It's been a while!
I have been focusing on two big projects (more on that this week), and I did not find any energy left to write here. Until now!
Since the beginning of this blog, I wanted to write an "Engineering the perfect" post about my sport routine. However, it took me a while to find the perfect recipe.
Sport is a tricky topic. It's very dependent on your health, mood, work schedule, motivation, etc. However, it's still possible to benefit from some fundamental principles. Here they are.
Training is not Sport, and vice-versa
The first major mistake I have made is confusing "training" with "sport."
Training (as in "training plan") is the preparation you do for a particular goal that will take place at a specific point in time.
For example, "I want to run a marathon under four hours the first weekend of September." In this case, the date and the remaining time to get ready, the distance, and pace are all set. These parameters allow you to prepare very specifically and gather extra motivation because of the event.
On the other hand, "sport" is just what you think is necessary to call yourself a sporty person. It's a way of life, without a beginning nor an end. It does not need to be particularly challenging; it just makes you happy and a bit more healthy.
Nothing forbids you to set yourself specific goals, of course. But if you do so, establish a deadline close in time (<3 months) and do it very publicly.
In my case, because of COVID, I started to train intensely without a purpose in mind. When I was about to fail, I decided on a goal, but I quickly realized that a personal goal is not a race. In other words, you probably need to choose between the two options :
- Just for fun, aimless training at a low intensity
- Focus, dedicated, planned training at a high intensity
You cannot train every week
Another error I made was to train every single week without any break.
In my case, the motivation held easily. My performances, however, were degrading rapidly. It's called overtraining, and you will hit that brick wall at one point. Perversely, it's not a hard stop. Rather an insidious and slow process, draining your energy and motivation slowly but surely. Behind an unmotivated person, there is often an overtrained athlete.
To avoid that, your body needs (among other things) a break once every 3 to 4 weeks. To make it easy, I recommend a week break every month.
What you call a break is yours. For some, it's a week without any sport and with some food orgies. For others, it's just a week with very light exercises.
You cannot train every day
Again, unless you have a very demanding and specific goal in mind, I do not recommend training every day.
The whole point of a training session is to stress enough your organism to trigger compensation. This compensation will help create new muscle fibers, new capillaries, and red blood cells. To do so, your body needs time between two workouts. This time is called "recovery periods."
And even if it's perfectly possible to adjust the load so that the necessary recovery period never exceeds a day, the human tends to do more than planned.
If you are like me, when you see "20 min, light run" on your planning, you end up running a 30 min with 2 x 10min high-speed blocks run...
You must do regular mobility and strength training
Two things have the power to stop an athlete. The lack of motivation (easy to fix) and injuries.
You cannot escape them, but to avoid most of them (and help treat the existing ones), one must do:
- Mobility/Functional training
- Strength training
Luckily for us, apps like Freelitics are legions, and most of them are a good balance between strength and mobility.
For every two hours of "hard" training in my week, I make sure to get half an hour of mobility/strength training.
Bonus: A good physiotherapist (i don't know if there is an equivalent in other countries, but for the french people, aim to find a good "Kiné-Ostéo") will help you a lot. See one as soon as possible, and one will show you exercises that will help prevent or reverse existing injuries.
Diversity is better than quantity (not valid during specific training)
Nothing kills the body and the mind better than doing the same workout over and over. If you are looking for an excellent way to injure your knee, do the same 10K on the same path with the same shoes 30 times in a row.
That's why I recommend doing as many different sports as you can. Do you have a bike? Good, use it. Is it sunny outside? Go for a hike or dust-off your rollerblades. Do you like tennis? Well, you get the idea.
A wide range of sports is the best way to keep you in shape when your "big objective" shows up. Also, it's an excellent way to spend time with your friends and family.
Bonus: I have two pairs of running shoes and wear the other one every two days or so. One is a 10mm drop, and the other a 4mm drop. It allows me to use (i.e., stress) different parts of my legs at each run.
Even though it's probably useless to you, I could not end this article without giving you my schedule.
By chance, it's an easy one:
- Three active weeks per month, the last one is a rest week (and often a fast food and alcohol orgy)
- Training 4 days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
The key takeaway to my plan is that it is easy. And it should be since I am not training for anything particular. I am doing it for fun and improving my chance of a healthy life.
Disclaimer: I am not a training coach. Be smart. Check with your doctors and coaches. Don't do anything that hurt—the usual.