Mix it up!

  |   Coaching, Endurance, General, Psychology, Strength & Conditioning, Training

After my last post about specificity (Specificity is Queen), i had a few people asking me questions about the detail of how to keep things specific but also keep the body adapting, so i thought i’d write a little more about it in this post.

Sport specific workouts are great, they get the body used to the way it’s going to be moving and they work to strengthen the right muscle groups in the right way, creating functional strength. Many athletes, being the creatures of habit that we are, will have our old-faithful workouts that we regularly fall back on, especially those of us who have been training and competing for a long time. The classic running workout of 10x400m repeats at mile-pace on the track springs to mind. For a runner or triathlete it’s perfect; it’s specific, pushes the aerobic system and tests mental toughness. It’s been shown to work for those in the running world time and time again so why mix it up at all? As discussed last time, the answer is quite simple – in order to keep the body adapting and improving we must continue to stimulate it. If we repeat the same workout time and time again the body will adapt then stagnate, so whilst we’re doing a specific workout, it’s no longer helping us improve as it once did. If we try for the same adaptations in a few different ways however, the stimulus is maintained and sweet adaptation continues.

One of the best examples of varied, continued but specific workouts are circuit sessions. Anyone who’s been to one and felt their tired muscles the next day will know exactly what i mean. These sessions traditionally target the core group of body muscles but do so from multiple directions whilst varying the parameters of the workout; body movements, speed, intensity, weight, intervals, terrain, recovery, you name it, they mix it up. Same target outcome, varied stimulus, all in all giving a much bigger bang for your buck.

So how do we ditch the usual straight repeats in our training and use this stimulus in our day to day sessions? Well, whether on the track, on the bike or in the pool, we essentially all have the same parameters to play with which we can blend appropriately, giving us an infinite number of possibilities. By mixing up interval lengths, intensities, speeds (both within and between intervals), recoveries (short, long, active, inactive) and even terrain where possible, we can work at paces above, below and at our goal race pace which supports that specific fitness and keeps the body guessing. Keep this concept going and fine tune it as you head towards your target events so that you’re working  more at race pace with some work just above race pace to improve on your speed endurance and come race day, you’ll be in flying form.
Of course having infinite possibilities doesn’t necessarily mean you have to try and use them all! The classic sets we all know and love are generally classic for a reason, because they are an ideal blend of all the parameters we’ve discussed above and they’re proven to work, so we certainly shouldn’t ignore them. By repeating certain sets it also allows us to gauge the increase in session intensities and measure our improvement relatively accurately, so indeed there’s a lot to be said for repeating some sets. To get the best results though we should all be testing ourselves with something different now and again. Once in a while try mixing it up, approach your session in a different way and see what difference its made when you get back to your old faithful workouts.
Stay Positive.
Coach K.