Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Activity Variety as a Means to Maintain Interest and Avoid injury and Burnout

My attention span has historically lasted three to six months when engaged in single sport training plans. I find variety is an essential tool for maintaining interest in an active lifestyle. Variety is also required for injury prevention and to maintain general fitness while recovering from injuries. Living and training in a northern climate makes training for things like running and cycling dreadfully boring in the winter. Embracing the seasons dictates placing an emphasis on running, cycling, and paddling in the summer months and placing an emphasis on mixed martial arts, strength training and swimming in the winter months. Within these activities variety exists, road cycling or mountain biking, jiu jitsu or muay thai, swimming laps or open water, road running or trail.

Recovery fundamentals often dictate a day of rest before repeating sport specific workouts. This day of rest can be a workout for a non-overlapping sport and is a great opportunity to strengthen the body to prevent injury. I find high impact activities like running and Jiu Jitsu do the most damage to my body and welcome the days of low impact activity between. An active recovery day doing something actually feels better than doing nothing.

Different activities engage the mind in different ways. Running on a treadmill and biking on a trainer in the winter are among the most mind numbing activities I know. I still do them for maintenance but to the minimum. Swimming, Jiu Jitsu, and Muay Thai make great use of the mind and nervous system. Mixed martial arts are like chess with a demanding physical component. Swimming requires great concentration to maintain form. This intellectual challenge goes a long way in maintaining interest during the cold winter months.

Many athletes are purists, in that working out means doing one thing and one thing only. The vast majority of elites are purists. I applaud their dedication to their sport as they are often the same individuals that advance and promote their respective sport. The majority of training books are written by elites and their coaches. This is unfortunate in that a lot of material calls for large commitments to achieve every last possible return on performance. For the time constrained among us a modest commitment that achieves the majority of returns is far more viable but takes some effort to determine.

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