Last week I introduced the areas of fitness I feel are vital to any comprehensive cross-training program: Stamina, stability, and flexibility.
Today, I want to talk about stamina. Staying Power. Grit. Fortitude. Perseverance.
Whatever you call it, one's stamina will dictate the upper limits of one's physical and mental abilities. I want to talk in a little more detail about what happens when we reach those limits, and the tricks I use to help clients - and myself - break through those walls to accomplish more with every workout.
As you know, I am no stranger to physical or mental challenges. Recently, I completed an eight-hour endurance run. The purpose of this run, other than the sheer enjoyment of tasting my own sweat and basking in my stench all day, was to "tune up" for other, longer events I will be participating in this fall. The primary focus was time on my feet, but to even get to the point where I'd consider this kind of run, I had to get on a training plan that would address every challenge I'd encounter.
First, there was the heat. You can't run a race in Georgia in the summer without training outdoors in the summer. My workouts had to mimic the conditions of the race. Then, there was the obvious physical demand of moving for eight hours nonstop. Realistically, I would not be able to dedicate an entire day to a run during training, but I could make time on my feet a priority by making sure my physical activity for the day did not end with my run. I'd train clients, go for a run, mow the lawn, then get in the pool with my kid, go walk the dogs, etc. Lastly, to train for that level of activity, my nutrition had to be on point with balanced meals that included the nutrients I would need through a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Through months of careful preparation and planning, I was able to not just run for eight hours, but finish feeling GOOD. Tired, but good.
So how do I take all this and translate it to a program that will help my clients?
If you're reading this and thinking, "Well I'm not going to train with that crazy person. I don't want to run all day!" fear not. THAT, my friends, is MY thing. What I want to do is help you pinpoint what YOU want to accomplish and give you the tools you need to get there. For some, it might be getting through a tennis match without feeling exhausted. For others, it might be trying to run a mile. I have coached people in indoor cycling classes as well who just wanted to get through 15 minutes without stopping.
So I will break this down the same way I did for my race.
First, I create workouts that are based in functional movement, or that are specific to what my client wants to achieve. If our focus is endurance, we will spend more time on the treadmill or elliptical in addition to a resistance routine that will support their increased activity. If optimizing calorie burn is a priority, we will focus more on intense, explosive movements that get ALL the muscles firing. Next, I scale the workouts to follow a safe progression to ensure success and reduce the risk of burnout. This is important; I did not train eight hours at a time for an eight-hour race. Similarly, I want clients to understand that going full steam ahead into a workout routine increases risk of injury and decreases likelihood of program adherence. Finally, if clients are comfortable to do so, we talk about diet and what changes they would like to make. I encourage responsibility - I am a trainer, not a babysitter - and honesty. Aside from that, if I can help clients view food as fuel rather than reward or punishment, that helps create a mental shift where the body is now viewed more like a capable machine, and less like that thing we just want to make smaller.
Stamina is, by and large, a physical barrier. But one's mental game must be on point as well. It's not about ignoring discomfort or struggle. I would rather see my clients embrace it. How?
1. Accept it for what it is. Which is tough. It's OK that it is tough. You are going to be OK. Especially if you're working with an experienced, certified trainer. They will not allow you to continue an exercise in poor form for the sake of doing more.
2. Understand the process. Allow time for your body to adapt to the changes. There's a reason why you don't see a 4-week marathon training program. We work hard for a few weeks, then take a cutback week. At first the work is hard but the changes are significant. Then, as the body adapts we have to work harder still to see more changes, depending on the goal. Only when we are challenged will those adaptations take place.
3. When the going gets really tough, distractions do help. Distractions might not make the work feel much easier, but it can help it go by quicker. Find a boot camp you can go to with friends. Join a group run. Download that album you've been meaning to give a listen to for your next outing. My husband will tell you that I'll take nearly as long as preparing my race day playlist as I spend getting ready for the race itself!
Whether you just want a few sessions to get on the right track, or are thinking about personal training for long-term accountability, consider talking to a trainer if The Struggle has been keeping you from your goals. Sometimes, it just takes hearing that it's normal for something to be difficult. Or knowing that with just a few tweaks to your current routine you'll see major changes. So keep at it!
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Not in Atlanta? Ask your questions in the comments and I'll do my best to help!