Nobody likes their time, effort or money to be wasted, and yet we do it all the time! Yes, sometimes it's beyond our control. You go to the DMV and there's no getting around it, you're going to have some time wasted, but I'm talking about those instances where you do have control (hint: that's nearly all the time). Here are some scenarios in my own training/life that many of you will relate to:
Physical Therapy - When I first started going to physical therapy to correct muscle imbalances that were causing knee pain after a bike crash in 2012, I didn't commit to the recovery. I did my prescribed PT exercises for the first couple of weeks but didn't see results, so I gradually stopped doing them as reguarly. I was supposed to do them 3x per week but I found myself doing them maybe 1-2x per week. I continued to not see results. Big surprise. At the time, though, I didn't know I was setting myself up for failure. I knew I was not doing quite all the strength sessions, but figured I should still see some sort of results even just doing it once or twice per week. Then I went to a new physical therapist, thinking that maybe if I found the right therapist, I would magically get better even without doing all the work. Wrong. The problems persisted and I stopped going to PT. Fast forward several months, and my orthopedic doctor recommended a physical therapist. Argh...I knew she would say that. I objected because "I already tried that and it hasn't worked for me," but she insisted. I grudgingly began PT again, this time with Josh Grahlman in NYC, and he helped me to realize that I needed to commit to the exercises for it to work. I made the decision that day to commit, to give it a chance to be true. I did my exercises religiously 3x per week and while I didn't notice results for several months, I kept my head down and stuck with it. When I picked my head back up, I discovered that the pain was gone! I was able to run without any pain for the first time in 18 months. Without committing, I may never have healed from the glute imbalance I was facing and would still be experiencing knee pain. It seems there are many things in life that aren't linear...you may not see steady progress, but need to be patient and BOOM, all of a sudden there's a jump forward.
Coaching - In 2014, I hired a coach (Earl Walton) for the first time. After my experience with PT, and learning that you need to commit for some things to be true, I decided that I would interview a bunch of coaches, pick one, and then do exactly what that coach told me to do. To the T. Why pay a coach and then argue with them about their philosophies or complain about the training? I hired Earl for a reason. I wanted to get to the next level, and I believed that he knew what it would take to get me there. I decided to give it a chance to be true, and followed the training plan he gave me. I won Ironman Maryland that year with a 51min PR, so I guess it was true .
Metabolic Efficiency Training - I grilled Nicci Schock with questions for two weeks because I was very skeptical of the metabolic efficiency training approach to nutrition. She answered all my questions, I did a bunch of research, and came to the conclusion that there was little downside to giving it a shot, and a lot of upside. I was either going to not give it a shot, or I was going to commit 100% to doing it because I would only do it if I gave it a chance to be true. By only following her guidelines in a half-hearted manner in my experiment of one, I wouldn't have seen the results to know whether what she was preaching was true or baloney.
If you commit only 50% to your experiment, you may see far less than 50% of the results (or even zero results), and deem the experiment a failure. "Decide and Commit. Give it a chance to be true" is one of the principles I live by. To prevent wasting any of your own time, effort or money, make an educated decision to do something, then commit 100%. Give it a chance to be true.
Patience is something that many preach, yet few have. Disclaimer: I'm going to preach it here, but don't always have it either!
It's so tough to be patient when you're injured because you just want to be doing what you love and be able to get better at it. Back in 2011, I had Achilles issues, then crashed my bike and had two sprained MCLs that resulted in knee pain. It was chronic. Months and months went by, I worked with two physical therapists and didn't see improvement. All the while, I was training through the pain because "it's the middle of the Tri season!" and "the NYC Marathon is just weeks away!" Big...patience...failure.
After 2 1/2 years of debilitating chronic knee and Achilles pain, I decided enough is enough. I devoted myself to getting better, working with a great physical therapist near my work in NYC named Josh Grahlman (who I still work with in addition to Dr. Todd - that's how much I value Chiropractic and Physical Therapy!). I did the assigned strength work religiously (mainly working on my glutes) and got treatment 2-3 times per week. At first, there were no noticeable results. I was frustrated but succeeded in remaining patient and diligent. Then after 3 months or so, all of a sudden the pain started going away and I could run without being laid up for days! Since then, I've been adamant about keeping a strength program part of my training regimen, and it has allowed me to train consistently for nearly 3 years now. The patience paid off.
Here I am again, having my patience tested. I've had a rough start to the year as I learned that the Achilles inflammation I suffered during Kona was not just inflammation but a partial tear. I tried running a few weeks after Kona and the pain was really bad, so I decided to lay off of it for a while and continue to have it treated by Dr. Todd. While I was eager to start up again, I remained patient by telling myself "you have a long season coming up but no races in the near future. TAKE IT EASY and use the opportunity to swim, bike and do strength work." I got back in the gym, and promptly failed to be patient, biting off more than I could chew with a workout that I have done before but not after months away from the gym. I have an impinged nerve and some angry tendons in my biceps and left arm from my neck down to my finger. Not good! What a rookie mistake I made! Now I'm trying to be patient again with my recovery. I was on a roll in the pool, swimming PRs and lots of yards, but then this happened and now I've gone three weeks without swimming more than a couple thousand yards total. Frustrating! But as I've learned, it's necessary for me to be patient now and heal up. The patience is bearing fruit though, as I'm nearly firing on all cylinders again. Just another week or two I hope!
Be patient! When you sustain chronic or acute injuries and let them linger, they are more likely to return later on. Nip them in the bud before they get too bad.
Question: when is it too bad?
It's hard to tell! You must either rely on the advice of others (ideal but difficult) or rely on your own hard-earned experience (not ideal because usually you get that experience only after making the mistakes yourself!) to know when a little niggle is a threat. I've always said "if I stopped training after every niggle, I'd never be training!" and while that's partly true, you must understand your own body and when you need to back off. I learned about my body the hard way in many cases, but am proud that I've also learned from other's mistakes and have heeded their wisdom. It's prevented me from sustaining even more injuries along the way, and recovery is tough. It requires patience!