It doesn’t matter what, but do it.

October 09, 2013
Will Gadd

IMG_6924I 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.