A couple of weeks ago I posted on my Twitter account (@jfriel) what I consider to be the 10 biggest mistakes self-coached athletes make in their training. @BeerMatt_96 suggested I collate them into a post. That was a good idea. And several others asked for explanations. So here are the first three. I’ll follow up in a day or so with the other seven.
#10 mistake: Too much emphasis on miles/kilometers.
Correction: The key to race success is appropriate intensity.
Comments: Study after study shows that the key to high performance for experienced athletes is intensity – not volume. It’s not how many miles you did; it’s what you did with the miles. Measuring only how many miles or hours you train does little to gauge progress toward race success. Anyone can go slow for a long time. This is not to say that that volume is unimportant. One hour of intense training and nothing else for an entire week won’t get it done. You need to find a balance. That’s the beauty of bike power meters and run pacing devices (gps, accelerometers): They allow you to express what you’ve done in training in weekly TSS or kilojoules which are combinations of volume and intensity.
#9 mistake: Too much emphasis on heart rate.
Correction: Your engine is muscle.
Comments: Your heart reacts to what your muscles are doing. Watching heart rate is an indirect measure of what your body is accomplishing. It’s a bit like using the gas gauge on your car to determine how fast you are driving. If the muscles need more oxygen then the heart responds by beating faster to provide it. The heart is subservient to muscle. The heart never turns the pedals, drives the legs up a hill or pulls your body through rough open water. Only the muscles do that. The experienced athlete will make greater advances by focusing workouts on the muscles rather than the heart.
#8 mistake: Set goals much too high to motivate greatness.
Correction: An overly high goal does the opposite. Goals must be just out of reach.
Comments: Setting unbelievably goals works only in Hollywood. Winning a World Championship when you can barely finish a race isn’t a goal – it’s a dream. It becomes a goal when you devise a plan to accomplish it. If you can lay out a detailed and realistic plan that leads to such a goal then it becomes believable and achievable. But if all you do is set unbelievable goals then you are dreaming. And everyone knows it including you.