The best kind of training

A conversation this morning got me thinking about what I consider the best kind of training.

If you’d asked me 15 years ago, I’d have said “none”.

Then something happened and some 5 years later the answer would have been very different.

At the time, my answer was whatever workout where I was so exhausted, I barely managed to drag myself to bed, shaking, before I fell asleep.

It was a dumb answer.

It’s an answer based on ignorance and thinking “harder” equals “better”.

Turns out, that isn’t completely true.

As with all things the human body is capable of achieving, the answer to “what is the best kind of training” (intensity) is…

It depends.

If your goal is to improve your cardiovascular capacity – your breathing and recovery during exercise – and you’re NOT an elite level athlete, training at between 40-80% of your VO2max is more effective than higher intensities.

If you’re untrained, keep to between 40-60% of your VO2max to give yourself the most effective/quick adaptation.

The more trained you are, the higher the intensity needs to be to get the same degree of adaptation.

If you’ve trained for a while, feel in decent cardiovascular shape and want to get better, you have to kick the intensity up to between 70-80% of your VO2max.

What is your “VO2max“.

Since your VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during intense exercise, it can be measured objectively.

To get an accurate read it just takes a bit of equipment and serious effort. The effort will be all yours.

However, you there are several methods you can use to estimate your own VO2max with a bit of math and knowing your actual min/max heart rates.

This isn’t as precise, but if you use the same method it will help you identify relative improvements.

It is, speaking frankly, all most of us need.

To know what the best kind of training (intensity) is going to be for you, start by figuring out what your VO2max might be.

Then figure out where you fit in the typical ranges for your age bracket/sex.

Know that and “Bob’s yer uncle!” when it comes to training intensity.

Occasionally, you should go above or below your “optimal range”, but most of the time try to stay right in the middle.

If you do, you’ll see some interesting changes to how quickly your heart rate recovers during exercise.

And that – how fast your heart rate returns to normal/recovers – is the best sign of how fit you actually are.

Now, get out there and do the best kind of training (for you) today. Cheers!

Yes, I want online training!

Push-up progressions

Why not try a push-up negative to test your weaknesses?

I was at the gym, watching a few people work on their Push-Ups today.

It’s always interesting to watch people train, without being the one training them.

I learn a lot from what I see.

Sometimes I learn a new cue.

Sometimes I learn how not to cue.

During my observation today, it wasn’t what the coach said or didn’t say that caught my attention.

It was all about how the student decided to implement the instructions they were given.

The exercise in question is one I love;

The push-up

Even if you know you can’t complete a push-up there are still so many ways to perform a version of it.

My preferred option for people who can’t complete a full one unassisted?

The push-up negative.

Heck, I like using the negative with people who’re basically experts at doing them.

You can learn a lot about how and where you’re compensating by doing an exercise slowly and only working through the eccentric (negative) part of the movement pattern.

Most of us have some form of compensation we do.

Often, it’s momentum.

The slow and negative variant of the exercise forces us to realize that something isn’t quite right (if that’s the case).

But, back to what I was observing today.

When asked to do perform a push-up, the student went looking for an incline.

This too is a fine way to work your way up to being able to do a full body-weight movement.

But I believe the push-up negative is more effective.

So then, while observing, I’m faced with a dilemma.

Do I choose to be “helpful” and step in?

Or do I let the student and assigned coach figure out whatever they need to figure out on their own.

A few years ago, I probably would have “helped out”.

These days I try hard to avoid being “helpful” to other coaches during their sessions.

Unless I’m asked to help, I don’t offer it.

So instead I was enjoying watching the student take herself through the progressions until she hit her current limit.

In this case, that involved changing the angle of the incline until she couldn’t complete the requested number in the set.

It’s not as if she did any damage to herself. Instead, she got to explore what developing her own method means.

It truly was fun to see.

Speaking of slow negatives…

Can you think of something in your training routine today you could do a couple of (really) slow negative versions of.

To see if you learn something about your own strength and movement…

Yes, I want online training!

The mental game

Is your Mental Game on point?

I was talking with a friend today about why I started watching the Patriots Football team. For me, it’s been all about the mental game.

We moved to the US and New England in 2000, the same time as Tom Brady arrived as a 6th round draft pick (number 199).

