By Danny Lazzeri
People are strange creatures. We often know something is inherently good or beneficial, yet we resist it anyways. Sustainability comes to mind when I think about this concept. At a fundamental level, many people recognize how important it is to live in a manner that can be maintained for a long time with minimal negative impact to ourselves and those around us. Like anything worth striving for, there is a cost to sustainability, and that is where the dilemma begins. Ultimately, it boils down to one simple question: is the juice worth the squeeze?
How does sustainability apply to weightlifting? Three key elements come to mind:
*Longevity – How long can the athlete realistically compete in the sport?
*Injury Potential – Is the athlete likely to get injured and how often?
*Progression – Is the athlete developing optimally for the amount of work put in?
Most athletes would ideally want to train and compete in their sport at the highest possible level (progression) for the longest period of time (longevity) with the smallest negative impact on their bodies (injury potential). There may be exceptions to this rule as there are those who would sacrifice anything for immediate success, but the majority of us would prefer a long, happy and healthy career.
Sustainability in training can be a reality for any weightlifter, but similar to sustainable life practices, there is a cost. This cost can manifest itself in a variety of ways and will vary based on the particular athlete. Almost universally, there is a monetary cost to sustainable training. To be able to train hard and often, you will need the help of professionals at some point in your career (massage therapists, PTs, chiropractors, athletic trainers and acupuncturists to name a few). Unless you are a top tier lifter, you will likely need to pay for these services out of pocket. Also, there is the cost of supplements, clinics, private coaching and programming to consider.
It doesn’t end with monetary costs either. Possibly the biggest cost associated with an athlete’s sustainability is time. And time does not apply to the time actually spent training. In many ways, less is more. Your success on the platform does not stem from your time spent with the barbell alone. The hours put in outside the gym engaging in activities like mobility, food prep and rest can be just as crucial to an athlete’s success. Neglect of these activities can be a quick route to injury and regression.
Every athlete is going to approach these costs differently. For many, they will sacrifice quite a bit to ensure that they have the resources (time and money) necessary to train aggressively and consistently while others will choose to spread these resources out among a variety of pursuits (family, social life, hobbies). There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing this, but you need to understand that your training regimen needs to match your resource commitment. Professional lifters (those who actually get paid to lift) have access to the most resources and thus can train five, six or even seven days a week. The large bulk of athletes do not have this luxury so we must adjust our training accordingly.
There is nothing more tragic than watching a lifter waste away on a program that is simply too aggressive for them. While hard work is admirable, there is a very fine line between training hard (progression) and overtraining (regression) and this is only magnified over the course of a career. If you will not (or cannot) commit the resources necessary to training five days a week, then maybe you need to take a look at your training program and scale it back. When the training protocol does not match the resource commitment you can easily end up fatigued, injured or you can burn out altogether.
Take a good hard look at what your training looks like and decide whether it is truly sustainable or not. If you find it isn’t, you need to reassess your goals, determine what sacrifices you are willing to make (costs) to get there and formulate a new plan. Sustainability in your training won’t just keep you in the game longer, it will make the whole process that much better.
You can apply this same concept to other facets of your life as well. While you ponder the sustainability of your training, go ahead and consider sustainability in the rest of your life. Take some time out of your week to ask these tough questions:
*Are you over-working? Over-stressing? Over-spending? Over-consuming?
*Do your daily habits support a happy and healthy future?
*What small things can you do today to create a more sustainable future for yourself and others?
In a culture that thrives on instant gratification, these are difficult things to ask and change will not come easily. Like any great undertaking, you may find that the juice is indeed worth the squeeze.
Tune in next week when we discuss the Do Less Protocol (less is more).