In the world of endurance sports, everyone is seeking to become faster or more efficient in their races. This inevitably results in newer athletes looking for loop holes in training or get fast quick schemes. Social media outlets, online forums, and magazine articles are quick to suggest “optimized workouts” or “the fastest bike” to help athletes achieve their best performances. While these resources can be good for finding new information, I have seen a troubling trend over the past few months. In just the past 3 weeks, there has been a fantastic blog written by a world class coach and a thread posted on a well known forum regarding the keys to getting fast. Both of these have been passed over by many due to the time required to reach the athletes potential. So here I am, writing another blog in hopes that it strikes home with one other athlete. Even if its just one, then this blog will serve a purpose and help one athlete reach their potential down the road.
Your True Potential
Its going to take you 4 to 10 years to find your potential. Most individuals will stop after having read this, but thats the truth. For reasons an exercise physiologist would better explain, our bodies need time to build the overall aerobic platform needed to excel in such events. If you look at the fastest times in Time Trials or Triathlons, they often come from athletes between the ages of 30 and 50. This is because our aerobic capacity (v02) maxes out (potential to max out) around the early 20’s, but then only drops at a very slow rate until we reach the age of 50-55. This being said, at age 40, you can have the same aerobic capacity as you did when you were 25, but now you also have the specific muscular endurance and stamina gained from 15 years of training.
Consistency Over Time
So whats better? hitting hard intensity intervals for 1 year and seeing how fast you can get, or running 40-50 mile weeks for multiple months on end? The result will be different based on what you’re trying to accomplish. But if you’re looking to hit your true potential, then I would suggest the 40-50 mile weeks for multiple months on end. Same goes for cycling, should you focus on a strong 8 hours a week, or ride base for 12-16 hours/week for multiple months on end.
The thing is, is that as consumers in this era, we want instant gratification. However, the more I experience as a coach, I realize that endurance athletics may be the purest thing left in our world. You have to put in your hard earned work before you can reap the benefits. There are no 1%er’s, There is no way to buy a win (you can buy speed, but those people also have been working hard), and there is no way to fake what you really are. When you step up to the race line, the individual that has been the most consistent and spent the time, will generally prevail.
My Best Athletes
I can only speak for myself here, but I just wanted to describe my best athletes for a second and what they focus on. I wanted to do this because I see a strong relationship between success and where their focus is.
Best swimmer: Consistent 20,000 yards/week over the past 12 months
Best Cyclist: Consistent 10+ hours/week over the past 12 months
Best Runner: Consistent running 6 days/week over the past 12 months
Its really not that hard, the best athletes I work with are ones that aren’t looking for get quick fast schemes, they are simply getting out the door and performing their sport daily. These athletes are business owners, traveling salesman, college students, fathers, mothers, etc. They have life commitments absolutely, but the one thing they constantly do is get in the work. It is part of their daily routine and therefore they are making the biggest improvements.
So Why Do I Need A Coach?
Honestly… training is very easy. Be consistent and you’re going to get better. But there is one major reason why a coach is needed. Many athletes think of training as either an on or off switch. This results in the thought of having training weeks or recovery weeks. So this might surprise you (or it might not), but my best athletes are still getting in their consistent training on recovery weeks. The role of a coach is to constantly manage a weeks training load so that the athlete can constantly be training while also recovering. These 3/1 or 4/1 (train/rest weeks) are costing you time. If you are taking a week off to recover, your coach isn’t monitoring your training load and costing you multiple days/weeks at the end of the year. If the overall goal is to constantly be training for optimized results, then your coach again is costing you from reaching that level. Yes, rest is just as important as the consistency of your training…. but rest is factored into workouts and weekly routines. This is the real value of a customized coach.
So, it would be easy to just think, I need to go ride 14 hours a week and I’ll get faster. And the answer to that would probably be yes for the first 3-6 months. But at that point, you’re going to become fried and not be able to manage your workload (not to mention where to do intervals go). So the value in a coach again is to have them managing this workload and finding the best way to piece together each week for the needed recovery and the needed consistency.
I hate to break it to you, but there is no get fast quick scheme in endurance sports. Yes you can buy a bike, wheels, helmet, wind tunnel testing, tires, gait analysis, etc, but at the end of the day, you still need the consistent training to maximize all of those results. A coach can help you manage your workload to monitor fatigue but push for consistency. But at the end of the day, its up to you the athlete to stop posting on social media or forums with your free time… that time would be better spent training and helping you reach your true potential.