Recover. Reflect. Reset.
Tips from a Performance Physical Therapist
Have you recently run a race or lifted in a competition and missed your benchmark? Well, you certainly are not the only one. Recently, I’ve had athletes in multiple disciplines (powerlifting, running, etc.) miss their performance goals. What comes next isn’t always easy.
I feel your sadness, I really do. But after a day or two, it’s time to leave the pity party behind. I know you tried your damned hardest to succeed. I hope you do too. I also hope that you don’t choose one failure as the end.
As Zen Cho once said…. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
As a coach and physical therapist, I always remind my athletes that:
Personal bests or PR’s are achieved when all stars align.
What do I mean by this? All factors point towards success. This includes having appropriate nutrition, hydration, recovery, sleep, training load & volume, weather, social support, and so forth.
If all the ducks weren’t in a row and failure occurred, what should you do?
I came up with the three R’s after missed PR’s to help my athletes & clients cope after failure. It emphasizes self-guided recovery and observation to determine what could go better next time around.
So, what is the first step post-failure?
After a failed PR attempt, some athletes shut down and others want to get right back to the gym or track to push themselves harder than ever. Yes, it’s important that you recover in the way that is best for you. However, you need to pay attention to your body.
Most athletes return to training too soon after a hard attempt. What you should remember is that it can take your body several weeks or months to return to its baseline. If you try to push too hard too fast, it may take months. Pay attention to what your body is telling you after a failed PR attempt. Your body will give you signs that it’s exhausted. You may notice your heart rate is not as consistent as normal, your muscles fatigued, and your brain may even be foggy. You may try to train and feel horrible. If this is the case, take some time off. Do movement in new ways. If you’re a runner, try some yoga or gentle weightlifting. If you’re a weightlifter, try some gentle cardio.
Don’t let your body get to the point when it’s telling you it’s running on empty. You certainly don’t want an injury to get in your way of getting back in the game.
So, in conjunction with recovering well is….
Reflecting is vital post any activity that did not go as planned. Whether it is a failed Thanksgiving dinner or a failed performance attempt! You can do this alone, but if you have a coach, partner, or anyone who you talk to regularly, an outside lens can help you gain more perspective on the situation.
Below is a sample list of questions I often ask my athletes after an event. I don’t only use these after failures, but successes as well. They can assist you in determining what went well and what did not go so well leading up to your attempt.
It’s important that you recognize your shortcomings before moving onto the next step of the three R’s. Not only will it let you improve the approach to your next attempt, but it will allow you to truly move into a better headspace when you return to training.
So, what’s next? It’s time to…
Did you think long and hard about a lot of these questions? Did you find something that may have gone wrong? Well, it’s time to reset your mindset & tackle your weakness.
I often remind athletes that stress is stress. Whether it be financial stress, family stress, work stress, training stress, injury, weather stress they all make our bodies go into overdrive. If one of these areas was identified as a problem, it’s time to work on it.
If it was travel related, make sure you change that for the next time. If you were having difficulties with fueling reach out to a dietician. If you struggle with performance anxiety, find a sports performance therapist or coach. If you jimmied together your own training program and things didn’t go as planned, look at hiring a coach to help. If you struggled with weather, well, that’s mother nature’s problem and sometimes you cannot control the variables.
It’s time for a mindset shift. Instead of just going back to doing things the old way, try something new. Reset your training regimen. Try new things, manage your training load wisely, and sleep more. Most importantly make sure you’re focusing on you.
Once things are all in a line, it’s time to get back to training. Here’s to reaching new heights and reaching for the stars. Remember, after a failed attempt, recover, reflect and reset after a missed PR.