I had no clue who Tom Brady was at the time, obviously (being foreign and all).

Nor did I know much about the Patriots or American Football.

I’d watched a few Denver Broncos games on TV while going to school in Colorado.

Then some of the 1997 and 1998 Super Bowl appearances where the Broncos won. We watched those two games in Norway.

They were rough games to watch, starting after midnight.

We arrived in New England a few months after Tom Brady was drafted.

Tom Brady’s Mental Game

I believe I had my eyes opened to the phenom that is Mr. Brady during the Patriot’s 5th game in the 2001 season where they played the San Diego Chargers.

The team trailed the Chargers by 10 points in the 4th quarter and Brady led the 10 point pick-up which led to the field goal win in overtime.

If the team had lost at that point, it wouldn’t have been a big deal.

To watch a relatively fresh quarterback complete drive after drive at that point in his career tipped me off that something was different about this guy.

I’ve always been interested in the mental strength some athletes show when everything appears to go sideways.

The ability to bring focus and determination when it matters.

To lock out all distractions…

And simply deliver.

It may not sound like much, but if you look, you’ll find a few interesting examples of superstars who can’t do this.

For me, Payton Manning was an example of someone who didn’t quite have the same mental strength.

Not that he didn’t perform. His record speaks for itself.

But, when it really, really mattered, Manning seemed to crumble. Time after time. Just look at the Colt’s losses in the 2006 and 2009 Super Bowls.

Brady on the other hand seems to shift into some secret mental 6th gear and take off.

Of course, there are cases where that doesn’t happen.

The 2019 Super Bowl overtime drive was a great example of this behavior.

Before that final drive, you couldn’t be faulted for thinking Brady had lost a step or two.

At overtime, they win the ball. Brady is handed the ball and ends the game.

It was first time all game where he’d been able to execute a “traditional” Brady drive.

And it happened the one time it really mattered for his team.

Now, I’m not going to pretend the successes and failures are due to the Quarterback alone.

That’d be dumb.

But there is something about having a leader who doesn’t quit.

Someone who doesn’t seem to quit, and actually seems to play ever better when things are going badly, will inspire the whole team to reach that bit further.

There are plenty of examples where you see the mental strength of the athlete being the difference between winning and losing.

It’s more difficult to discover in team sports because the whole team contributes.

An easier place to find examples are in individual sports like running, golf or tennis.

Just look for athletes or players who seem to be having a rough period, yet somehow manage to pull themselves back up again and win when it really matters.

The ones to look for win consistently, in spite of the difficulties they’re facing.

Therese Jordhaug

Another off-the-top of my head athlete would be the Norwegian cross-country skier Therese Jordhaug.

In 2016 she tested positive for steroid use. She had received a cream to treat acute sunburn on her lips from her doctor.

The doctor bought the cream at a local pharmacy during training in Italy. Jordhaug had trusted her doctor, so she didn’t check the ingredient list.

It contained a banned substance.

Her doctor stated he’d failed to notice this fact and submitted his resignation.

The amount she had taken indicated she had indeed been exposed by applying something to her lips. Also, the detected levels were too small to have had a performance enhancing effect.

The normal suspension for a first-time doping offense is four years.

However, due to the “non-significant fault by the athlete”, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) set her penalty to 18 months.

This was long enough to cause her to miss the 2018 Olympics.

Jordhaug was prevented from training with her national team during her ban.

Being a 28 year old at the time, there are quite a few athletes who’d have retired.

In spite of this, Therese Jordhaug continued to train, mostly on her own, and returned to the Cross-Country Skiing arena after her ban in 2018.

Her season so far, after 2.5 years off?

She’s been crushing her competition.

Taking eight individual gold medals in eight World Cup starts between November and January making her the current World Cup leader.

Plus she captured 3 gold medals and a silver during the 2019 World Championships.

Some of her victories are nothing short of impressive exhibits of physical (and mental) strength, considering the distances and the quality of the competition.

Working on your own mental strength

Before you hit the gym today, what could you come up with to improve your own mental game?

How can you become more resilient and able to elevate your performance when it really matters?

Can you learn something about reaching your peak performance, in spite of everything stacking up against you?

Something to think about while you train today?

Yes, I want online training!

