Athlete, evaluate thyself

After warming up, it's time to evaluate.

I was talking to Steven Wheelock, a wellness instructor at Rex Wellness in Raleigh, about stretching for a story coming soon to a McClatchy Newspaper (Charlotte Observer/News & Observer) near you when he sought to put the practice in perspective by anatomizing the four phases of the workout: 1. Stretching/warmup, 2. Evaluation period, 3. The workout itself, 4. Cool down.

1, 3 and 4, I was familiar with but 2 was a new one. “Evaluation period?” I said. “What’s that?”

“That’s where you see where your body is in relation to your workout,” Wheelock began.     Basically, a quick personal assessment of where you are and what’s best for you on this particular occasion. “Say you feel you’re at 85 percent and the instructor tells you to give 100 percent. Well, you give 100 percent of that 85 percent.”

As the math sunk in a smile spread across my face. “So I’m back in high school, at football practice, we’ve just warmed up, I go through my ‘evaluation period’ and tell the coach, ‘Coach, I’m just not feelin’ it today. I’m gonna slack off.’ I’m having trouble picturing that.”

Wheelock, who played college football in the late 1980s, returned the smile. Then he shared some common sense.

“Our bodies don’t like to be shocked,” he explained. Say you warm up and your body is feeling sluggish and blah. Maybe your muscles are tight. Maybe your joints are a little creakier than usual. Maybe you had a hard workout the day before your body is telling you to cut back. Listen to it, Wheelock urges. A hard workout may not benefit you and may actually cause harm in the form of a muscle strain, a tear, or some other injury. Going out and pushing it could be the worst thing you could do. Honest, coach!

Made sense, I agreed. But what’s to keep you from giving yourself a slack evaluation day after day?

“At Rex we administer a test called Microfit,” Wheelock said. “We test for your body mass, the circumference of your measurements, your blood pressure, your height and weight, we have you sit and reach [to assess flexibility], we have a bicep curl test. You do the test, then you do it again in six months. The proof is in the pudding.”

The bottom line is, figuratively and literally, the bottom line. if you give yourself too many lenient evaluations, you’ll shortchange your workouts and you won’t see the results you want, whether you’re taking a TRX class in the gym or training for a marathon.

Trying to weasel your way out of your workouts could be indicative of something else, suggests Wheelock. A critical element may be missing.

“You need to be having fun,”  says Wheelock. If you’re not, you need to reevaluate, ask why you’re doing this particular activity and if you don’t come up with a good answer, perhaps move on to something else. Something you do enjoy that you won’t be inclined to shy away from.

Alas, there is no set checklist for the evaluation portion of your workout, no formula to tell you whether you’re at 85 percent or 72 percent or 58 percent. “It’s an entirely different thing for each person,” says Wheelock. “You need to give yourself permission about what’s possible.”

In short, you’re on the honor system. Evaluate consciously.

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