This week several people I know are talking about their plans for this winter. What I found interesting was how varied the plans were. The only variable which correlates with the outcome of the plan is the individual’s personality. While some people see this time as an opportunity to take it easy sighting ‘it’s Christmas’. Some people see winter as an obstacle to get through and make plans accordingly. While some people I know don’t seem to be phased by the winter at all unless it is particularly icy outside, if it isn’t training will look more or less the same as October as it will in April.
Whether or not the plans correspond to what is needed to get the most out of next season is now left outside the realm of logic and physiological progression. What is worse, we are all creatures of habit, so what we did in the previous season is what many people will do in the subsequent years. This poses a huge problem, as this can lead to holes in fitness, whether it is top end power, steady state endurance, muscular balance, swimming technique, it is likely to go unchanged. While preference obviously plays a part, I think it is a lack of direction. People listen to who they listen to and their world is confirmed by the same people saying the same things. In other words we are stunted and cannot move outside our block. Even when we read books on training, we are likely to dismiss new information and listen to the bits we already do.
A good example of this is in Gordo’s book Going Long. The book has a section on strength training which states the strength requirements for Ironman triathlon; the ability to squat with 1.7x bodyweight on the bar. The book sold a lot of copies and is even in a few local libraries yet how many triathletes do I see in the squat rack, and out of those how many are anywhere near that recommendation.
So how am I different? I follow rules, and tick boxes, and plan to achieve these things in my training. These are well defined attributes. So well defined I can quote them verbatim from the top of my head! While it is easy for the goals and objectives to be in your mind when you write your training programme, how many people have them as a mantra during every session.
A recent example of hitting one of these goals was my strength. Every gym session for three years I wanted to squat 110kg for 12 reps, and have enough muscle so I could be 76kg at 7% the following summer. Every session built towards that goal, and the day I did I told everyone in the gym. I told them how hard it was and how I am naturally a 65kg ectomorph who struggles to put on weight and when I started I could only squat 40kg, and even then I couldn’t hit parallel.
What is more is that even when I was only a year into what I knew would be a multi year slog I knew what was next; steady state endurance. That is where I am now. I will continue to track my training and work on my weaknesses and will not be a creature of habit, or let the weather dictate what my training goals will be. I will admit now that as far as the elite check list is concerned I am not 100% sure what is next. However I have a lot of ideas and it involves looking at fatigue curves, but that is a topic for another time.