Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Difference Between Hurt and Injured

As both a lifetime athlete and coach, I have had a lot of experience with pains, aches, and injuries.  These have happened to players I have coached, teammates of mine, and myself.  These range from serious breaks and tears to simpler strains, pulls, and other minor things.

However, one thing that I have learned is that you can learn a lot about a person from how they perceive and deal with their own injuries or hurts.

I have had players and teammates that go into self-pity mode when this occurs.  I have had others that go to the other extreme of being the most outwardly supportive teammates that you could ask for.  I think that how you deal with the injury when it happens to you can tell a lot about how strong you really are as both a person and as a teammate.

Read Jesse Thomas's blog on dealing with and recovering from injury.

However, the purpose of this post today is to discuss the difference between being hurt and injured and how I personally believe you should go about dealing with both.   Too often, these terms are spoken as the same concept when in fact they are very different in my opinion.  I know that this may be controversial, but this is my rant for the day.


You may continue to be in pain while training or competing.  However, there is little to no chance that you will receive any further damage. There may be pain and/or discomfort during the exercise; however, you are not risking long-term damage to your body.

I personally believe that as an athlete if you are pushing yourself to your potential each and every day that some days there may be muscles aches and joint pains some days.  If this is a chronic thing, then you should have it checked out, but as an athlete, especially an endurance athlete, most days your muscles and joints will be sore.  It happens. 


With an injury, you are not physically able to perform, due to the risk of long-term damage.

While athletes that are “hurt” can continue to participate, players that are “injured” cannot and should not continue to train/compete.  These athletes should take the time to rehabilitate their injury, and they should not continue to train or compete until their bodies are fully healed.

Examples of this are: Tears, Breaks, and other serious injuries that can ultimately affect the athlete long term.

If you find yourself with an injury, then stop and seek help.  It is important that you do this or the recovery will be much longer.  This is a hard distinction to make, and only by learning about yourself can you really make the decision on what to do.


The reason that I am writing about this is two-fold.  One, as a coach, it has become increasingly frustrating how athletes these days seem to "baby" themselves.  They will sit out at the first sign of a sore muscle or joint.

I have been reading a great book about Generation Y's and Z's(Yes, I know I am a part of this group).  The book is titled, Not Everyone Gets A Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y by Bruce Tulgan.             

One of the many points that I took away from this reading so far is that Generation Y's and Z's have been overly-protected and sheltered from birth. While this sheltering has created a generation that is much healthier and less prone to injury, it has also prevented them from experiencing, learning from, adapting to and overcoming the important and inevitable hard knocks(and injuries that occur).

Because of this sheltering, many are crushed when they receive less than an “A” for a grade, don’t get a ribbon for coming in ninth place, get cut from teams or receive negative feedback. 

You could never in this day and age have this conversation(though I deeply wish at times I could).

Read more at this link.          

What they need to understand is that this adversity is a normal part of training. If someone tells you that they have been training for 10 years and has never had an ache, a pain or strain then they probably haven't improved much either.  If you ask any of the best athletes in the world if they ever had to ice after a hard workout or heat prior to one, I would guarantee that 99.9% of them have.

By no means, am I encouraging people to play through ACL tears or broken bones(though I have played with and seen many who have).  I just simply want my athletes to understand that pushing themselves to the point where they do experience muscle and joint soreness, aches, and sometimes pains may sometimes be the thing that guides them one step closer to their goals.

The other reason that I wanted to write about this is because for endurance athletes, the ability to understand this distinction is essential.  Especially because we tend to have a higher tolerance for pain.  Knowing your body and understanding yourself is essential in this process.

Increasing volume may cause aches.  For me personally, this has been a process of understanding how important recovery is, both active and sedentary.

In the beginning, before hiring a coach, I did a poor job of this which may have raised my pain tolerance but also could have led to actual long term injuries if I had not dealt with it.

Here are some guidelines that I believe are essential to prevent aches from becoming injuries:

- Use Periodization: build muscle strength and endurance gradually, over time
- Utilize an appropriate warm-up and cool-down regimen, including stretching and other flexibility exercises
- Dress appropriately
- Stay hydrated
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Make sure that you are using proper technique for whatever sport you are performing

There are many more, but this is what I found helped me.

In conclusion, having a good understanding of your own body and how hard you can push yourself is an essential part of training.  Learn this about yourself.  Fast.

I, also, want to do a better job keeping updated on here.  So to guarantee that I will at least post once a month here are my January totals.

January Totals:

SWIM- 32.5 Miles
BIKE- 490 (Probably another 25 tomorrow)
RUN- 119

TOTAL- about 670 Miles

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Temet Nosce- "Know Thyself"

When you are on a trainer for an extended period of time(Nearly 3:30 and 70 miles),

(Proof that I spent that long on a Computrainer) 

You have a lot of time to think.  A lot of time to have both positive and negative thoughts creep into your head.  Sure, I had a TV on in the background, but I can honestly tell you that when I am trying to push intervals on a trainer, my capacity to tell you what I am watching on the television decreases exponentially.  I think as athletes when we put ourselves through these long sessions, it is  more mentally than physically fatiguing at times.

I, also, think that we can learn so much about ourselves during these "suffer-fests."  I know, personally, I convince myself and un-convince myself about 30 times through the course of these long sessions that this is something that I actually like to do.  At this point, it is important to "Know Thyself" and know what gets your through these tough times.

I have three main Mantra's that I stick to during these tough times in my workouts:

1. "I get to do this!" - I know I have talked about this before, but it is something that is worth mentioning again.  So many people under-utilize their potential for a variety of reasons.  They may not think they are capable and are afraid of failure.  They may not make time for it.  They may not feel it is something that is worth their time.  Whatever their reasons, most likely they are not good enough to justify not trying.  I read a great article the other day that addressed many of these titled "The Hard Things You Need to do to be Successful."  Give it a read.  Its awesome.

