2. No PR’s On Your First Day Back
My ego caused my first and last major injury. It happened during my Sophomore year at the University of Florida where I ran the 800m for the track team.
I had an amazing Fall training season that year. I ran 1:19 for a 600m time trial just before I went home for the holidays for a month to snowy Michigan.
I trained nearly every day during my month long vacation. I felt ripe to hit my first sub 1:50 for 800m during the upcoming Spring season. However, I would never get to run a sub 1:50.
Repeat after me, “I will never get after a max effort when resuming training after time off.” This sounds easy enough. What happens when your ego jumps out at you at the wrong time though?
Picture yourself training with your friends during a heavy bro session after some time off. Just because you squatted 300lbs a few weeks ago before your vacation where you drank Mai Tai’s instead of protein shakes does not mean you should come back and lift 300lbs right away!
Your ego is an awesome tool. It can lead to success. It also can lead to failure. It simply needs to be checked at times. This is especially true when coming back from time off.
Michigan had a tough Winter during my Sophomore year with multiple snow and ice storms. It left my holiday training relegated to a treadmill in my dad’s basement with a top speed of 12 mph.
This may seem fast, but it is only 5 minute mile pace. It was a far cry from the speeds I had been training at before my vacation or what my body needed to run in the upcoming season. I stayed in good shape, but my fast twitch fibers took a vacation during this time.
I got back to sunny Gainesville in mid January. My coach had us pick up our speed work from where we had left off before vacation.
I should note here that everyone of my training partners happened to be from Florida. They were able to stay in phenomenal shape during Winter break compared to me. At UF, you were expected to do so. My training partners were Olympians and we had sponsors like Nike and Oakley.
I was young and dumb though. I let my ego get in the way of the phenomenal season before me. I did not tell my coach that my training was relegated to speeds of just 12 mph over the last several weeks due to the inclement weather back home.
Sure enough, I sustained a massive hamstring tear during my first sprint session back. An injury that would not be fully rehabbed for nearly 8 months–bye bye great Sophomore season!
I had heard of the “Sophomore Slump” before. Being hooked up to electrodes and doing physical therapy for months on end was not what I could have envisioned on my worst day though.
I should have checked my ego and told the truth to my coach. Tell him that I tried the best I could to stay in shape over the holidays. In fact, I did come back in great conditioning shape, just not speed shape.
My season and track career may have been different if I had come clean to my coach. However, I let my ego get the best of me. I went after a max effort–sprinting at an elite level in this instance–after having been off speed work for several weeks. So dumb and naive!
There is a silver lining to all of this though. I learned from the elite trainers at UF and began to educate myself into their world class methods. I built upon the coaching techniques I learned from my dad over the years.
I realized track was not my path in life anymore. I turned in my scholarship.
I set out to train my body in a different manner. A much smarter, more athletic manner that would set the foundation for where I am at today.
I went on to gain over 40lbs of muscle. I transformed my former skinny self through proper training. Most importantly, I learned from my mistakes, like going after a max effort after time off.
Even to this day, I ease back into my training for every exercise I do after time off. There is no excuse not to do this, you just have to check your ego.
So, remember, no max loads or efforts after taking time off! Next week we will delve even further into staying injury free. Here is a hint for you to ponder though: The Devil is in the Details…