Last week’s article, DOMS, Performance, & Pain, generated some pretty great discussion via email, however, we did have some people post comments in the comment section. The following is a comment from a strength coach out of Maryland, Kevin Neeld. Kevin wrote:
Patrick-Great article! The complex integration of psychological interpretation and physical performance is an interesting topic and one overlooked by most in the performance world. The results of this study certainly aren’t unexpected, but provide some evidence of the power of performance psychology. In our setting, it’s amazing how empowering it can be for athletes to realize that they can tolerate and push through more discomfort than they previously thought. Keep up the great work.
I think it is always cool to see how different people interpret different books, articles, and papers. I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to interpret something you read or a lecture you heard, but I do find it interesting to see the different conclusions that people come to. This is why I encourage people to go out and read the articles or books that others cite, recommend, or say they were influenced by, in order to see if you come to similar conclusions. Sometimes you may be surprised!
Anyway, back to Kevin’s comments…
I found it interesting that Kevin brought up the topic of athletes’ tolerating a certain level of discomfort and learning to “push through it”. When I read the above paper that sort of thing wasn’t even on my radar!
The above paper, to me, was giving me insight into the way in which an athlete may develop a fear avoidant strategy following an injury which intern would challenge their ability to compete or train since they are always playing with a certain amount of fear or uncertainty. This can be a very dangerous place for an athlete to be in as they are attempting to play at the highest level with a lack of confidence in their body, even if the sports medicine staff has cleared them to play, the injury has been healed, and the rehab has gone well, in their mind, they are still not ready.
Leaving my thoughts on the paper aside, I think that Kevin raises some good points. Some athletes are real work horses and if you told them that running through a brick wall would make them better they would probably do it without questioning you. These are the guys that show up to train and never let on that they are having a bad day – they operate like machines. Other athletes may need a little more pushing and may not be as motivated or may not psychologically be prepared to handle certain amounts or intensity of training – they give up too easily.
One way I believe we can impact this is the way we program workouts during the training week, perhaps even if the athletes are slightly under recovered and even a little sore, as it can help the athletes psychologically in terms of knowing that they can work a little harder or push a little more than they may not think they can. Obviously monitoring stress in some way and monitoring the athletes ability to recover from training is necessary to ensure that you aren’t doing anything inappropriate, however, once an athlete has done some consistent training and developed a general level of fitness, performing back to back workouts (and these can be intense workouts) can sometimes be a great way to not only illicit some increased adaptation, but also, tap into the athletes psyche and teach them to push themselves.
Another thing to consider, in regard to the athlete, is how frequently you would do this and how many days in a row training can take place before a “back off” day or more recovery based session is needed. This would be something you can build up over time.
As strength coaches we often get wrapped up in the idea of “getting them strong” or “getting them fit” that things tend to become very mechanical that we can forget about how important the psychology of the athlete really is.