Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Residual Fitness: The impatient don't get it

Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)

Legendary tri coach Joel Filliol linked up the following short but profound piece from fellow Canadian high performance coach, Craig Taylor in his twitter feed this week. http://rtcguelph.blogspot.com/2011/11/crazy-like-fox.html

The applicability to triathlon training is both direct and profound: So few athletes are truly patient enough to give a plan a chance to work (and those that do are the ones who go on to fulfill their potential and out-perform their peers over the long term).

The one key to year to year improvement is to build on your base of residual fitness.

Residual fitness can be defined as the small but developmentally significant portion of fitness that you truly earn with a year of training. This can be thought of in the same way as interest in a savings account. While the interest earned in a year of savings is small when compared to the total balance of your account, providing you don’t spend it, year after year it adds up!

There are 2 notable temptations (bred of impatience) that constantly encourage the athlete to spend their ‘interest’.

1. Racing: Races respresent a withdrawal from the proverbial bank account. When an athlete tapers, races and recovers they are essentially spending rather than adding to their reserves. Any more than 4-6 weeks of spending each year (including rest periods, vacation, sickness) and the athlete will rapidly deplete their account. Developing athletes simply don’t have the funds to race frequently at a high level.

2. Sharpening: When it comes to protocol there are plenty of ‘get rich quick’ schemes out there enticing the athlete who wants a quick return. Some of these work… in the short term. Intensification can offer the athlete a quick return on the funds that they have but if the athlete devotes too much of their base to these high yield, high risk areas the results are directly comparable to what happens in the finance metaphor – their reserves are rapidly depleted.

Related to the second, frequent changes in protocol result in the athlete spending time not depositing anything into their account, sitting around scratching their head and ‘living off their interest’. I can attest from experience as an athlete and a coach that there is a definite lag time involved in transitioning from one protocol to another, a lag time that the serious athlete simply can’t afford if they’re committed to achieving their potential. Tweaks are OK but overhauls simply take you out of the game for too long. Think seriously about the ‘momentum cost’ of any change.

When it comes to long term athletic development, most folks underestimate the value in simply staying the course.

Train smart.


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