Back to Basics – Sometimes Less is More

We’ve all been there. Whether new to exercise and fitness or a “veteran”. The drive to keep pushing, to do a bit more than yesterday, to run further or faster, lift heavier or do more reps. Often this can be a good thing, leading us to improve and get stronger, to feel that we are accomplishing goals, to feel that we are achieving success in our quest for fitness and athletic performance. But there can also be a down side to a constant “more is better” approach to our fitness programs. At some point, the stresses of always pushing our limits catches up with us. Form and technique start to slip, tendons and ligaments start to be stressed in unhealthy ways, we never quite recover from yesterday’s training, we find ourselves stagnating and we start to experience little nagging injuries that impede our endeavors and if left unheeded lead to more serious injuries that put us on the sidelines. One of the toughest things to do is to recognize in advance when we are starting to go down this path and to take steps to break the cycle. Whether it’s because we are afraid we will lose performance gains, strength or muscle mass, will gain weight, because we have fallen into an obsessive mindset, or are in denial, we keep doing what we are doing day after day without heeding what our bodies are really telling us.

It has been said that a sign of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting a different outcome. This has resonated with me for a while with my fitness programming. My resistance training had consisted of 2 days per week of hypotrophy training and one day of compound dumbbell or suspension training. I had been experiencing stagnation in my weight training with slipping form due to past increases in load, increasing bicipital tendon strain, pain in one of my acromial clavicular joints and an inability to progress or even consistently maintain my level of performance. My cycling training had consisted 12 hours of hard riding spread over 3-4 days but I felt like I never really hit my stride during this past season. Leg strength and muscular endurance were off, I was experiencing regular cramping in my legs both on and off the bike. But yet day after day, I stuck to my same routines, repeating the same actions but expecting a different outcome. Afraid to do something different lest I diminish myself.

Well finally, I have broken the cycle. With trepidation but also with optimism I have hit the “reset button”. For the next 4 months my resistance training will consist of 1 day per week of hypotrophy training for my upper body with reduced weight or repetitions as necessary for a strict focus on form as the foundation for maintaining strength and muscle size, and 2 days per week of a progressive focused paralletes program and other body weight training designed to achieve very defined functional strength and movement goals. My cycling training will consist of 6-7 hours per week of progressive foundation base training using wattage as my primary training metric to again achieve very defined performance goals. The little voice on one shoulder that has obsessed with sticking with my past “routines” keeps whispering in my ear but on the other shoulder is the other voice that keeps reminding me of that definition of insanity. Time will tell which voice is right. It should be an interesting 4 months.

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