“Let adaptation drive your training, not your wants or needs.” Steve Magness, The Growth Equation.
What does “Let adaptation be the driver, not want or need” mean? It emphasizes the importance of prioritizing adaptation in training rather than being solely driven by personal desires or external pressures. Long-term development involves avoiding the fixation on specific events. Many athletes, including myself in the past, make the mistake of selecting a prominent race they aspire to participate in or succumbing to peer pressure, and then molding their training to fit that event. This approach anchors training decisions solely to the demands of the race date rather than focusing on training adaptation.
For instance, imagine signing up for an Ironman race with several shorter races along the way as part of your preparation. You start planning your training backward from the event date, determining the training load you need to build up to meet the event’s demands. When you organize these numbers into your calendar for the months leading up to the race, it may seem like a clear progression from your current training to what you should be doing in the final weeks. Essentially, you create a training map that goes from point A, representing today, to point Z, the race day. However, the problem with this approach is that it is uncommon for your body to follow such a linear path. Training is not a straightforward, linear process, as your body can only progress at a certain rate. By anchoring your training to the event, you unintentionally create an unrealistic training progression that may not align with your body’s capabilities. Recognizing this mistake has come with experience.
To start off correctly, a better, sustainable approach, is to map out your training first and then fill in the events accordingly. If your primary focus is running, choose running events that align with your current capabilities. If swimming is a challenge for you, participating in an Ironman or Triathlon might not be the best choice at this moment.
Write down the frequency and duration of training that you currently cannot handle comfortably. If you are already training enough for the events you want to participate or compete in, then there is no need for significant changes. You can start signing up for those events. However, if the events that excite you are beyond your current abilities, take a realistic approach. Ask yourself, “How much more could I realistically handle next week and next month while comfortably adapting to the increased load?” It’s crucial to ensure that you can handle the additional workload and adapt to it, so that you can repeat it the following week and gradually progress from there.
Next, create a list of events and races that align with your expected training level for any point in the upcoming year or two. Consider your realistic expectations of training load and fitness level on those future dates.Contemplate how you will handle setbacks such as illness, work or family emergencies, injuries, or any other unexpected circumstances. When you face significant interruptions in your physical training, be flexible in shifting your training plan and adding new events accordingly. It’s okay to revise your goals for a particular event and still participate if the new goals excite you. Celebrate your knowledge and progress even if you decide to withdraw from a race because your goals no longer align with the original plan.
By mapping your training and then finding events, races, or adventures that naturally fit into your plan without forcing adjustments, you keep the focus on what truly matters—you. This approach ensures that events align with your body’s capabilities rather than forcing your body to conform to events. It is the best approach that can provide a lifetime of healthy and sustainable progress in your sport.
As a coach, I adopt a collaborative and athlete-centric coaching style. I work closely with athletes to determine the training plan, methods of communication, goals, and more. If you’re interested in discussing your training journey further, feel free to contact me, email@example.com
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