Will Your Next Workout Be A Net-Gain or a Net-Loss?

text from jen

The night after I performed as ‘mistress of ceremonies’ for the wedding of my best friends and college roommates, I sent that text to my friend Jen. I was hurting. Lots of car time that week, and then hours spent in a dress that I really needed to stand more-than-perfectly straight in to keep on me. And now, I was operating below baseline going into what is always the hardest workout of my week. Time to call an audible.

It was Saturday and that’s my usual long gymnastics day.
But I was seriously in the body-care hole.
But my weekend gymnastics sesh is my absolute faaaaaavorite.
But my body was beat up.

I knew which voice in my head I needed to listen to. My sore achilles. My aching lower back. My hips that felt glued together. I *might* be able to get through a gymnastics workout carrying all this stiffness and immobility, but what would the quality of that session be? I very clearly was missing some of my normal mobility – would it be OK, or would that cause me an injury if I went to gymnastics & tried to muscle through it?

Would This Be A Net-Gain Or A Net-Loss Training Session?

This was a concept I’ve become quite familiar with in my coaching of endurance athletes. They L.O.V.E going for an early-morning track workout, or hitting a 60 mile bike ride with friends on the weekend. But sometimes, they’ve just come off a week of work-travel that has their body stiff, immobile and ’crunchy’. Or, they had an absolutely brutal training week and the compounded soreness has them far below their usual movement quality.

It’s time to decide, ‘net-gain, or net-loss’ on the next training session.

And if it’s a net-loss, we change course. Often, to do a mobility/movement session instead of whatever had been planned. My athletes and I want body durability. And there’s little gain that occurs in a workout when overall movement quality or performance-output is compromised because of how tight, immobile, or, to use the technical term, “jacked up”, you are coming into that workout.

I’m not talking about still feeling last night’s deadlift session as you prepare for your bike ride today. What I’m referring to is the tension and stiffness in the body that just.feels.bad. The heavy-legs feeling. The not-a-good-ache in your lower back. The “I’ll try because I’m tough, but I can’t get my arms to move the way they need to for an uneven bars routine” feeling.

When movement quality is already compromised, you are well served to address the movement quality first, then proceed with your workout.

Even if that means you proceed with your workout at a later date (for me, a ‘later date’ means ‘next weekend’ because there is only one chance for a long session and its on the weekend).

Think about it for a sec – In a track workout, your legs turnover thousands of times in that 1 workout. When sprinting you want big hip extension so you can let that leg fly behind you right before you snap it through the gait cycle out ahead of you again. What if you did every one of those leg turnovers with hips that had several degrees less hip extension than your usual? If you don’t have your normal hip extension, you’re going to have to compromise somewhere. Slower leg turnover, altered stride…why would you spend an entire workout embedding those things into your body when changing course to fix your mobility first, then proceed with a shortened or delayed track workout could allow you to get the high leg turnover and snappy stride that was the original intended goal in the first place.

When thinking of the next workout you’re going to do when your body is blasted in a bad way, consider this:

  • Will this workout make me fitter in a sustainable way?
  • Is this workout happening just so I can check it off my to-do list?
  • If this workout is going to be compromised because of my current baseline, what else could I do that would be better suited for me ‘getting something’ out of this workout time I have set aside?

Injuries screw up progress. Avoid them as much as possible.

Sounds logical, but, we’ve all been there, myself included. Unrested & stiff from travel, I knew I was compromised going into a gymnastics session. I didn’t take my own advice seriously enough and went ahead with the planned workout. On a front handspring, I launched myself into the air, and felt an immediate bad twinge in my glute. As I hit the landing & felt the twinge go deeper, my only thought was, ‘no way, are you frickin’ kidding me?’

Of course my body wasn’t kidding me. I hadn’t earned the right to be throwing front handsprings that day. If I’d self-assessed my actual movement capacity instead of acting like a child and going ahead anyways “because I wanted to”, I’d have avoided explosive jumping until I had improved my mobility to a level that I could perform at my baseline (and above) capacity.

Remember, I’m not suggesting you skip the workout anytime you’re still sore from a previous session as you embark on this next one. But when you’re clearly compromised, excessively fatigued, or your baseline movement capacity is well below normal, stop and consider how else you could get benefit out of the time you’ve set aside for workout.

  • How can you make yourself more durable?
    How can you be better for your next workout?
    Would a mobility session do you more good right now than going out to do a sub-par workout?

For me, on that Saturday, my answer to those questions meant not going to gymnastics, but instead going home to do a yoga video. Yoga, rolling out, light walking, and resting became my workout, and wouldn’t you know it, by the time Saturday concluded, I felt much better and I felt myself climbing out of the body-care hole I had been in that morning.

Screw net-loss.

I’d changed course so I could get back to baseline and move into ‘net-gain’ territory on that day’s training.

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