Identify Yourself, then Proceed Accordingly

I recently interviewed the two-time Olympian Eva Twardokens on my podcast and one of the things we talked about was matching what you are with your stress levels (aka your training program).

Twardokens breaks it down into three types of person:

  1. professional athlete / Olympian
  2. recreational athlete
  3. exerciser

The professional athlete is pretty self-explanatory. If you get paid to move and perform and don't have any other type of substantial income -- you are a professional athlete. It's a long term commitment. A year round thing. You can dedicate your whole existence to your athletic endeavor. You can train and take naps and train and take some more naps all throughout the day.

If you are a professional athlete, you are much more likely to have long-term injuries and musculoskeletal issues for the rest of your life.

You are a recreational athlete if you compete for the pure joy of it and have another source of income. These are your age group triathletes and marathoners or your amateur Olympic and power lifters. They get a lot of their training done early in the morning, during their lunch break, in the evening, or on the weekends. You have a hobby. You probably also have to juggle being a good mom/dad, spouse, and employee.

Then you have the exerciser. If you workout and move to be healthy, you are an exerciser. The majority of mankind is exercisers (there is a big contingency that is none of these things -- the proverbial "coach potato", but everyone should at the very least be an "exerciser" as Twardokens defines it).

"Ask yourself where you are in the big picture," says Twardokens, "do you have a recovery program? Or an exit strategy?" What's your long-term goal for yourself? To be healthy for a long time? To collect as many race medals as you can? Who are you?

Basically what she recommends is not to train like a professional if you are really a recreational athlete. Or train like a recreational athlete if you are really just an exerciser.

Doing that will only lead to injuries, burnout, family tensions, and chronic stress levels -- which is good for nobody.

The exit strategy she mentions calls for you to think about what you're going to do AFTER you complete your bucket list marathon or Ironman. Good...you finally got the monkey off your back...so now what?

You go back to couch potato? All that work goes down the drain?

What Twardokens believes (as do I) is that a more long-term and sustainable program is one that matches the type of athlete you are.

If you are an exerciser, you should be moving slow a lot, lifting heavy stuff, and doing short bouts of intense effort scattered around like a big league pitcher scattering hits over a complete game -- basically enough time between sessions to recover and not lumping so many together that you look up and it's 9-nothing because you can't get anybody out (sorry, I'm listening to a baseball game).

So you have to ask yourself,

  • who am I?
  • what are my goals?
  • where do I want to be in 10, 20, 40 years?

And completely forget about the answer to the questions,

  • what will my friends think of me if I don't train for marathons?
  • but everyone knows me as a triathlete, how could I possibly NOT train for triathlons?
  • when will I see my family this weekend after my 6 hour bike-run sessions?

That first group of questions can be a pretty scary thing. It's like the mirror in The Never Ending Story...if you look, you're going to see what you really are and you may not like what you see.

Some people don't ever look. They just create an image in their mind's eye of what they THINK they are, then live their life that way.

But if you take a deep breathe, turn, and look into that mirror, you might see that you're really just an exerciser, you've been training like a pro and you should change the way you move to be healthy for the rest of your life before you do something stupid and end up in a state where you can't move at all.

That can be hard. Especially if you've spent all sorts of time and money doing your thing. Your training and racing becomes who you are and who you actually are gets lost somewhere in the training and medals and pre-race expos and online forums.

So suck it up...ask yourself and ANSWER those hard questions. Then, and only then, can you figure out how you're going to live a long healthy life by matching your stress levels (aka movement pattern) with who and what you are.

Need help figuring out who to proceed after you've identified yourself? Contact me or Eva T. and we'll get you moving in the right direction.

You can read more about Eva Twardokens here. Follow her on twitter @EvaTwardokens. And listen to her on the Simply Human Podcast Episode 13 and Episode 29.

Listen to the Simply Human Podcast on iTunes.

Or on Stitcher.