There comes a point in all of our training where things just start to hurt more than they used to. Perhaps it's a nagging ache or a chronic grumpy muscle group, and after attempting to "push through it" long enough we find ourselves worse for wear.
How you approach your training can significantly help cue your body to adapt more effectively. Fitness professionals encourage goal setting as a way of marking progress, and while this is absolutely a crucial tactic, it can sometimes lead to abusing our bodies for the pride of having felt like we reached a goal. For example, say you're fairly new to a skill like running and your goal is a certain minute per mile or a certain amount of strength or endurance. Why are you setting that goal? If it's just to motivate your to work harder, take a step back and make sure that's the right thing to be working on. If you notice that working towards your goal causes you pain and setbacks, it's time to set a different type of goal.
My experience in training aerial and acrobatics has taught me so much about this. In circus it is very easy to get seduced by this or that fancy move or trick. What can happen though without the proper foundation training, is the gradual exaggeration of muscle imbalances, compensations, and bad habits that lead to chronic pain and injury.
For example, so many times I used to say "my low back is just hyper mobile so my lower abs won't work." That's an attitude that held me back from becoming a high level aerialist. The first time I felt my lower abs fireafter so much frustrating strength training that felt impossible, I realized that I needed to just pay extra attention to overcoming what felt impossible in order to achieve the more "fun" aerial goals I was working towards.
It's taken me several stubborn years of trial and error to to accept that a good rule of thumb is to periodically assess our physiology to make sure we're training in a healthy way. With the help of a smart personal trainer or coach, you can identify your muscle imbalances and weaknesses to create more holistic training plans. Recently I took a trip to London to train with a legendary aerial rope artist to see what he would have to say about my technique. Lo and behold, he identified where my weaknesses were and explained how and why they would hold back my progressions and development with my aerial rope training in a way that hadn't previously been explained to me as effectively.
That whole experience gave me a lot of new insight into the importance of defining one's training progressions honestly. Now I think in terms of the big picture of how I want acrobatics to exist in my life over the long term. I set goals based on the realities of how long it takes a body to develop certain levels of strength and ability.
The key is: progression takes time and there are no short cuts. Therefore when setting your training goals, the bigger of a picture you create for yourself the more sensitive and responsible your training schedule will become. The more responsible your training habits, the longer you can enjoy having training be a healthy part of your life.
Nicki Miller is an NYC based aerial acrobat, actress, and personal trainer. She is the founder and artistic director of Only Child Aerial Theatre. For more info on her, her work, and circus training click the links!