Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Junk the junk by training with purpose

By Matt Russ Jan. 22, 2007 --

Before you begin your training for the day you should ask yourself one question: "What is the specific purpose of this workout?" If you do not know the answer, then it is likely the value of the workout will be equally in doubt. In order for your fitness to improve, you must place a new stressor on your body and then allow yourself to recover from it. If it is the same amount of physical stress, or less, or if recovery does not occur, then overload will not take place. Fatigue is not necessarily a good indicator of progress, either. If you begin a workout fatigued, sore and generally tired and then go through the motions, you are only breaking your body down further and delaying recovery. Being tired does not in any way mean that you are getting faster.When I examine an athlete's training plan for the first time I usually find a lot of junk miles. These are the miles that do not really have a specific purpose but are there because the athlete feels they need to train that day. The junk workout is almost always general in format and redundant. Often this time would be better spent recovering or performing a shorter, more specific workout that targets a particular limiter. Do not confuse hours with quality training. Your long workout addresses a particular fitness substrate: endurance. Endurance is very important, even the most important fitness substrate for long events, but it is certainly not the only one.Define the purposeThe athlete that simply trains the most does not win. The athlete that trains the most effectively does. Assume your limiter is climbing on the bike. To address this limiter you could go ride several hours on a hilly course. Before you choose your workouts you should identify your fitness limiters and your goals for the season. Are you a weak climber? Does your economy and form need work? Do you lack power in the flats? What sport do you need to spend the most time addressing? Your workouts should address these questions specifically. Now think about your goals and peak race(s). When is your race? What is the racecourse like? Where will your weakness be? The answers to these questions should largely determine how your training plan builds out.Now that you know what to target, you must choose the right workouts at the right time. If you are an underpowered cyclist, strength training during your base phase will help increase force production. In consideration, you will have to lower your weekly saddle hours as you spend more training time in the gym. If you are a weak swimmer, spend time correcting your stroke. This may mean reducing the run and bike on some weeks as you spend more time in the water or with a coach. Realize that a general plan will not address your needs specifically. In order to reach your true potential you may need a plan that is as unique as you are. Training requires energyWe often have athletes come to us chronically injured, burned out, and/or over-trained. By reducing their training volume to a more manageable level we are able to make these athletes faster. In reviewing their training plans we get rid of the junk miles first. It is a mental adjustment for them when we step down volume. Only when they have more energy to train effectively and become more balanced in their bodies and lifestyle do they get on board. The athletes begin to get faster and they realize some of the shorter workouts are some of the hardest and most effective. Reducing their total hours does not mean they do not train hard. In fact, they are able to train much harder than when they were chronically fatigued. They just don't train as often (instead, they make every workout count by ensuring every training session has a purpose and is designed to contribute to overall fitness development) and are allowed more recovery time. You only have a finite amount of energy to put forth. Where, when and how you apply your energy determines the efficacy of your training.There is always a compulsion to do more. This is a natural impulse, but adding in a workout that has no real purpose can work against you. When your body is broken down and you are training simply because you feel you have to, it is non-productive. Resist that compulsion to throw random workouts in that may impair recovery. Only train with purpose. Don't confuse quantity with high-quality training. The athlete that trains 15 hours of random miles per week is not as effective as the athlete training 10 hours of directed and specific training. This athlete targets strength, power, aerobic capacity, endurance, or anaerobic endurance, in the right mix, at the right time.

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Smart and Fun Training Everyone!