In training, you have to "over reach" so your body can become stronger. The real key is knowing when to pull back. When you continue to push, you will get hurt. But, if you never push, you won't grow as an athlete. There has to be a balance.
I like to say the balance is between the body and the mind. If the body is too much in control, you generally won't push past your limits (setting new limits in the process). The body will cry "uncle" long before it has really had enough. Hard training "hurts". But it's a good hurt. This used to be very confusing for me (okay, it still is). I have determined it's because I was out of "balance" for so long I really didn't know how to listen to my body in a healthy way. I couldn't tell if the pain was a "work out pain" that would go away or an injury pain that was a signal for me to stop what I'm doing. All I can say about that is if you haven't been in the practice of listening to your body, you will not understand what it's trying to tell you. It's very much like trying to understand someone else's toddler speak!!
On the other hand, if your mind is too much in control you will generally push your body beyond it's breaking point to injury. I think this is the result of the above (not listening to/understanding your body). It's like the swing of a pendulum from one side of the clock to the other. However, it can also be the result of someone who is trying to beat their body into submission.
I have a friend who is an avid athlete, who was injured (an acute/sudden injury) that required surgery. That friend knew full well "they" weren't supposed to push "hard" but couldn't resist. "They" pushed hard and got reinjured with a chronic type injury that can only be solved with a long period of rest. "They" will not take time off. "They" are increasing "their" chances of damaging "their" body long term. And "they" don't care. (I am certainly NOT "they"...I value my long term health way more than short term training. Okay, at least slightly more.)
When there is not balance there is either injury, or failure to meet potential. When you allow your body to be too much in control, you won't "over reach" and push your limits out from where they currently are. Most people have not met their body's potential. They have met the limit of their mind, or the limit of their ability to listen to their body complain! They give in, give up, quit early, stop pushing...settle for less than they are capable of. I get it. It's hard, especially when you have let your body dictate your life. But, "brats" can learn good behavior only through CONSISTENCY.
We have to learn where the fulcrum of this teeter totter is. It's ironic, a pendulum in a clock has to swing from side to side for the clock to keep time. This mind/body balance requires a pendulum that is very still in the middle, not swinging from one extreme to the other, in order for us to live healthy for a long time.
It's interesting to me...I have begun to learn what "too far" feels like. Sometimes, like the other day at PT and the next day in the pool, I ignore it and allow my mind to tell my body "COME ON...IS THAT REALLY ALL YOU'VE GOT? YOU CAN DO MORE THAN THAT!!!" My body has developed a pretty strong voice that no longer sounds like a crying bratty toddler. It sounds more like, "Okay...I'm telling you that's enough, but if you want to push, I'll push back." I had a VERY MINOR set back in therapy and had to back off a few days. But, I don't see it as a set back. I see it as a confirmation. When I thought to myself, "this feels like too much" and "I probably shouldn't be doing this"...I should have listened.
((Now...I know my mother reads my blog sometimes so I need to tell her, "I'm really fine. I just pushed a TINY bit much and found a limit. This is a really good thing, because it teaches me how to listen better. You KNOW I need that!"))
People keep asking me how I tore my bicep tendon. If I'm being 100% honest, I have to say it was overuse. But, I can't help but thinking that it was really the bone spurs that caused the tear with normal use....it's just my normal may not look like someone else's normal. But, in my defense, there are other people who have a way more extreme normal that makes my normal look like nothing.
No one can answer the question "how far is too far to push your body" for you. Only your body can answer that question. And only your mind can hear it. If you aren't sure which side of the spectrum you are on, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I perpetually injured? (yes...usually a sign your mind is in control)
- Am I meeting what I believe is my potential (no...usually a sign your body is in control)
If you still aren't sure, read this post about my "bratty body" and see if you can relate.
Until next time... :D