There are a few monsters that we all must confront if we’re going to be successful in endurance sports. The Comparison Monster is one, but equally as formidable is The More Monster. The More Monster is the name I’ve given to the thought process that more is better: more distance, more volume, more intensity, more frequency, more anything added to a training plan. If a little bit is good, then more of it (whatever it is) must be better, right? I’ve said it countless times to hundreds of athletes over the years, and I’ll say it again here:
More is not better. Better is better.
Those two little sentences represent the number one reminder I give to athletes (and if I’m being honest, it’s not unusual for me to end up giving this same reminder to an athlete multiple times). It comes up so frequently because The More Monster is very real. Despite the fact that time (and consequently, life) is a zero-based budget, as humans, we like to think that we can add an infinite number of things to our days and our activities. We’ll try to do this until we break - literally or figuratively.
Humans do find it easier to create change through addition, rather than subtraction. Subtraction feels like we are depriving ourselves of something we want, which can be extremely demotivating. Adding things tends to feel more enjoyable, motivating, and exciting/inspiring than taking things away feels.
That natural tendency is in play, and then it's always tempting to add in more as the season gets started and/or you're coming out of Winter. Winter is a season when most athletes plan for Maintenance Phase, do a lot of indoor training, don’t race a lot, and don’t have A-Races. Without races happening consistently (and especially without A-Races), it's easy to forget how much the main season can take a toll.
However, it’s important to fight this urge to add in more. That is true all of the time, though it is especially true at the beginning of a main season. A helpful way to suppress this urge is to look back at what you've historically done for workout volume and frequency leading into and then after an A-Race.
As you head into an A-Race: Are you irritable, grumpy, and/or stressed? Are you being short and/or unkind to the people who are closest to you? Do you use your training for your race as an excuse for your mood and behavior? Are you desperate for Peak Phase to be over, or are you seeking to move, modify, or abbreviate Peak Phase?
As you come out of an A-Race: Do you fall off the bandwagon and significantly reduce (or eliminate) your workout frequency? Or, do you take a Recovery/Maintenance Phase for 4-8 weeks and then get back into the same frequency of workouts you had prior to the A-Race?
If you were grumpy and stressed leading into an A-Race, this is often an indication that you were doing too much. While Maintenance Phase does come with a reduction in volume and intensity, If you fall off a lot (too much) in terms of volume and/or frequency after a goal race, this is often an indicator that you were doing too much. This "too much" may be too much for your life, too much for you mentally, or too much for you physically. The reason it is too much doesn't really matter; what matters is acknowledging that it was too much and then adjusting your plan moving forward (ideally, by not making the same mistake twice and by showing restraint throughout the season instead of trying to do more).
Consistency is everything. It is much better to be consistently active over the course of a year (years!) than it is to ramp up training only for the main season and then reduce it down to a trickle during the off-season. In order to maintain consistency, it is incredibly important to fight The More Monster and to plan for (and complete!) the right amount of training. The right amount of training varies from athlete to athlete since each athlete’s effective dose is different, but it’s important to dial in on and determine what that right amount of training is. Much to the chagrin of many athletes, the right amount of training is often less than they want it to be. (Furthermore, it’s also often a different distribution of elements than they want it to be; remember, you can’t just do the things you like doing when it comes to preparing for goals.)
It takes many seasons of endurance training to develop true self-awareness and to determine what the best plan is for each athlete. Experienced athletes also learn that what is best varies from year to year; what is best and most appropriate in one year is not necessarily what is best in a different year when the athlete has different things going on in their life. It is important not to cling to what worked (or what was enjoyed) in the past if there is solid evidence that it’s not currently working well and therefore isn’t the best plan for an athlete’s current situation.
The More Monster will lurk in the closet of every endurance athlete on the planet. In order to have longevity in sport and overall good health, it’s important for athletes to both confront and tame The More Monster. Remember: It’s better to do 15% less than it is to do 1% more than you can or should. Overreaching by even 1% will cause issues; those issues just may not immediately pop up. Remember: There’s nothing bad about feeling great. Tame The More Monster so you can continue to feel great in all of your training and racing.
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.