Winging It vs. Preparation

winging-Jonathan Wilkins [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Winging It

The Figuring out when winging it is the way to go, versus getting prepared.

Some people only believe in preparation, while others go for winging it the majority of the time.

From what I have read and discovered myself; If you are hoping for a certain outcome, preparation is the way to do.

If you do not really care about what the outcome is, then winging it can work just fine.

In some ways, winging it can add to the adventure and lead to some amazing outcomes.

A lot is left to chance and circumstance, but as long as you are not married to a specific outcome, that is part of the fun.

Preparation

Preparation is important if you have a specific goal in mind.

You can gather information, make a plan, and execute your plan.

More than likely, you will get pretty close to the goal that you want to achieve.

All that matters is being realistic about the goal and about the amount of time you expect it to take to get there.

Even when preparing leaving room for adjustments is important.

If you have training goal, tracking your progress and reassessing weekly or biweekly will allow you to either push your progress, or pull back and add recovery ias needed.

Once you commit to a training program it is important to stick with it until the end.

There will always be good and bad weeks.

If you abandon ship and start a different program mid-way, your outcome becomes a little more unpredictable.

If you have milestones that you are not hitting and you have time, then you may want to consider a program switch.

But if you are training for one event within the year and there are other events beyond that, in your future, stick with the original program.

The only way to know if it will work or not is to see it through to the end.

Amateur

This is easy to say as an amateur. There is not a livelihood on the line, or future opportunities.

It is my ego that is mostly driving me.

Sometimes our ego can get in the way of what is practical and helpful.

Insecurity can kill momentum and do it impossibility fast.

It convinces you the best move is to jump ship, or retreat.

Finding a way to work through insecurity.

To get to a headspace where you make a balanced decision is important. It doesn’t work well to wing it in those situations.

What has your experience been? Is winging it your preferred way to experience life, or is it all about preparation? Why?

Train a little, laugh a little and have good day. Cheers!!

Yes, I want online training!

Food + Training = Winning Combination

Fresh Food for everyone!

Today I learned the value of having eaten enough food before training.

As in…

I learned how difficult it can be to perform at your best, if you don’t eat enough.

Especially during an evening training session, like what I experienced today.

Truth is, when the wife’s away, I sometimes forget to eat.

Today was one of those days.

I got up.

Fed the cat (she’s a demanding beast!).

Had a cup of coffee and started working.

At 2pm I realized that I had not eaten anything since yesterday at 4pm.

It dawned on me that this probably wasn’t a great idea if I was planning on training tonight (I was).

Then it dawned on me that there was nothing in the apartment to eat.

Thank goodness for Amazon PrimeNow, living in a bigger city and GrubHub!

In spite of consuming 1/2 of the hearty delivery of Thai curry, I still got a mild headache within minutes of completing my first warm-up tonight.

I struggle with energy if I have to exert myself after not eating for almost 24 hours (imagine that!?!).

Of course, I’m not that smart either…

For 2 hours tonight, I tried to run and jump on stuff.

I did OK for the first hour.

Of course, that has more to do with the class format than my (not so) excellent energy management skills.

Then the day of not enough food, but training caught up with me.

By the time I was 1/2 way through the second hour, my energy levels were dropping precipitously.

Thankfully I had an ego protecting “out” tonight.

Christine would have to walk from the train station to the apartment at about the same time as the second class ended.

I had to leave to pick her up. For her safety of course! And I’m a chivalrous guy.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Make sure to get enough food when training.

Ever notice how your food intake affects your training?

Tell us about it in the comments section!

Yes, I want online training!

Overtraining, what is”too much”?

Overtraining, how much is too much? - Image: Dennis Kwaria [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

When it comes to training, what is too much?

Has anybody told you to be careful about overtraining?

Overtraining / “Too much training” …

[…] occurs when a person exceeds their body’s ability to recover from strenuous exercise

Wikipedia – Overtraining

Seems simple enough, but what is actually your ability to recover from strenuous exercise?

It all depends on how well trained you are when you start.

So, by definition, “how much is too much” will depend on how much sensible training you’ve done.

A personal trainer friend once said that he believed it unlikely for amateur athletes to suffer from overtraining.

I tend to agree with that sentiment.

It takes a lot of continuous and intense training to suffer from overtraining/too much training.

