When More is Less

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 14:00

This blog is a quick one about how more is not always more. The "hellth hole" I'm climbing out of is proof of that, but there are many other instances in training and in life where balance is key! Read on...

When many of us first start this crazy sport, we're doing a few workouts per week and decide "hey, why not? It could be fun" and sign up for a sprint triathlon. Our first race sets the bar, and then a strangely large percentage of us "catch the bug" and want to see how much better we could do if we actually knew what we were doing, and trained...like, for real. I know this because I had the same thoughts after my first triathlon. Here's a profile of what it looked like:

  • Running shorts under my wetsuit
  • Toe straps on my dad's 1980 steel-framed Peugeot that must have weighed 30+ pounds
  • Rode in one gear the whole time because it was too hard to switch gears using the two levers by the headtube
  • Floundering in the pool once per week, spinning twice per week, one devastating abs class and a couple of runs defined my training regimen

It was pretty ugly, but I loved it.

So we step it up a notch, and might even decide to take on a long race like a 70.3 or Ironman. Maybe the 4 hours per week of training becomes 7 hours per week, and at your next race, boom! improvement. "Great, so I added training and I got better. What if I trained 10 hours per week???" You bag the weekly poker sesh with the gang to get another workout in, and at your next race you are rewarded with another PR. Now your wife is taking the kids to soccer practice so that you can leak salty water all over a black ribbon for an extra two hours every Saturday. It's at approximately this point where things go wrong. We, as human beings, tend to see patterns, but in this case our recognition of increased training equating to increased performance as a linear relationship is flawed. It is not linear! It seems fairly linear at first, but then we experience diminishing returns...then a plateau (called "the plateau")...and then a decline (overtraining).

Here's my crude illustration:

The "Me" is where I was during 2012, 2013 and 2015. In 2014 and early 2016 (before the injury came), I had better balance and was on the right track. I could tell because I had a life, and was improving quickly. Less became more.

There's another thing that makes us type A triathletes susceptible to overtraining and it's our mental strength / willpower / discipline. Paraphrasing Matt Fitzgerald's new book How Bad Do You Want It?..."in baseball, or many other sports, perception of effort plays only a small role, whereas in endurance sports, it is everything." Many of you, whether you are consciously aware or not, are drawn to triathlon because you have a higher degree of mental toughness than the average person. It is part of the reason why you are successful in this arena. Your mental toughness results in better and more training, and you are rewarded with increases in fitness and performance. For me, that held true and was part of the beauty of triathlon. Until it didn't. Until the extra work that I had managed to add into my schedule resulted in a derailment of my health and performance. We are a sport dominated by mentally tough go-getters who like that more results in more, and we must be careful because at some point, more becomes less.

 

Train Healthy, Train Happy,

Matt

 

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