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Questions, I Get Questions!

My e-mail exchange with one client looking for some answers

From time to time, I’m put in the potentially awkward position of either corroborating or dispelling an assertion made by a client’s previous trainer or past or current sport coach. The following recent exchange documents one such occasion.

Client: If I wasn’t a swimmer, what would you recommend for my workout schedule (besides your recommended strength training)?

Me: Other than swimming, the aerobic activities that best integrate the three most important principles (minimal impact, fluid rhythm, arms and legs recruited simultaneously) include:

Elliptical trainer

Bike with arm sweeps or hammer curl + military press

Rowing machine

Cross-country ski training. (To see, click here.)

Versa Climber. (To see, click here.)

And, of course, many of the floor exercises we do (crawl, sweep kick, mountain climber, etc.)

Thinking of integrating some other activities and dialing back the swimming a little?

Client: The thing about swimming: the coaches kind of mess with our heads and tell us things like, "Swimming three times a week will only maintain your current speed. Swimming four times a week will help improve your speed. Swimming more than that will make you an awesome swimmer!"

Is this true? I don't know. But I feel a self-pressure to swim at least three times a week so as not to fall behind the other swimmers who are at my speed. I just want to know my options in the event I get bored with swimming (which I will — I get bored of all my workouts after a time) and decide to do something else.

Me: How do I put this politely? That’s nonsense. It’s a near-sighted, ill-informed point of view too many sport coaches share, along with a very heavy bias for their particular sport. It’s actually a sticking point for many competitors because, losing a balanced fitness profile by focusing on a single discipline, they get to and then past a point of diminishing returns far sooner than is necessary.

Evander Holyfield was 178 pounds when he turned pro as a boxer. He strength-trained, did plyometrics, managed a spotless diet and got ten hours of rest a day. He'd sleep seven hours at night and take a three-hour nap between fitness training in the morning and sparring in the afternoon/evening. He'd get daily massages and stretching and generally eschewed many of the conventional boxing training traditions like running for miles, chopping wood for strength, sparring hundreds of rounds, etc. Holyfield is a hall-of-fame bound heavyweight champ who beat contenders in the 225-250 pound range and knocked out Mike Tyson. He’s also considered to be perhaps the fittest boxing champ of all time.

Many world-class marathoners routinely roll back their weekly mileage close to the race and shift to low/no impact activities like swimming and some of the other exercises I mentioned before to continue to raise their cardio threshold but give their legs a much-needed recovery.

There are similar stories throughout sports, but old school coaches aren’t hearing it because it’s counter to what they learned when T-Rex ruled the earth.

Ultimately your enjoyment is more important than your performance. But balance, variety and rest are keys to both.

Want more useful information on how to eat well and get in shape? Contact Dan at http://trivalleywellness.com/

Rich Buckley September 21, 2011 at 02:19 PM
I probably missed it, but how old is your client? Your client seems to still seek to integrate competitive aspects of swimming into their life. The client seems to be asking the question as a youth hopefull of earning a full ride scholarship. We had a champion Livermore swimmer from the 50's who remains a competitive swimmer to this day, Phil Whitten. ..... Still out there breaking records for his age group. Most the rest of us seem to just want to function, feel good, and remain healthy, and clear headed...... even looking good slowly slips into last place priority.
DMG September 21, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Really enjoy your column Dan. Question for you: Recently, a friend and I started doing Heated Yoga. The class is 90 minutes and we have only attended 1 class a week so far, last night being our 3rd class. We are working up to adding more. Why is it that both of us are extremely sore after the 3rd class in? We thought we would have felt sore after the 1st class, not as intense as we do after the 3rd class. Is this just a fluke? We have never sweat as much as we do in this class, ever. I'm 50-yo and my friend is 42-yo. Thanks Dan, I hope you can enlighten us. We have been active prior to these classes, not as consistent as we would like but active. Feels like we have the Yoga Flu, ha-ha (-:
Dan Taylor September 22, 2011 at 04:54 AM
Thanks for your comments Rich and DMG. The sustained soreness could be the result of one or more of the following: 1.The heat is likely helping the body core temperature rise faster, providing more pliability in the muscle/tendon chain. Resistance training in this state often has a more pronounced effect than when the body is not as well warmed up. In this case, I would include aggressive flexibility work under the broad umbrella of resistance training, since it loads the chain on the eccentric, or lengthening contraction. The more elastic the chain, the more aggressively you can train the muscle. 2. The class has a planned progression that increases intensity over time, so s you get used to it, it gets harder at the same pace. 3. The more varied the biomechanics of the exercises (paths of movement and held positions), the longer it will take for the previously deconditioned (at least in terms of practicing yoga) body to adapt. So if the class changes asanas/psequences frequently, it may take a while for the soreness to disappear. Hope this helps!
Rich Buckley September 22, 2011 at 11:24 AM
I've always eavesdropped on trainers from a discret distance while working out solo. Over the decades I've learned the hard way the the slightest changes in routine can bring on pain that lasts for months. The addition on any new exercise can seem fine for month, then only to wake up one morning and find myself facing pain that will last for weeks. This seems to be true in my case on neck and the muscles associated in the "military press" (on upper shoulders). When it gets too bad, I retreat to swimming as sort of a body therapy. A pain phase, once started, seems to require 3 to 6 months to end. It seems in hind sight as though one has to play whack-a-mole strategies in working out over the long run. Is this common?
DMG September 27, 2011 at 09:48 PM
It helps greatly! Thanks Dan. And thank-you Rich for your comments as well. The body is an AMAZING instrument!

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