When to Throw In the Towel

7 09 2013

In the movie Rocky IV, Apollo Creed (who, in case you never saw the films, fights Rocky Balboa in the first two Rocky installments ) decides to fight Russia’s newest boxing sensation, Ivan Drago.  During the big match between Apollo and Ivan, both Rocky and Apollo’s trainer, Duke, know that Apollo is taking a beating and the end result won’t be pretty. Duke begs Rocky to throw in the towel to end the fight, but Rocky, honoring his friend’s request to never stop the match, doesn’t toss the towel. In the end, Apollo takes such a beating that the final blow kills him.

This scene is a great analogy of that human potential trifecta for competitors; body, mind, and spirit. Apollo represents our physical body. Going up against all odds, we push our bodies to the limits. We kep going regardless of the puddles of sweat and painful ache to prove that our muscles can take the constant pounding not only in competition, but also in training. Then there’s the brain represented by Duke’s character. The voice of reason telling us that we should begin to back off or even quit because the result of continuing might be detrimental. Every painful step blasts a signal to our nervous system, letting us know that the body can’t take much more. We think about listening to that voice in our head, but then something else speaks louder. We hear Rocky, our spirit, cry out and tell us not to back down. If we dig down deep enough, we can tell ourselves to forget what the mind is telling us and hold off on throwing in the towel. We are then able to push just a little more, never knowing if the result will be success or utter defeat. We always want to imagine that it’d be the first.

You might have recently seen more articles of runners collapsing during a race in your daily paper or on the news. Headlines warning people of the dangers of long distance running. The stats are in, we do have more people involved in competitions and exercise. There are also reported cases of people getting hurt or evening dying from their participation in long distance races. However, a study by John Hopkins University published in 2012 compared the number of marathon participants and mortality rates between the years of 2000 and 2009 and showed no significant increase in mortality rates compared to the increase in entries.  They also indicated that the data that was collected were from media reports. These findings prove that the death toll of marathon runners are not increasing, but more so, the media attention of these occurences has increased. So why did these individuals have a fatal finish? One possible reason could be related back to our start of this article; the training of our physical abilities or lack there of.

Individuals must know to listen to their bodies when training or competing. It’s also important to have a trainer or coach who also understands your ability level and knows how to progress your training safely. People start to get hurt when they take only the Rocky approach and never tune in to their heads. Undertraining for an event can be as detrimental to your body as overtraining. Those who are getting injured in a competition may be a result of being undertrained and underdeveloped to meet the requirements of the challenging requirements. An article that led to the large research from John Hopkins highlighted a man who passed out during a marathon. Days after, he commented that he was not listening to his body. When training and competing, our state of mind changes and we begin to fight through all the adversaries that come in our way. From the sore muscles, to the dire weather conditions, we tell our bodies that we can persevere. Train smarter and compete smarter, by knowing when to call it quits. Your body, mind, and spirit is a perfect triangle balanced on its point. Knock off one side and the other two will fall also. If your body wasn’t prepared for that last mile hill climb, quitting isn’t failing, but deciding to be wise to come back to it when the complete triad is ready.

As we continue to exercise and train to improve ourselves, it is important to know when the time is to throw in that towel.  Progress your training accordingly and train speifical to your goals. Always modify your exercises if necessary to reduce the wear on your bones and joints. Lastly, ask yourself before running that first marathon, “Have I trained enough and if I come to that point where all is failing, will I know when to stop?”





Know When to Throw In the Towel

6 04 2012

Over the past four weeks, my wife and I have each been battling some sort of illness. Unfortunately, my wife got the worst of it with a sinus infection, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t given her my cold while she was tending to my care. I had the misfortune of contracting the virus from a fellow client who was sick and coughing everywhere (like into my face) and not having the decency to cover his mouth. I have come to accept that these are the challenges and consequences I must face daily while working in a medically integrated facility.

 While I was under the weather, my workouts eventually came to a complete halt. This made me feel like a waste of life, and my co-workers agreed with me that it would be highly disappointing and not at all like a role model to have to miss days of exercising in our field. Part of the reason I exercise and tell my clients to do the same is to prevent illnesses and viruses from inhabiting our well-maintained bodies. We do it to allow our healthy white blood cells to ward off evil particles from ruining days or even weeks of our daily workouts. Even with the cold, I pushed through the coughing and stuffy nose to continue my workouts. Every day while sick, I would try to get through my normal weekly workout and would come home feeling worse than the day before. When I thought I should have been getting better, I was getting worse. Finally, I had to say enough was enough and throw in the towel. This victory would have to go to the cold, so that I could fight another day. This little virus (now gone and I’m back to good health) conjured up a good blog piece and this week’s daily fitness topic.

 Men, I know you want to be in the gym or outdoors everyday of the week to get that summer body, or you’re trying to sweat off those few beers you accumulated during your weekend excursions, but you need to know when too much is too much. From overtraining to eating incorrectly to being sleep deprived, guys sacrifice important key elements of their daily habits in an effort to achieve their knockout physiques. I must credit those who are very dedicated, tracking their workouts, food, and days off, but unfortunately like my scenario, the unexpected bug could crash into your body rendering you hopeless too. For the rest who are pounding at the weights every day or running like a wild and free stallion trying to get your body into fighting shape, realize that you too must take a break. If you plan on working out everyday, make sure to give your muscle a day of rest. If you’re beginning an exercise program start off light and slow. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 2-3 days of resistance training and up to 5-6 days of aerobic training to maintain your healthy lifestyle. Overtraining is a very common problem especially in beginners trying to lose weight or gain muscle strength. Overtraining not only can lead to decrease immunity against infections, but it can also cause serious stress on joints, muscles, and even tendons. Straining or evening fracturing a body part can cause permanent damage, so take it slow and learn how to progress safely. A qualified personal trainer or wellness coach can help you create a program that fits your ability levels and current health conditions. Remember, there is never a “one size fits all” exercise program.

 Another area that many men I see go wrong, whether it be trying to lose weight or gain size and strength, is their diet. You can now pick up any Men’s Health, Muscle & Fitness, or even GQ from the newsstand and find a nutrition section. However, what you don’t find is a section that has your name in it or your exact body type. Therefore, you start following the advice you read and you wonder why your energy levels are low. You have to maintain a proper diet if you want to build muscle or lose weight. Eating a diet with a variety of color and keeping your red meat content to a minimum can provide your brain the power it needs to focus. Carbohydrates provide fuel to hour body. By decreasing your carbohydrate intake, you start to increase fat or protein intake to obtain your normal caloric consumption. Kittie Spedding, registered dietitian, states that people can decrease their carbohydrate consumption to 10% of their total caloric intake. Yet she warns that this can lead to loss of energy and fatigue. Learn how to modify your diet properly so you don’t suddenly crash in your workouts. Seek out a registered or licensed dietitian to create the power meal plan to get your body fired up for every workout.

 So whatever your goal, keep your body completely nourished to stay focused and energized. And when you exercise, know when enough is enough. This will bring quicker and faster results in the end without having to be laid up in bed trying to recover from a major setback. Lastly, don’t forget that rest will always help your body recover even if you’re not sick. Your body’s natural repair team works best at night while you sleep. Getting seven to nine hours of sleep will replenish your body’s energy and help heal any sore muscles that you might have acquired from the intense workout you had the other day. If sick, getting enough rest will determine if you’re back to normal in a few days or weeks. And believe me, you do not want to have to start your workouts from square one because you didn’t listen to your body. Take the time to let your body refuel and rest so you can get back to chiseling your six-pack.