Athletes often train too frequently, too long and too intensely. That inevitably leads to overtraining, burnout, illness and injury. Over the last 30 years I’ve helped many athletes get out of the rut they’ve dug for themselves by teaching them to train moderately and consistently. This is the key to success in sport.
If your race performance is spotty and you are unable to perform to your potential at A-priority events then excessive and inconsistent training may be the cause. In fact, I've found this to usually be the reason. If you are frequently tired when it's time to do a quality session then it certainly is the cause. In this case you must learn to harness and direct your desire to succeed. How can you do that? It starts with training moderation.
Moderation in training means that you seldom explore your physical limits. Too many athletes try to do the hardest workouts they are capable of frequently. Long workouts are much too long and intensity is often too high. Most seem to believe that peak fitness comes from finding their limits several times each week and rest is viewed as something for sissies. That way of thinking is a sure way to derail your training. Moderation when it comes to workout duration and absolute intensity is what you should be seeking.
Moderation is a moving target. As your fitness improves what a few weeks ago would have been a hard workout becomes moderate. So within the same season the level of moderation rises. The same sort of thing is going on from season to season. If you are training properly your capacity to handle a given training load increases over the long term. What was a hard workout last year is moderate this year.
Consistency results from moderation. Consistent training means you don’t miss workouts – ever. Missed workouts are the result of too much: too much intensity, too much duration, too much working out and too much stuff in your life. If you train (and live) moderately you will be consistent. If you are consistent you will race faster. It’s not how hard the workouts are. It’s how consistently you do them.
A couple of weeks after I start coaching an athlete I ask if the training is harder or easier than it was when the athlete was self-coached. The answer is usually that it’s easier. I almost always have the athletes do less than they did before, and guess what – they become more fit and faster. I focus our attention on their weaknesses that must be improved for success in the next A-priority race. You’ll recall from my Training Bible books that these race-specific weaknesses are called 'limiters.' If you want to improve as an athlete you must know your limiters and then train moderately and consistently with your focus primarily on them. That, in a nutshell, is the key to success.