"How Much...Training?"

Photo courtesy of Samantha Chin

Photo courtesy of Samantha Chin

This week in the “Learning How Much” series we are tackling training. A few days ago, Coach Anthony shared with us a post on intrinsic and extrinsic motivators and how stress and recovery play a role in our adaptation. I am going to expand on this a bit more, digging into two major indicators that signal we should adjust our training volume, intensity or modality so we can continue to pursue our goals.

When you start a new training program, how do you usually feel? Excited? Inspired? Curious? Full of potential and sunshine and unicorns, right? We show up every day and we dive in feet first and we do everything our coaches say. But, after a time, the novelty wears off. We start missing sessions, we start making excuses for why we aren’t showing up, we actually start filling our time with other things so as to have legitimate excuses for not showing up or putting our full effort forward. Why is this?

Remember what I said in Part I - It depends? Well, it does. However, more often than not it boils down to two major reasons. Excluding life events that are well outside of our control, we often lose motivation when either A) we are burnt out or B) the thing that used to keep our interest no longer captivates us.

Let’s talk about option B first, as it’s a little easier to remedy and has far less drastic effects on our health and wellbeing. If you are bored - and this happens all the time - you must seek a new challenge. We provide a litany of resources for this at Kingfield specifically (with plans in the works to provide even more) with Strength Class, Weightlifting, and race teams. Our coaches are well-versed in teaching and educating on specific topics and skills. You have excellent resources at your fingertips, all you need do it ask! Simple things you could do tomorrow to jumpstart your training routine:

  1. Come at a different time than you usually do - training with other people, being coached by someone new or being up earlier or later can be eye-opening.

  2. Try mixing it up - take strength class 2x/week. Coordinate a group run or hike on the weekends. Attend weightlifting class.

  3. Learn to think - this sounds strange but introspection during your training sessions can be an extremely valuable tool and create a different stimulus by really listening to the feedback your body is giving you. You are no longer just going through the motions.

  4. Ask for more  - this one treads a fine line (as you'll read in two paragraphs) but if you’re looking to learn a new skill and we just don’t spend the time you need on it in class, write down some of the drills we share with you and find time to do them on your own. Or ask a coach for some assistance!

The bottom line is that you are no longer adapting at the rate that you did when you started. In order for us to continue to experience improvement, we have to seek challenges that drive that adaptation. In the case of boredom, we may not need to make major adjustments to our training volume but instead to the stimulus itself.

Now, boredom is one thing - burnout is another animal entirely. Burnout is a state when your body is stressed to the point that it can no long adapt. Symptoms of this include (but are not limited to):

Excessive fatigue, lack of motivation, disturbed sleep, rapid or seemingly unexplained weight gain/loss, persistent joint and muscle aches, excessive soreness, lack of appetite, low sex drive, trouble focusing, cyclical illness, mental fog…

The list goes on.

If you are experiencing any of these and they are not explainable or have been persistent for some time, you should talk to a coach. Work to identify why this might be - have your priorities shifted? Are you trying to balance more than you can handle - work, training, relationships, family, etc.? Are you showing up because you think you should or you think you'll lose your fitness or you're scared to take a break and come back, met with soreness and feeling "less fit?"

Be honest with yourself. Rank the important things in your life and then quantify (roughly) how much time and energy each of those things take. Pretend you only have 100 dollars to invest into these things (we do only have a finite amount of energy). Often times, we can only pour ourselves fully into three things. This exercise allows us to look at where our energy is allocated and how it might affect how you show up at the gym. We can then reframe our expectations for our training. Pursuit of performance is a HUGE energy and time commitment. Are you expecting to improve performance on just a few dollars?

When our expectations don't align with our capacity for investment, we experience stress. By continuing to invest nonexistent resources, you are only enhancing the stress. As Coach Anthony mentions in his blog, the appropriate recovery when we experience stress, especially when this severe, is rest. It is time away from the gym. It is eating enough food and getting enough sleep. It is getting recharged by being with loved ones or doing things that you love.

There is an appropriate way to balance your training and pursuit of your goals to avoid burnout. There is also a time and a place where you have to push through - when you are training for competition, there will be times when you are tired as a result of your training. Your adaptation is dependent on you training despite this stress. However, it is very hard to know when if you are not highly experienced as an athlete or coach. I would encourage you to seek us as resources, to help guide you in setting up a training regimen that works best for you and your circumstances. Remember, it depends on you the individual. 

We can use boredom and burnout as two indicators of when training volume, intensity and stimulus need to be adjusted. Pay attention to what your body is telling you - it usually has some pretty good insight!

Next week, we will dive into the hot topic of food. How much? When? What? Come prepared to consider your current eating habits and how you might be able to make a few minor tweaks for improved performance and reduced stress when it comes to the subject of noms.

Until then,

Coach Caitlin