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Lessons on sustainability from a competitive athlete (Part 2)

BY LAKEN SUMMERVILLE

(Continued from Part 1)

In late 2013, I began working with a coach to help me focus my training around my competition goals while also dialing in my nutrition. I started targeting my weaknesses in training, tracking my food intake for the first time, and scheduling consistent rest days each week. It wasn’t long before I started feeling significantly better, faster, and stronger as I progressed through the program.

In 2015, I joined a team of competitive athletes and found that training alongside a group of other individuals with similar goals was highly beneficial for me. I was consistent and intentional in my training and continued to see adaptations year after year. 

However, along with progress came breakdown. Even though I was training smarter, years of high volume and heavy loading had taken its toll. Nagging ailments continued to plague me through my training. My only response was to continue to push through the pain. I didn’t respect my body’s growing limitations as it aged and was regrettably forced into shifting my priorities to mobility, proper warm up, and sleep quality over time.

In 2019, I started playing the long game and investing more in overall health and injury prevention. I was consistent about this in my daily training sessions but when it came to the competition floor, all caution was replaced with adrenaline, regardless of pain. If you’ve been an athlete in any sport, you know that game day is to show up and win. The cost is sometimes the state of your body.

When COVID hit, my last big competition at the MACC was cancelled and my training routine was turned upside down. For the first time since I started Crossfit, I took a serious step back and asked myself the “proverbial why”. What the heck am I training for? For function and sport? Physique? Strength? Longetivity? Do I even still want to compete?

All of those things are and should be trained as, completely separate things. “Are my goals to feel good and not have injuries, or to be on the podium?” I realized that as much as I love competition, training that way is not sustainable for me forever and I wanted longevity and overall health more.

Over time, I adjusted my training and remembered that I should feel better after I finish my workout. That having a “good workout” didn’t have to mean writhing around on the floor afterwards. I was chasing the wrong feeling for a long time. For years my mindset was “push through.” Now, I have learned to do less, and say no, more often.

These days, I focus on endurance/capacity 4 times a week for 30-45 minutes, I lift weights 3 times a week for 60-75 minutes, and incorporate metabolic conditioning and gymnastics skill work at least once a week. I’ve been adamant about trying to incorporate yoga or mobility sessions weekly as well. Learning to do less has greatly improved my mindset. I prioritize eating nutrient dense foods while still allowing room for my favorite treats. I haven’t felt the need to diet, or focus on low caloric intake. On occasion, I will track my food just to make sure that I’m staying on top of certain macros. Years of weighing and measuring have taught me what my meals should roughly look like and I can almost intuitively follow that now.

I’ve learned so many things the hard way, but if I could do anything different, I’m not sure that I would. My experiences have enabled me to gain knowledge that I can share with others. This has allowed me to dig into my client’s needs and wants, and get them to question and analyze the way they view their nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle habits. Although I’ve come a long way, I’m still a student. I still aspire to learn, and I am adamant about getting just a little better each day.

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