The 6 Most Common Athlete Misconceptions
By Matt Russ
In my experience, I believe there are a few common misconceptions many athletes have.
1. Miles = Speed. Going farther does not necessarily mean getting faster. If you put in a lot of weekly miles, but lack any specific training, you are really only (over) training your endurance. If you want to run, bike, or swim fast, you must run, bike, or swim fast. This means interval training for strength, power, aerobic capacity, and lactate threshold training. I tend to be conservative with my athletes’ training miles. I don’t want an athlete doing one more mile than he or she needs to. If your goal is to build endurance, it is not necessary to go more than 10-15% over race distance. Only a portion of your training should be dedicated to building and maintaining endurance. The rest should be shorter, more specific workouts that address your specific limiters.
2. A month off is good for you. Take a month off and you will spend the next 8+ weeks getting back to your previous fitness level. This means spending a large portion of the season training to rebuild fitness instead of building. Fitness falls off very quickly. A transition or maintenance phase is far preferable to time off. You can reduce training volume by as much as 80% and still maintain a level of fitness as long as you are training at the right intensity. Transition phases last 4-6 weeks and are an informal training period. It is a great time to cross train or do other activities. The main focus is rest and recovery while seeking to maintain a level of fitness. More than one total week off is not a good thing unless required.
3. I made it through my workout; therefore I ate and drank enough. There is a big difference between what is optimal and what you can get by on. I often see athletes gravitate towards the latter. Dehydration raises heart rate and lowers endurance. Glycogen depletion leaves you with little energy for high intensity work. Not eating or drinking enough degrades your performance. You may be able to complete the work out, but you could have pushed harder, gone faster, and accomplished more if you had followed a good fueling and hydration plan. The longer your training session, the more important this becomes.
4. I swear this made me faster. Some dietary supplements do work; most do not. Just because a pro endorses a particular product does not mean it will work for you. Don’t forget, pros get paid to promote these products and, therefore, they may have little objectivity. Supplements are an easy sell and have little regulation. All a manufacturer needs is a claim, a good marketing campaign, and an endorsement and they will sell just about anything. The supplements that do work usually have some sort of blind clinical studies behind them. Look for objective sources of information and be careful what you put in your body. Remember, there are no free lunches.
5. (Insert name here) does it, therefore I should do it. If you were to scrutinize 5 top athletes, they would in all likelihood find 5 different ways they got there. Training is a mixture of art and science. A good training plan addresses the athlete specifically and no two athletes are alike. Of course there are principles that should be a part of every training plan, but you should not try to copy another (successful) athlete’s training plan. It is like trying to run in their shoes. Recovery, limiters, fitness levels, goals and objectives, and experience are all individual factors that should be addressed in your plan. If we all tried to train like Lance, most of us would be dead.
6. Close enough is good enough. Training requires precision. For example, the difference between a good aerobic capacity workout and a non-productive one can be a few heartbeats and seconds. In order for adaptation to occur, the body has to have a new stress level placed on it. This means breaking new ground. If you apply the same level of stress, or less, you will not get faster. The nearer you are to your goal race, and as work out intensity goes up, the more important this becomes. Athletes are often surprised when I tell them their workout did not accomplish much because they were slightly below or even above where they should have been. They may have worked hard and were very fatigued, but did not have that last little push that to take them to the next level.
So there you have it. Put these misconceptions behind you and you will be well on your way to training more efficiently and effectively.