Many of you who know me or have listened to me for more than 10 minutes know that I think that there are a lot of best practices that professional athletes implement that should be trickling down to us here at the age-group/amateur level. I follow a lot of professional athletes (in a lot of sports) and am always very interested in what they are doing to help themselves reach their best. Recently, Lionel Sanders, one of my current favorite professional triathletes, had this to say, “One good workout does not win races. 20-30 good workouts in close proximity to each other win races.”
While Mr. Sanders is referring to actually winning (which may or may not actually be applicable to us), this principle can be applied even when one’s goal isn’t to win a race. And so, my Coach Tip this Tuesday is this: One good workout does not win races.
What do I mean? I mean that you cannot (and I am quite serious - you CANNOT) have one or two good workouts and have that translate to a quality or successful result in your goal event. Success at your event (and successfully achieving one's personal goals at a race is what I personally do define as “winning” for us average age-group athletes) is absolutely dependent on you putting together a series of very good quality workouts in close proximity to each other over the course of a training cycle.
In other words, consistency and frequency are critical. You’ve all heard me talk about consistency and frequency before, as I believe that they are two of the three foundational pillars of endurance training. The third one - self-awareness - comes into play as well here, because you need to be self-aware enough to not lie to yourself and to recognize that doing a handful of good workouts over the course of a training cycle will not be enough for you to reach your very best, and it probably won’t be enough for you to reach the goals that you’ve set for yourself. This is especially true if those goals are time-based.
The most successful athletes - whether they be at the professional OR at the age-group/amateur level - are successful because of the work that they put in day in and day out over the course of several training blocks and training cycles. They know that one “good” workout once a week isn’t enough to get them to reach their goals. The body responds to what we tell it to do. If we train it to have quality output in practice, then that is what we have the highest probability of achieving come race day. If we train it to feel the impact of good training stimulus (workouts) once or twice per week, try to cram too much in in too short a period of time, remain inactive for extended periods of time (i.e. take too many rest days), or get in a bunch of sub-par workouts, then our probability of success reduces drastically.
So what do we need to do? We need to prepare the body for the strain that we will be imposing on it come race day. We need to aim for frequent, quality sessions that are strung together over several training cycles. When managing a busy life schedule, aiming for shorter, high-quality sessions (rather than skipping workouts on a given day) can go a long way in helping the body learn consistency. Key sessions are also important, which means that if you are training for longer endurance events (i.e. a marathon or triathlon of 70.3 distance or greater), you need to get in good quality longer aerobic sessions that teach your body to go stronger, longer. If you are training for short-course goals (i.e. 10K or less, Olympic-distance triathlon or less), key sessions involve training the body to be able to function at anaerobic levels. For any time-based goal at any distance, key sessions involve progressing to a point in Peak Phase where the body is able to operate at the intended (or faster) velocity for close to the length of the goal event in order to train the body how to maintain that velocity (speed) that you want to achieve.
In short, (who are we kidding - that was not short :D) Mr. Sanders is spot-on: one workout does not win races. Your consistent, frequent efforts over an extended period of time will be what enables you to reach your goals to “win” for you. :) As you head into your final preparations for any later season races or as you forecast for next season, bear this in mind and strive to get those high-quality sessions in FREQUENTLY so you can set yourself up for success. :)
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.