In the world of physical training there seems to be a desire to emulate the best in the field – while admirable this may be a fools game. It often happens that a person will say “I want to be like Michael Jordan so I will do Michael Jordan’s workout”. You can substitute any name and the thought remains the same – if I want to be the best I need to train like the best. If you want to progress in any physical way it is not the thought that counts!
When we look at the elite in any field we are looking at someone that has a unique combination of physical and psychological attributes which allowed them to respond favorably to the training that they performed. It is not news to say that everyone is a unique individual. How does that have anything to do with training? The fact is that a solid understanding of training principles must be combined with a solid understanding of how an individual responds to training is necessary for progression.
As an example, if you want to break the marathon world record there is a necessity to improve general endurance as well as speed. If you simply looked to the pros you may want to train like Haile Gebrselassie and you would probably fall apart if you did! It is more important to choose methods that produce progression of both endurance and speed for YOU!
What should you think about when you are trying to advance a physical quality? Here are some considerations:
1. What is the dominant energy system?
2. How do I train the dominant energy system?
3. How fast should I expect to progress?
4. How am I responding to the training and how can it be changed to be more effective?
Special consideration should be paid to number 3 and 4 above. Your goals should be realistic – if you are running a 4 hour marathon now it is not likely that you will be running a 2 hour marathon any time soon – so expect and train for linear progression. It is also EXTREMELY important to measure how you are responding to your training – if you are progressing smoothly you are doing fine, if you are running in to injuries and not progressing your training needs to change!
While it is fun to see what other people are doing and watch world class athletes training sessions you should recognize that those workouts are not for you. Intelligent program design and confidence in it are extremely important if you want to reach your goals. If you attempt to copy world class workouts you will likely over-train and not progress to your potential. If you consider the principles behind WHY a world class training program works you may find insight in how to apply the principles to yourself. Respect your barriers and train in a way that will allow you to change them!