What My Back Injury Can Teach Us About Training

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Several weeks ago I managed to hurt my back doing something as silly as attempting to assemble a new TV stand. This back injury managed to put a huge damper on all of my training efforts besides dry-fire.

Any sort of movement was difficult in karate with an injured back and strength training was nearly impossible. As a result I spent two weeks working on dry-fire and trying hard not to re-injure myself.

Last week I got back to strength training for the first time after that two week forced ‘break’.

The results of that first workout were not exactly what I had hoped for. Over the course of the workout I managed to perform approximately 25% fewer repetitions than I did prior to the break.

That’s a loss of at least 25% of my strength after only a two week period.

I can’t say that this made me happy, but I do believe that we have many opportunities to learn in training, and even injuries provide those opportunities. What did I learn from injuring myself?

Successful training requires a consistent unrelenting effort

Just like climbing a very steep hill, you have an opportunity to move forward (and upwards) or to slide back down.

Any type of training requires constant effort. It often is less about the duration of the practice session so much as it is about the amount of time between practice sessions. Train more often for less time, and you’ll find two things:

  1. You will get more out of each training session

  2. Your skills will always be fresher because the last time you trained will be more recent

The quality of your skills and the efficiency of your reaction to an event will always be dependent on the length of the time since your last training session.

An extreme example

Just for the sake of argument, let’s take an extreme example. Let’s say you commit to training one hour every week for a year. That might be three 20 minute sessions, or just one block each week.

In a parallel universe, an alternate you commits to a single tortuous training session of 52 hours of constant training over the course of a week, and be done for the entire year.

Which case gets you the most for your training efforts?

In the universe where you train for one week all at once, you will likely make significant gains over the course of that week. There is something to be said for making a short concentrated effort, and total immersion. If you couldn’t learn and make huge gains in a short period, weekend classes wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular as they are.

When a year has passed, do you think those skills will still be fresh? Probably not. I would expect to drop far below the peak of your performance that you reached during that one week of training.

On the other hand, training for an hour a week might net you smaller gains with each session. The trade-off, however, is that at any given point during the year, the longest time since your last training session is only a matter of days.

Instead of one huge spike in performance followed by a long slide down, you get many small spikes with a reduced loss.

Training is an investment

Training is a lot like an investment, and every training session is like collecting interest. Do you remember high-school math where you learned about the benefits of compound interest? The more frequently you compound your interest, the better your rate works for you and the bigger your overall gain.

Rather than make the same or similar gains every session, your goal is to make gains on top of your previous gains. Reduce the time between sessions and you can spend more time gaining every session instead of rebuilding what you gained last time.

Ultimately training requires consistent unyielding effort. Training hard but infrequently serves you little. Instead, break up your training into many smaller sessions and reap the benefits.

What is your training schedule like? Do you train daily, weekly, or monthly? Join the conversation and post a comment below.

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