Just think about

There are some notable exceptions.

The exceptions tend to circle around inexperienced coaches who value high volume, high intensity training above all.

To suffer from overtraining, you’ll have to train for more than a one hour session per day.

Of course, if the training volume is ramped up sensibly, it probably won’t be a problem.

By “sensibly”, I mean over time.

Avoiding “too much”, aka overtraining

At first, low volume/low intensity sessions taking up most of the total training volume.

Next build up the intensity in some of the sessions, over several weeks.

Then start increasing the volume of higher intensity sessions.

All while making sure you have pull-back weeks and rest days sprinkled strategically throughout.

Following this plan will let you adapt to the volume and intensity.

You can probably maintain it for durations of 4-5 weeks at a time without getting anywhere near the “too much” stage.

When it comes to training, you and I probably have very different definitions of intensity!

What if..?

The clinical version overtraining probably isn’t in your future.

You can still set yourself up for overuse injuries if you’re not mindful of your training patterns.

Training the same muscle groups multiple days in a row, never letting them recover won’t make you stronger.

It will make those muscles weaker.

Minimally 48 hours of recovery for that muscle group after training is a great rule of thumb.

A normal adult between 18 – 50 years old will see gains if they train strength/resistance at least twice per week.

You can also train resistance a little more, without it being detrimental to your development.

3 times per week ensures the recommended recovery and has a slightly elevated adaptation benefit.

Adaptation benefit = more strength and endurance.

So to get the most out of your strength training, do it 2-3 times per week.

The other days you should either focus on completely different body parts[1], or – much better(!) – focus on active recovery.

A great active recovery activity is to go for a brisk walk.

It will help recovery by pumping oxygen & nutrient rich blood to your trained muscles.

The oxygen and nutrients help repair the muscles and your body grows them stronger/bigger.

This repair process is how the body adapts to the workload you just put it through.

Something to think about as you put in your best effort during training today?

Yes, I want online training!

PS: It’s mildly ironic that the article on Wikipedia about Overtraining contained a warning when I wrote this.

[1] = I’m not a fan of training body parts. It’s not very useful in real life!

Move An Object, or Move Your Body…What is Strength?

Object-Redclown at English Wikipedia [Public domain]

Move An Object

Is being able to move a heavy object a true sign of strength?

For awhile I got caught up in the idea that lifting heavy things is what would give me strength.

Deadlifting, squatting, and bench pressing did lead to more overall physical strength.

I could do 11-12 pull ups, and about 15-20 push ups.

My mobility and agility were not as balanced as the strength I had gained, so in some ways I would say I wasn’t strong at all.

Move A Man

It was very motivating to think about being able to carry and save my husband, dog, and cat in a fire situation.

In my head, I would play a scenario of how I could get them all to safety in one go.

When I was doing hallway runs with a heavy sand bag, I thought “now this is functional fitness!”

But, I only got to 100lbs. I could not have carried my husband anywhere.

I could have managed the dog and cat.

Lifting weight did make me feel strong, but I was not doing much body movement exercises at the time.

I wish I had done that. Being able to confidently move your body through space is a very big power booster.

In gymnastics I always felt so heavy.

There was too much of me to move around.

Point of View

The idea that I was too big made it hard for me to pursue athletic movement like gymnastics.

I enjoyed dancing a lot more.

One thing I could do was jump.

Which was funny because I was not a basketball or volleyball player.

My small stature did not make me the go-to-person in either of those sports.

I think being shorter gave me the element of surprise when it came to jumping and leaping in dance.

It was a surprise at how big I could make a movement, so that seemed grand.

Compare me to a taller person who can really jump and then I imagined the “oh now I see” comment.

When the realization that I really did not jump all that high hit them.

But, when moving I did feel strong.

I think I felt even stronger than I when deadlifting double my bodyweight.

What do you think? Do you feel stronger when moving your own body, or when moving a stationary object?

Why?

Move, train, and dance a little. Cheers!!

Yes, I want online training!

Slow Down, Speed Up

speed-Wallpoper [Public domain]

Add Speed By Slowing Down

Have you ever done something so fast that you made mistakes?

Mistakes that made you have to redo what you just did, or set you back more than when you started.

Speed seems like a good idea, until you get in your own way.

You start cutting corners without really thinking about it.

