LIMITERS – That which holds us back from taking it to the next level

LIMITERS – That which holds us back from taking it to the next level

sarah bio feb 2015 cropped

by Coach Sarah.

We’ve all had a point in training where we feel we unravel, and things come undone. Usually this presents itself when we are fatiguing during a difficult interval, or perhaps a very long endurance workout. The beauty in these “unraveling moments” is that they are a window to our opportunities to improve.

As a massage therapist, I’ve worked on numerous athletes and physical therapy patients, and it never ceases to amaze me that people with chronic pain are usually falling victim to one, two or three faulty muscle patterns that are holding them back from feeling better. This is, I believe, where my fascination comes from this topic of “limiters.” It is only with the discovery of the limiting patterns that one can truly start to heal and keep things at bay going forward.

This stands true for us with our training. If we can identify WHAT holds us back and WHY it holds us back, that is where we can stand to improve with the most assuredness. Here is a list of limiters I have seen within many of the athletes I’ve coached or trained alongside, and some also within myself:

  1. Cardio system (Heart Rate) not keeping up with current muscular strength
  2. Muscular strength not keeping up with Cardio system
  3. Pulmonary system (lungs) not having the capacity to keep up with desired effort levels (this one is a bit tougher to train, however, as natural genetics comes into play here.)
  4. Faulty muscle patterns holding an effort level back, or causing fatigue/muscle failure too soon
    1. These can be the result of:
      1. Trigger points
      2. Overly tight muscles
      3. Inflammation of a tendon
      4. Limitation of movement in a joint
  5. Imbalances in an individual’s bone/skeletal structure (i.e. shorter leg; tilted pelvis; scoliosis; etc)
  6. Inefficiency of swim stroke, pedal stroke and/or run gait! (This one is HUGE!)
  7. Physical load we are carrying (i.e. body fat percentage; imbalance of muscle mass from one half of the body to the other half)
  8. Psychological constraints – self-imposed limiters based upon past experiences, both real and/or imagined

When we are training alone, sans-coach, we have a tendency to get caught up within our own minds, seeing the situation only for how it appears to ourselves. We are in a forest of sorts, without the ability to depart ourselves and fly overhead for that bird’s eye view of what is really going on around us.

The beauty of having a coach, on the flip-side of that coin, is that they are there to take the role of flying overhead, removed from your immediate limiters, and able to see what part of your path is creating a limiter for you.

Whether you train with a coach or alone, I encourage you to look inward at the various possibilities of what might be holding you back from moving to the next level in any part of your athletic journey. The really amazing thing about doing this is that if we can look inward without judging ourselves for where we currently are (reality), we have this wonderful crystal ball presenting itself to us, showing us what we can be capable of becoming. Between the classes, coaching, training opportunities, video analyses, sports nutrition counseling, massage therapy offerings, training facilities and clinics we have available for athletes at Experience Triathlon, athletes have every resource necessary at their fingertips to discover their limiters and work to improve based on those!!

Sarah Farsalas is the Director of Cycling, Director of Massage Therapy, a certified USA Cycling coach, USA Triathlon coach and Licensed Massage Therapist with Experience Triathlon.   Learn more about Coach Sarah, Experience Triathlon and Experience Massage at

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