I like to put it like this.  If you had to walk up to a person that was incapable of walking at all and tell them that you were too tired to go try and run today, could you? 

I couldn't...

2.  "At some point, this workout will end." -  I use this one on really, really long rides and runs.  There are many times during workouts that it seems like it will never end and the suffering will go on forever!  These are times where I have to tell myself that at some point, I will get to get off this bike, or I will get to stop running.  No workout lasts forever and no matter how bad it may hurt or how far you think you have to go, eventually the pain will stop and you will get there.

3.  "Even bad days/workouts can help you improve" - This is sometimes the hardest one for me to grasp.  On days where you are pushing watts way below what you know you should be or you feel like you are drowning in the water or a ZONE 2 run feels like a ZONE 10 run(I know these don't exist), it is hard to see the Silver Lining.  However, if you are doing it right, each workout has a purpose and sometimes those days may be more beneficial than the days that you PR.  It is up to me to decide whether I am going to let the poor workout dictate my attitude.

These mantras, just like doing a "Nutrition Checklist"(Google Macca's "Embrace the Suck" article"), have helped me to realize how important it is to know my own body and know what to do when these tough times come.

Learning about myself has also helped me to understand when it is important to switch workouts up and take extra rest when necessary. 

This takes me to this past week.  Saturday and Sunday this past weekend and this past week as a whole, I put in more hours and distance than I ever had up to this point in my "Young" triathlon life.  For others who have done this for a while, this past weeks hours would seem miniscule, but for me, it was tough and left me pretty tired on Monday. 

On Monday, I was still able to get my swim and strength session in, but I felt like crap.  I emailed my coach and told her that I was slow in the water and not strong today.  She has been doing this long enough to understand that the long bike that I was supposed to have on Tuesday due to my traveling schedule, was simply not going to work.  She helped me to decide that I needed an extra day of rest before that workout.

In her words, "The weekend was big, and workouts were long.  You should feel like a complete (fill in the blank as you would like).  And it looks like you do  :)"

Ha awesome.

So we switched the schedule to have a easy run and bike on Tuesday, and the long Brick on Wednesday.  This worked well.  And I have continued to progress on the bike and these "Over" workouts are instilling me with more confidence each time.

Learning about myself, knowing my limits, and finding the best way to improve has been a long process.  Less than 4 months now until my Goal Race for the season.  Still more work to be done...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Goal Setting 101

I know that I am one of a million people that is/has posted about their goals and goal setting for this year of racing/training.  However, I think it is important to have goals in order to achieve what you want. 

The important thing to understand is how to go about setting those goals.  My coach asked us a few weeks ago to send her our goals for 2014.  I thought about it for a bit and wasn't getting very far.  So I decided to Google "How to set goals?"

I came across many different sites and I looked at a few different ones.  However, after searching for a bit, I found this list on which was exactly what I was looking for and helped me to define my goals for this season.

1. Set Goals that Motivate You
When you go about picking a goal for the season, year, or another period of time, you need to make sure that this goal is important to you.  If you aren't invested in the outcome, then when there are tough days, you will quickly lose motivation to push yourself through a difficult time.  You need to be able to be committed in order to succeed.

For any who has a fitness goal and me in particular, this cannot be overstated as many times you will have to be up before the sun rises for one workout and be finishing another one after the sun has set.  When you feel tired/unmotivated on a particular morning or night, is your goal/desire enough to push you through these tough days?  If it is, then you have chosen wisely.

Unlike this guy...

2.  Set SMART Goals
Everyone has most likely heard of SMART Goals, but for me this was one of the most difficult parts of the process for me.

·         Specific: This part wasn't too difficult.  Picking specific goals as a triathlete is pretty simple as most things are based around times, races, etc. 

·         Measureable: This is important for calculating progress for these times, races, etc.  Again, not too difficult due to the fact that everything is this sport is measured in some capacity even simply finishing

·         Attainable:  This was easily the most difficult part in the process for me.  What is it possible for me to attain at my current level of fitness and the level of fitness that I can achieve with good training and a coach this season.  I have only been doing this for 1 year, so I am a bit behind in the process.  This was where I had to consult my coach to see what I can realistically do based on my swimming, biking, and running ability.

·         Relevant:  Again, not difficult.  If your goal, is to become a faster triathlete then being able to bench 300 pounds isn’t necessarily relevant to your goals.

·         Time Bound:  This was applicable for almost all of my goal except for one which is my ultimate end goal for all of this.

3.  Set Goals in Writing
This was another thing that my coach encouraged us to do.  Put it in a place that you can see every day.  This can help you to find the continued motivation to keep going.

4. Make an Action Plan
Write out the individual steps and cross each one off as you complete it.  This can help you to see progress.  The larger or more long-term the goal is, the more important this part is.

5. Stick With It!
I don’t think much needs to be said about this one.  If you set a goal to do something, then DO IT!

After reading this, here are my GOALS:

1.       Qualify for the 70.3 World Championships(I would accept a roll down although I would rather make top 3 AG to do it)

2.       Have a sub 2:30 Half Ironman Bike

3.       PR every race distance

I put the biggest goal first, because it is the one that is most important to me.  Do I think that I can qualify this season?  So much will depend on how far I get in the next few months in the water and on the bike.  I will do all in my ability to make this happen; however, I am realistic enough to know that I am in a tough AG and this may have to be an ongoing goal, but why not DREAM BIG.

The second two goals are very attainable and have no bearing on who is at the race.  I am excited to see how far I can go in a full year with a full year of structured endurance training and a coach.

Here is to 2014.