It becomes easy to look too far ahead and miss what needs to happen next.

Being motivated by what you want to achieve is a good thing, but realizing it is the process of getting to make it happen, that makes it happen.

Math

I was the math student who always wrote down the answer, but did not write down how I got to the answer.

Whenever the teacher would ask, I only wondered why it was important.

Wasn’t the answer being right or wrong all that mattered?

As I got older I learned with time that it was the steps to get you to the answer that were the most important.

They reveal whether you truly understood the process to get to the answer.

Of course, it was a surefire way to know that you were probably not cheating.

Having the process broken down made it easier for the teacher to provide feedback as well.

If something did not add up, they could point to the part that caused things to go sideways.

Movement Application

Not only does going slow build strength and control, it also lets you ingrain a movement pattern.

Going slow is less impact on your joints as well, which will help you to stay active for longer.

It is a great complement to other sports.

A quick and simple exercise is to take the basic movements of your favorite activity, then slow it down.

Pretend you are pushing through molasses.

Imagining resistance to your movements, creating tension in your muscles.

After you have this down, start to speed up while trying to keep the fluidity, agility, and mobility of your movements.

My guess is, after awhile you will be moving faster, even faster than if you would have gone for speed from the start.

Add a little slow-mo to your training today. Cheers!!

Yes, I want online training!

Get Sorted

User:Dcoetzee, User:WDGraham [CC0]

Getting your week sorted out and ready to go is one way to take any stress down a notch.

When life is real busy and you feel like you are chasing after things to get them done, take control by sorting out what you need to do.

There are many ways to sort things out. Finding the one that works for you is all that matters.

For people who can afford it, it is hiring someone who is in charge of scheduling your time.

Might sound crazy, but sometimes this is what is needed to allow enough brain power so you can focus where your talents lie.

Someone who likes to schedule people either really love to be in control, or are looking for a way to a better job.

Either way they need to, or will do, a good job.

For us average “Pats”, we do our own scheduling.

Tools To Use

A couple of tools that I find useful are sorting my emails, using a calendar for reminders, and looking ahead to the week, or next day.

I usually have a lot of emails to sort through in the morning.

Some of them I need to take immediate action on, others I can categorize so I can take action on them later in the day.

I search for the emails that need to get done asap, act on them and then file them away.

That is how I know they are done.

I split my day up with different tasks to help me work through the emails that got categorized.

The calendar is something I use as a reminder to check on order delivery times.

That way when I enter an order, I can add a reminder for a day a week or two away to help me to keep track of the order.

A Look Ahead

On Sundays I like to look ahead at the week and see what is coming up.

The calendar reminders are good for this as well. They work as a tracking sheet for me.

The real tracking sheet is a simple exported Excel spreadsheet of all our orders, with notes on them.

That way I have one easy reference place to see things that are coming up.

It is also a way to communicate with other people about the status of orders for the week.

What tools do you use in your life to keep things sorted, and to de-load stress in your life?

Enjoy your time training today. Cheers!!

Yes, I want online training!

Identity Shifted

shifted

Shifted Identities

What happens when one day you “wake up” and feel like your identity shifted?

In some situations it may not be a bad thing.

Purposeful practice of habits that will help you integrate positive behaviors in to your life can lead you to a positive place.

A place that you are aware of.

There are other times when life can be taken over by one thing and everything else slips away because of it.

This happens without much awareness.

Any awareness you may have, you try and ignore.

It can leave you feeling guilty and full of regret.

Most people would rather ignore or bury those feelings, rather than experience them.

Aha Moment

The day when you wake up is that “aha!” moment. Or it’s rock bottom, etc.

It’s the day when you look around and see that the shift in your identity was something you completely missed.

You are no longer the person you were a little while ago and it is time to get to know the person you are now.

Staring a new job is a big life shift that can impact how you see yourself.

It happens gradually and then after six months or so, you notice new things about yourself.

The same thing happens when you start a new training program, or activity.

There is usually a culture that goes along with a gym, or a group of people who train together.

Over time you adapt and it becomes part of how you express yourself.

If you ever find yourself in a place where your are not happy with how life is, consider what has brought you to where you are.

Then think about what needs to change.

What you like about how you stay active and train in your current life?

Yes, I want online training!