Date: 9th October 2013
I coach athletes, and spend a lot of time talking about training with other athletes. We debate training schemes, rest days, load, intensity all the stuff that goes into performance. Some of these athletes are world-class, and have very detailed training plans. Some of them are world class and haven’t ever made a training plan. Some of them are recreational with 40-item traininng logs… Some athletes plan their rest cycles years in advance. Others don’t rest, ever.
What separates the world-class athletes I know from the not world-class athletes (stripping out genetics for a minute) is that the world-class athletes have been training regularly for a long time. REGULARLY. It’s not about exactly how many reps, intervals or whatever number that matters, it’s consistent time spent training over years. The truly excellent athletes I see make that training time count every single time they are doing it. They aren’t slacking off, they’re in there training. They don’t talk while training, they train. They don’t make excuses about it being wet, cold, whatever, they shut up and train that day. Day after day, month after month, year after year. And they improve until “suddenly” they’re kicking ass. Training mistakes are made. Injuries are sustained and repaired. The training goes on. What I did ten years ago is not “effective” compared to what I know today. But it worked, and it got me to where I am today.
Going for a run and wrestling bullshit hotel weights for 45 minutes is about a hundred times better than walking into the hotel gym and saying, “I can’t do my deadlifting workout today with this shit equipment so I’m going to watch TV and eat a box of Cringles.” Maybe a thousand times better. Being an athlete is a commitment to your skills and body, not some sort of convenience thing.
Many “novice” athletes want incredibly detailed schedules of their training programs. But before that happens they need to actually TRAIN regularly and with purpose and intensity. There is no “perfect” workout, no “perfect” diet, there is just showing up and working as best you can that day, and then measuring that training against real-world performance. An athlete who does 50 imperfect but regularly scheduled workouts will kick ass on the guy who does one “perfect” workout occasionally. How it is. Yes, what you do matters, but far less than doing something, anything, as best you can.
I’m not arguing for random workouts, but I see way too much emphasis on structure and details and not enough on simply going in and training. Way too much emphasis on “training” and not enough on performing. Way too much emphasis on diet and the minutia of training and not enough on actually performing…
Here are a few rules for training I’ve found useful:
Do it regularly. If you can’t do what you set out to do that day then do your best, but do it. Do pullups in your hotel room… Run stairs. Do it, no excuses. If you only do 1/4 of the workout but tried you’ll maintain your fitness. You lose fitness when you fail to train.
Analyze it. Did it work? Did you perform better in the real world? If not, why? If yes, why?
Keep records. Not so much about exactly what you did, but so you can see if you’re fulfilling your training load and getting BETTER.
Find good people to train with, who will be there. Or book two or three partners if they are unreliable.
When an athlete is doing a set everyone else either offers encouragement, spots/belays/whatever, or simple technique feedback, or shuts up. No talking about your relationship, future, whatever. Shut up, support each other, or say nothing. Shit talking between sets is cool as long it’s funny. Once it’s go time the focus is on that. If I’m in the gym training don’t talk to me while I’m on the wall, lifting the weight, etc. I’ll respect your space too, and encourage you. I’ll probably try to drag you into my workout to make it fun…
Time to get on a long flight. I went for a run last night in the rain for 30 minutes. That’s it. And it was good.
Posted in: Blog
nice to see the untersberg pic. hope you found someone to go with you,. saw your tweet and would have happily gone up with you but i was working out of town – maybe next time, eh? also thanks for all the inspirational stuff on your blog and book. it’s been a great motivational resource for me. the new design looks good too.
Couldn’t agree with you more and thanks for the prod to get going again.
Will, where is the upper limit with respect to age? I’m 29, train for 3 hours per night, 3 times per week (or more) at the climbing gym, and get outdoors as much as I can. I can red point upper 11 and I want to climb 5.13. It seems that all the guys who do climb 5.13 started when they were in their teens or early 20’s. Do I have a chance?
This is really good advice. About 3.5 months ago I suddenly got very serious about losing weight (I was around 240lbs). My wife and I took a rock climbing class and fell in love with it, joined a climbing gym, and have been climbing 3-5 times a week, hiking 15+ miles every weekend and I went vegan. I’m 209 this morning for 31 pounds lost. I feel great and I can’t wait to hit the wall everyday. I think the part that you miss in your post is the emotional commitment. I finally found a sport I can dig and now the extra training around (lifting, cardio, etc) doesn’t seem terrible anymore. I found, in rock climbing, a larger motivation to improve my life. I’m 33 and rapidly approaching the best shape I’ve ever been in!
Thanks for the great post – I’ve been sending it around to my friends and family as a reminder that health is a long march and not a quick sprint.
Thanks for these posts. I went for a half assed run this morning (I’m a cyclist not a runner) before my flight rather than sit on my ass and whine about not having a bike with me. Felt good. Did it because your posts remind us that sitting around is lethal.
Consistence does seem to be key. Sonnie Trotter gave a similar answer when I seen him do a presentation at the ACC Clubhouse in Canmore last Winter. He was asked “Can you give us any advice on how we can train to be like you” and he said “You need to be trying to get better all the time, whether it’s workouts in the gym or doing deadhangs and pullups on the doorjams in your hotel room, just stress your fingers, and push your body, consistently”
When I look at guys like Ueli Steck or Kilian Jornet they seem to be doing the same thing. They’re just never slowing down and losing motivation. Having people around you to train with is also key. It adds some accountability. There’s been many times that I wouldn’t have got up and out had it not been for the fact that I knew somebody was waiting for me.
Great article Will.
This article, and your recent MOVE video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCpowcXopKE&feature=player_embedded#t=0 , gave me that extra bit of motivation I needed to get off my ass and on to my bike more often. Thanks!
YES!!! Great post! My core belief is to always give 100% focus and dedication during a training session. Sometimes it can be difficult to do so. Which is why you have to train yourself to block out the other thoughts and distractions. With effort, you will be able to stay focused for longer periods of time.
And I completely agree, about not needing to have “The perfect workout.” By all means, don’t let perfection be the excuse for not getting things done. Just do it anyway.
I like this article and your blog. I’ll be back to check it out later. Thanks for the great read!:)
I tried ice climbing for the first time and LOVED it!!! Does this rush happen every climb? http://jennamichael.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/ice-climbing/
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