Training is different for every individual
Or rather what works is different. There are a number of principles that cannot be ignored but the interpretation and application is what differentiates each approach. I think this is the essence of what positive coaching and mentoring can bring to the table
You shouldn't generalise
When I see articles written that make a bold statement about an approach being the preferred way, or another approach being the wrong way, I don't like it. It's not to say that lots of common sense, academic rationale and experience may be behind these statements, it's just that I simply don't believe you can generalise.
Fitness - health. Can you have both?
Added to this is that I'm not sure many coaches are thinking about the impact of training and racing on the health of an individual i.e. the medium to long-term impact of their approach. What's more important? Competition/Completion or living a long healthy fulfilled life?
The risks behind short-term intensity
In repeating some of an earlier post, whilst HIT and intense workouts can help to make quick and huge gains in fitness this may be at a cost of increased inflammation. This is conjunction with short-term stress on the body can lead to an increase in the likelihood of injury and illness. Additionally, the progression made may have 'end date' i.e. A shelf life, beyond which the approach will not continue to lead to improvement. Many people who take up serious exercise later in life are at risk of this strategy.
There is no substitute for long-term
Lots of intensity may be fine for some, indeed it's necessary, especially for conditioned or experienced athletes, but its not fine for others. I believe if you really want to be the best you can be, particularly in competition (not completion) then you have to put the work in. There are no quick wins. Not if you want to remain healthy, compete to your potential and do this over a long period. If you simply want to get fit, be strong and healthy, think long-term. Diving into intensity before you are ready for it can be damaging and not provide the sustained long-terms gains you were after.
Over the past few years my training has become pretty inconsistent, which was something of a rarity for me. However, if I'm honest, I know I've been suffering from a chronic overload of emotional and mental stress. It's affected everything, including doing the physical activities I love, to the standard I set myself. Ok. I know, I know! My standard is to be in the best possible physical shape I can be, irrespective of age. And why not?
After some hard thinking, I'm determined to change things and take a different approach to my training (physical competitive fitness) and my health (keeping well as well as in the best possible physical shape).
As you may be aware, guidance about training over the past few years has been very much focused on 'quality', making use of limited time. Time limited training has partly developed because of the hype attached to our busy lifestyles in general society. There is not enough attention drawn to its drawbacks because plenty of people see it as a short cut to maximising potential, and of course plenty of people are making good money out of it.
I say 'quality' because yes, it is based on targeted, high intensity sessions that will move you on and this is a necessary element of improvement and any successful training plan.. However. I believe there is a downside, that is without a suitable aerobic base an over-reliance on this approach will mean that improvements will be limited (for endurance athletes) and in some cases lead to avoidable injury and illness. There is a huge focus on the 'time-limited' approach these days but I'm not so sure that it's an advisable and credible long term strategy, certainly for endurance athletes. and not if you want to maximise your potential.
It can't be argued that as one ages, in order to be competitive one has to train hard but train less (in comparison to when one was much younger). However, I believe this adage only applies if you have a good base of all types of training over many years. This is often proven by experienced athletes returning quicker to high levels of performance because: a) They know what they need to do; and b) their body remembers what it has done. To start time-limited intense training with no real background is to invite injury, illness and emotional burn-out due to the inflammatory effects of hard training and relative skeletal and muscular weaknesses.
I'm not saying we can't make great gains through hard, time limited training but it will find you out if you are not sufficiently prepared. It will find you out in terms of a breakdown in physical fitness but also (and one could say more importantly), it will negatively affect your physical, and mental health.
No one can hide from the fact that training to develop a strong aerobic base is the best way to become as good as you can be. I understand we haven't the time available to a pro, but we have got the time to structure the development of our training, which will go some way to really being able to maximise our potential.
In a future post I will put forward my views on how to improve in line with your circumstances and crucially manage your expectations.
After injuring my calf through a stupid number of leg presses prior to a run home from work I wanted to get out on the hills but obviously couldn't run! A trip to my wife's sister in Thirlmere opened up the opportunity for a windy but fab hard walk around Coledale. The NW fells are lovely even when the clag is down. Gave it some stick up Grisedale Pike and my cash only started to play up 50m from the top. Saw Ricky Lightfoot at Coledale House. How I'd loved to have been running today.