04 May 2007

May Q & A

Still on the road this week so a few thoughts on: priorities; realistic protocol choices; and externals.

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S.T. writes…
“Important things tend to receive great criticism from ourselves. At least this is what my market research shows, which was done among my friends. We always think that our priority list is not correct. For example, we always ask “why this is #1?” and why this is #8? (in a top-10 list)…

“Anyway, when you have free time and you’re in good mood, pls write a post on this very subject “deciding what is really important to you”. I think that this decision is very short-lived and it’s like making a tattoo. You like it now (in our case you consider it important now), but are you going to like it after 5 or 15 years? In my humble opinion, decide what is important now and is rated #1 now, it’s not something that can last for too long, maybe that was the case in the 90s, not in the 2k years. It can even become counterproductive in our fast changing world. Everything goes, turns and moves fast and our “important things” (probably) follow."


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Some general points on goals and priorities.

Within my life, my goals are signposts (or waypoints). They are not a destination in themselves, rather they help me be the sort of man that I want to be. They support a desired lifestyle and ethical framework for me. With that in mind, I’m always free to change my goals (or my approach) with new information.

Some of my pals (and readers) often appear to take my goals more seriously than I do. What I strive for is total commitment with limited attachment -- some days go better than others on that front! I think that we need to be wary of sticking to stated goals when changing circumstances show that another makes more sense. That's why I advise careful thought before making public statements -- they often come back to bite when we are least equiped to deal with them!

That said, what I’ve found in my own life is that my true goals are timeless in nature. They span cultures as well as trends/fashions. These are the values which lie beneath the items that I may place on my Top Ten list. See my Personal Planning post (September 5th, 2006) – the key things for me are:

Big Picture
>>>Successful marriage combined with personal satisfaction
>>>Open communication based on kindness and respect
>>>Practice listening skills
>>>Observe and reflect

Key Likes
>>>Like to train and write
>>>Like to achieve
>>>Enjoy temperate weather with ample sunshine
>>>Maintain expense/income balance

All of the above are available to me on a daily basis and, with the exception of my marriage (and the weather), only require action on my part. I have complete control over them.

Within my life, I see very little link between “balance” (in the Western sense) and personal satisfaction. It often feels that I have to work at keeping my life focused (and a bit out of balance), in order to achieve a deeper level of success.

However, there is a strong link between “harmony” and personal satisfaction. Harmony flowing most easily when I am living up to my commitments to myself – everything that I appear to do for “others” is undertaken as a result of a desire to maintain my personal view of self. To think otherwise can generate a lot of resentment – there are a lot of highly successful “self-less” people living lives of background anger due to failing to realize this point.

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D.M. writes…
“My main constraint (as for a lot of us!) is time.... …I'm able to manage 10 hours of training per week while keeping my life balanced. As a result, my training consists of a mix of intervals, time trial efforts ( e.g. 5k run or 60min bike TT) and longer sessions (e.g. 90min steady run or 3 hour ride). So far I am improving and my body absorbs the intensity well.

“I know you prefer a lower intensity approach and it clearly works very well for you and many others. My question is, simply, with a 10h per week time constraint, do you feel that a higher intensity approach is warranted, or is there a better alternative?”


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I think you answered your own question – your life is stable, you are improving and you feel like you are absorbing the training. Those three items describe an athletic approach that is successful in terms of our life.

What I’ve seen in my own training as well as the training of my athletes is that for an athlete to get close to their “ultimate athletic potential” (whatever that may be) requires a level of time commitment that most people don’t want to make. The time required simply doesn’t fit into their overall life goals. It sounds like you’re in that position right now. So I’d stick with what’s working for you.

What you may find is that using the occasional “Big Day” (see my Coaching Long Course Athletes article) in your training provides a different sort of training stimulus for you. Consistent, variable overload, absorbed over time. That goal can be achieved by a multitude of methods & protocols.

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S.B. writes…
“… there are performance plateaus that people reach fairly quickly (within a few years), are very difficult to get past, and very wildly between different people. For example, I'm skeptical that I'll ever get my LT up or over 300w - my physiology doesn't seem to lend itself to that, and that's fine, I'm 155lbs. In a bike racing context, I can train up my short term sprint wattages much faster and higher than most other people are able to (which is perfect for Ironman, right?). I train with guys who have easily exceeded my strenght/weight ratios.

“So, are you putting a subtlety on the "absorbed" work versus the "completed" work - e.g. we all go out and do training that we might not be absorbing, even if we think we are?

“Now, for IM I feel like I agree with you more since the parameters are a little different - I know I can physically do all the things required to do very well at IM - it's a matter of building endurance and durability to do them over longer terms. But at the end of the day, aren't there still simple genetic/physiological aspects that play a major role, given we may not *really* know where those limits are?"


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You will maximize your “speed” when you maximize your “stamina” – that is why I place such a fundamental emphasis on the long term, consistent application of steady-state aerobic training.

You are correct with the subtle emphasis that I’ve started to place on “absorbing”, rather than completing. There is an over-emphasis on the completion aspect of training – there are a lot of simple (but not easy) ways for us to enhance our absorption of training (sleep, nutrition, massage, flexibility, time management, financial stability, emotional stability). The items that I share within this blog are what, I believe, drive a deeper level of performance.

Well before I was racing elite, I learned (through Joe Friel) that my limiter was the ability to recover, not the ability to train. Most the athletes that I work with start their first year with me doing a lot “less” in their eyes – yet at the end of the year, they have done “more” because they didn’t nuke themselves, stayed healthy and had greater consistency.

Finally, genetics are the ultimate “external”. There is zero that can do about them. Time spent worrying about them is 100% wasted energy.

Focus on what you control. Ideally, what you control right now.

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