Advice for the General Enthusiast
One of the hardest things to understand as a Weekend Warrior or general fitness enthusiast is that the tools and lessons of elite performance sport have great value and can really point us on the right path. Every so often, the sports networks will highlight some athlete who sleeps in a high altitude chamber, drinks kale smoothies every few hours and does a two-hour deep tissue massage daily.
That all sounds great, but for most of us, just getting twenty minutes a day in exercise might be an effort of time management and free will worthy of an epic handed down for twenty generations. Magazines and TV shows love the story: they want to show the guy using magical herbs and bizarre foods rather than the bulk of the performers who just eat good food.
On the exercise side, it can be worse. Rarely do you see a commercial with a professional athlete training with a barbell or Kettlebell. Almost always, they have band, straps, computers and cast offs from NASA experiments. It’s hype and you should know that by now. Most of us, as well as elite athletes, simply need to train and get their workouts in the weightroom finished. Then, build on it.
I have five principles for most of us to support our training.
- Train appropriately for goal(s).
- Train little and often over the long haul.
- The longer it takes to get in shape, the longer the shape will remain.
- Warm-ups and cool-downs really do play important roles.
- Train for volume before intensity.
First, be sure your training matches where you want to go. If it is fat loss and general health, mix a training program with elements of cardio, hypertrophy and mobility. If you want to win a triathlon, it would be nice to know how to swim and bike. If you are an athlete, use your sport to condition yourself for the sport and the weightroom to build the qualities of strength, mobility and hypertrophy.
Even Weekend Warriors soon learn that you can’t make up five days of commuting and sitting in a desk by going after it for two days every weekend. You have to find time for short workouts that will support your weekend plunges. It takes eight to twelve years to build an Olympian, give yourself a few extra days to support your fitness goals.
Training little and often over the long haul relates to the next point. The longer you take to get in shape, the longer you seem to stay in shape. These six week and ninety day body change programs are fine, and they work well for those who finish, but a six year approach to conditioning is going to be a lot better for the medal count. Take your time getting in shape.
I don’t think we always need to have a perfect warm up or take the time to cool down. Sometimes, you just get your name called and you have to be ready. However, for most of our efforts, a warm up and cool down period will give you a chance to get some work done in the other areas of training: foam rolling, flexibility, discussion of tactics, planning for upcoming trips and competitions and general community building. The warm up and cool down period is often the best time to both plan and reconsider the plan towards one’s goals.
Finally, for most of us, we need to get a lot of volume in before we light up the intensity. I believe in intervals for runners, peaking for lifters and “crunch time” for team sports. But, you can’t do it all the time. Get your work in with the lower intensities and build a foundation. Once or twice a year, feel free to “go for it.”
Just remember, you might not have the support staff and money to go for it 365 days a year. None of these principles are earth shattering or original, but check them against what you currently do. During times of illness or injury or general lousy training, circle which of the five principles you ignored and strive to NOT make that mistake again in the future.