Earlier this week I was talking with an awesome client of mine when he asked me about a new workout he was doing. This was a hard 3+hour workout that included a couple of different intervals designed to really stress his aerobic threshold. Basically a suffer fest, or as he puts it “A swift kick to the balls!” He was curious why after working together for 3 years he hadn’t done this workout or something similar before. Was it some new way I dreamed up to torture my clients?! Nope, he just wasn’t ready for that workout till now. Even though he had three great seasons, lots of podiums, moved up from a Cat.4 to a Cat.2 on the road, he wasn’t really ready for it till now. He needed a few years of base and structured work to be ready for that workout.
Following an athletes natural progression is incredibly important to long term success and development. We all want to push really hard and put in 20+ hours a week because that is what the pros do but they didn’t just wake up one morning and start doing 20+ hours a week. They worked their way up to that training load. Had my athlete done that arse kicker workout that first year of really training it would have been way too stressful and overwhelming. He most likely would of needed 4 – 5 days to really recover from it. The training stress from that one workout might of exceeded what he would typically do in a week if he actually got through all the efforts. While I know most athletes want to be challenged, over reaching that far just isn’t fun especially if you can’t complete the workout. That isn’t a good way to maximize your gains or instill confidence in an athlete.
Its important that we all follow our own natural progression. You can’t really force your body to adapt any quicker. There are ways we can improve our recovery rates but that doesn’t always mean we will improve our physiological adaptations. Its hard to skip steps in endurance training. As they say, patience is a virtue!
There are a couple of reasons why that workout is important for that athlete this year. The first is that his races are longer and more stressful so his training has to address that increased load. The second is that for him to continue improving at a similar rate we have to increase his training stress. One important thing to remember is that one of the adaptations to training is that our capacity to train is increased. If we kept the training load the same over a long period of time we wouldn’t develop to our true potential. We have to adapt the training to continue to stress our energy systems.
I know a lot of athletes start to get discouraged at some point because they feel like they have the capacity to train more but simply run out of time. If that is the case you need to start looking outside the box, increasing your relative intensity of your workouts, and making sure you are meeting the demands of your races. We are halfway through January, are you on the way to reaching your goals?