With “train by science” & “evidence based coaches” becoming incredibly popular the last few years, we need to take a step back and look at what actually matters in your training:
Mastering the fundamentals
This past week marked my 25th year of writing training programs, and year 21 of my formal career as a fitness professional (WOOOOOOOO LET’S HIT UP THE OXYGEN BAR!).
Over that time a lot has seemed to change in the fitness industry, especially when it comes to training for performance. But the last 5 or so years in particular, have been really interesting.
There has been this hard shift to “research based coaching”, with many turning up their noses to the tried and true principles of training for fitness and performance.
You know, tried and true things like:
- Caloric deficit leads to weight loss (Doesn’t matter how you do it)
- Lift heavy things 2-3 days a week in compound movements to get stronger (No less, and definitely not much more)
- Eat more protein to build and sustain muscle mass (yes, even you, you wanna be slender endurance athletes!)
- Regularly sleep 7-9 hours a night for best performance (you can’t cheat your way to better adaptation & recovery with supplements!)
- Manage your stress so you can train better & be more resilient (Stress is stress is stress, whether training or life!)
- Strengthen your body in general and in ways that help balance out your sport, so you can get better recovery and adaptations
- Play other sports to help stay fit, active, and improve in your main sport
While every single one of these principles holds true (so long as they aren’t taken to extremes), this newfound obsession with “show me the science” has left many fitness trainers and coaches scrambling to get their hands on the latest and greatest gadgets, assessment tools, and equipment, so that they can be “up to date”.
In truth, the foundational principles remain, and have even become far more important, thanks in part to this research showing just how absolutely integral they are.
Our understanding of how these pillars of fitness and performance work, and why, has improved thanks in large part to the quantum leap in our ability to test, measure, and see inside the human organism.
The tools available on the open market have significantly dropped in costs, while sensitivity and reliability has rapidly improved.
While the accuracy and precision of some things have also improved, others have not. . . And this leads us to the changes that can confuse many unwitting athletes, coaches, and consumers:
There are fewer gate keepers – If you don’t understand how to properly read a research article, and in particular know which scientific journals are peer reviewed with stringencies on who actually gets to publication, you’re going to fall for a lot of “pay to play” ‘research’, that is simply paid for advertising.
Advertising is relatively cheap- now it doesn’t necessarily mean that the advertising you see is good, but it is incredibly cheap (compared historically) to reach your target audience.
The Fallacy of Followers- If you have enough social proof, aka “followers” or “Subscribers” people will take you for your word, whether or not you actually have the experience or real proof.
These things, as well as the thousands of new research articles which are published each year, lead to a cacophony of conflicting voices and opinions, leaving your head spinning and feeling as though you’ll never be able to keep up….
Spoiler alert: You can’t keep up with it all.
So what’s a coach or a self-coached athlete to do?
Keep It Simple
The more time I spent in the field, working with clients and athletes and learning from some of the world’s top coaches in their field, the more obvious it became:
They just perform the basics over, and over, and over, and over again until they get REALLY good at them.
The caveat was in finding the right tool to help the one athlete in front of you to improve through the simplest means possible.
The process is boiled down to these basics:
- Learning how to move
- Learning how to move well
- Learning how to move well under fatigue
- Learning how to move well with some resistance
- Learning how to move well with some resistance under fatigue
All 5 of those stages were underscored with:
- Keep the athlete healthy
- Train the LEAST amount possible to get the desired effect
- Guide the athlete to do the things they need to the other 22.5 hours a day outside of the sessions, to help them progress
Yes, you should be staying alert and on top of what the researchers are doing and finding, but you cannot blindly “follow the research”- you must be a bit critical, and understand how to break down the research to truly understand it:
- Who did it work for
- Who didn’t it work for
- What methods were used, and how could that affect the outcomes
- Who funded the research
- Who the research is intended for
If you want to learn more about this, take a listen to Episode 30 of The Strong Savvy Cyclist & Triathlete Podcast.
You can dress up the above mentioned fundamentals as much as you want, sprinkle or douse them with the “dressing” that is “research”, and claim that your way is the best and only way in the world, but really, all that matters is that you’ve found the most time and energy efficient way possible to safely get the person you’re coaching or training to their desired goal.
No HTFU sessions
No 20+ hours training weeks (RARELY Exceptions for amateur athletes)
And without a laundry list of supplements and treatments
Time & energy efficient.
There is no replacement or shortcut for time, however, so you need to have short term goals, with a process oriented long-term focus.
Remember, Train Smarter, Not Harder, because it is all about you!