We athletes spend a lot of time wishing – maybe even hoping and praying – that there’s one “silver bullet” that offers the answer to better performance and health.
How’s that working out for us?
That being said, I believe I have an interesting take on this issue. I recently read a very informative book by Joe Friel called Fast After 50: How to Race Strong for the Rest of your Life.
If you’re a young buck, don’t be so quick to roll your eyes. The title of this book could just as easily have been: How to Race Strong – for Everyone. It just so happens that what makes you a success when you’re a younger athlete is the same thing that will make you a success as you age.
So where does this silver bullet business come in? Is there a single thing that could make the difference? Maybe.
Friel contends that as we age, we tend to believe that our training should get gentler, so we back off and slow down. He counters (with plenty of proof points) that regardless of age, the body is able to handle intense training, and those who maintain a good, structured training program that includes intensity tend to race well.
Intensity is what I’m referring to as the “silver bullet.” The key to how well this approach works for you is how you use intensity in your training.
What is an intensity workout?
An intensity workout can be measured in heart rate or watts or it can simply be felt – you’re hurting big-time and know you can’t hold on much longer. It can be intervals, hill work, fartleks or simply trying to beat the swimmer in the next lane. It has many forms, but what it always has is this: You’re pushing yourself to your limit – then you recover and do it again, and again. You’re training your body to handle a high level of stress and your mind to have confidence, knowing you can hang on all the way to the finish line.
Most of the changes your body will make due to the intense training won’t come during the training itself. Rather, you’ll grow stronger and fitter as the body rebuilds during recovery after the intense training. If you continue to stress yourself with back-to-back-to-back intense workouts without rest in between, you’ll simply break down, which defeats the purpose of all the hard work.
Be sure to go into intense workouts well rested so that you’re able to push yourself to the limit. If you’re too tired from previous workouts, you’ll find yourself in “no man’s land” where you’re working too hard for it to be recovery and not hard enough to get the benefit that comes from intensity.
While including intensity into our training is as close as we’ll ever get to the silver bullet, we must never lose sight of the big picture: Without a program that includes ongoing stressing of the body and recovering afterwards, we have little hope of realizing our full potential for a high level of performance.
I highly recommend Joe Friel’s book. It’s chockablock full of good stuff – for athletes of any age.