Train your Weakness!


Post by: Shelli Stevenson, PT, DPT

Most people have innate strengths and weaknesses. This applies to physical endeavors such as running a race or climbing a mountain, but also in the mental, social, or psychological arenas of life. In most cases, people like to spend time doing things they enjoy and training the areas where they excel. We tend to avoid doing activities we struggle with or don’t come easily. For example, I love riding my bike or running for long periods of time at a moderate pace. On the other hand, I do not enjoy short intense interval workouts where I can’t catch my breath.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a specific sport or event built for each person’s individual strengths where we never had to do what we aren’t good at?  Unfortunately, that does not exist. How much faster or stronger would you get if you trained your weaknesses?

I performed an experiment on myself a few years ago to test this theory of training one of my weaknesses. Like I said earlier, I like to run for long periods of time at a moderate pace and I struggle with short intense sprints. There was a five-mile race in six weeks and I wanted to know if I could run the fastest five-mile race with just interval training. I did three workouts a week: one short interval day, one long interval day, and one tempo run. I struggled through each of these workouts because previously I had not been training my fast-twitch muscle fibers or my lungs with this type of intensity since high school. I was not doing any long slow runs during this time. Race day came and I was able to run 7:20 mile/min pace for 5 miles! I realized if I spent time incorporating some interval training with my endurance training I would get faster and stronger!

Each of us is unique with our own set of strengths and weaknesses. The best place to start with any type of training is to know yourself and what each of your strengths and weaknesses are. If we start every training program understanding our uniqueness and build a set of plans based on those foundational items, we will be more successful in every aspect of our lives. You should be training your weaknesses first. Let me give you a few examples. If you have limited flexibility, you should be doing a stretching program or yoga frequently. If you have a very stiff upper back and shoulders, you should be working on your posture and breathing. If you have poor lung power or stamina, you should be swimming or performing other aerobic activities at a slow-moderate pace. If you are hyper-flexible and prone to injury, you should be working on a strength program. If you train your weakness first, your strengths will get stronger and you will reach your goals or exceed them exponentially.

“My attitude is that if you push me towards something that you think is my weakness then I will turn that perceived weakness into a strength.” – Michael Jordan

“Work on your weakness until they are strengths, and work on your strengths until they are second nature.” - Anonymous