Basic Training Assumptions
Even though I just said below to expect a gap in posts here, while on the plane today I had some thoughts about basic assumptions regarding training for endurance sport. These certainly aren’t earth-shaking thoughts but they lead in a direction that perhaps you hadn’t thought of before. So I thought I’d share them with you before my next flight.
1. Training must be physically stressful. The whole purpose of training is to physically and appropriately challenge the body. From this challenge the body adapts and becomes more capable of handling a given level of stress. To be effective the training challenge should be specific to the stress anticipated in the goal event for which you are training.
2. Adaptation to a specific physical stress is called “fitness.” This puts to rest old arguments about who is more fit - a golfer, weight lifter or marathoner. Each is equally fit for the unique physical demands of their sports. For example, if you want to define fitness as the physical skill required to hit a ball a long way with a stick then the golfer is the fittest.
3. Another product of stress is fatigue. If you challenge the body many physiological changes other than fitness can occur. You may have depleted carbohydrate stores, damaged muscle cells, altered body chemistry, etc. Taken as a whole these changes are called “fatigue.”
4. Fitness and fatigue trend similarly. You may not have thought about this before, but it is important to understand. There is a strong link between fitness and fatigue. If you are fatigued from training then you stressed the body adequately enough to create the potential for fitness. If the workout did not cause any fatigue at all then it also did not produce the potential for fitness. So, when fatigue is rising you can expect the same thing from fitness.
5. In order to race well one must reduce fatigue. This is what tapering before a big race is all about – reducing fatigue. You don’t want to go into important races tired. There is no benefit from doing that. Racing when tired most assuredly will produce less-than-stellar performances.
6. Reducing fatigue is called “coming into form.” The term “form” came from late-nineteenth-century horse racing. Before placing a bet you would check the form (sheet of paper) provided by the bookie which showed how each horse had been racing recently. When a horse was racing well it was said to be “on form.” Bike racing which started in the late nineteenth century adopted this term early on. In recent years other endurance sports have begun using it.
7. Coming into form requires losing fitness. This is where I was taking you with the above assumptions. Don’t believe me? Then go back to #4. The bottom line is that you must give up some fitness in order to shed fatigue and therefore race at the highest levels. The trick is to limit and control how much fitness is lost in the tapering process. I’ve probably put more time and thought into this single aspect of race preparation than any other. But what I do is far from perfect. Peaking is as much an art as a science. The protocol I use isn’t 100%. This is described in my books. It may work for a given athlete for one race but not as well for the next. That’s because we are humans and not machines. There are many variables in our lives. Actually, I’m glad it’s that way.