my previous 1 RM for the 3rd time and i ended up spending the evening in a hospital.  

I teach olympic lifting at seminars and I always emphasize that they can prove to be a great training tool providing your athletes are READY for them. As a trainer and teacher I would never allow my athlete to perform any snatches if their shoulders are not balanced and the mobility between right and left shoulder differs significantly (this was my case). I would never allow my athletes even attempt to lift their 1 RM for any of the oly lifts or derivatives if they are wiped out from a session a day before. So what happened there? Even at the last seminar I taught I didn't use anything heavier than PVC pipe, due to my shoulder injury and the lack of mobility.With the competition coming, it was too big risk for me to gamble on my health. 

           Big thanks to Dario, who drove me to the hospital and stayed there with me for 2 hrs
How come that despite having all the knowledge and experience I did something so stupid that had now put me out off training for at least 5 weeks. Not only I have jeopardized my health, I have also erased months of work with my gymnastics coach and I also gambled on my credibility as a coach in front of one of my athletes. Was it worth it? Absolutely NOT. Waiting for a nurse for 2 hours in Accidents and Emergency with no painkillers gave me a lot of time to think about how one silly decision can bury your sports/coaching career. Thanks God that my friend was with me, otherwise I would not be able to hold it on. When I had the x-rays done, I heard the doctor saying that he needs to see another angle as he thinks there is a fracture, I completely panicked. Fortunately no big damage has been done and I ended up with shot of morphine, setting the shoulder back into place by Patrick the nurse, a sling for 1 week and no training involving shoulders for 6 weeks. 

Do you know any trainers who can be great coaching other people but cannot coach themselves? Well if you know me - you know at least one, or maybe you are one of them? It is sometimes more difficult to be able to look at yourself from a coaches perspective. All my serious injuries happened when I trained on the day I should not have trained as I was not recovered from previous sessions. It is half of the problem if coaches injure themselves when training, the real problem happens when athletes are getting injured or end up with exhaustion and adrenal shut down. Sound familiar to anyone? If I have ever seriously injured any of athletes I train during a conditioning session I would never forgive myself. As a strength and conditioning coach I always make sure the session is not only based on what I have pre-planned, sometimes I have to tone the training down, sometimes I just send them home to rest or give them a massage if they are wiped out. Coaching is based on science, but it is also an art, you have to adjust to circumstances and do what is best for your athlete to improve them. Training hard is fun (for some) but sometimes it can be counterproductive if its only purpose is to make you dead tired. Training smart with a clear goal in your head is a way forward. If you are a strength and conditioning coach your role is to support the technical and sport specific training and make sure your athletes are getting better and remain injury free. As one of my good friends says - sometimes it takes more balls to take a day off training then to train. I obviously don't have any, hence ... I will have to train double as smart and double as hard to come back to where I was just yesterday morning before injuring myself.

Acting on impulse is great in life, in training - it can end up with a serious damage, always plan, assess and adjust.

Keep strong and smart


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