Train Within your Means
There is financial advice that goes something like this: ‘Live within your means.’ What does this mean?
To put simply, your cash outflow should be equal to or less than the cash inflow. Therefore, you will never be in a position where you are at a loss. The equation and logic is sound. Following this strategy, you could easily never be at a financial loss – simply spend less than you make for any given period of time.
For example, if you made $700 a week – just make sure you don’t spend any more than $700 each week.
I believe this rationale can be applied to training by manipulating a couple of variables. If we traded cash outflow for ‘training time’, where time represents the amount of training you do in a given amount of time, and inflow is substituted with ‘time available for training,’ we would create something like this.
Training time = time available for training. Ideally, training time should be equal to the time available for training.
If training time > time available for training, you may run the risk of unsustainability as other domains of life become negatively affected. However, your training adaptations may be greater.
If training time < time available for training, you may run the risk of not maximising your training time (and hence, less adaptations). However, you can be sure that you will not have a negative time influence on other domains of your life.
It is within my experience that most of the time, clients will overestimate their own training time availability. This leads to a mismatch of expectations when a program is drawn out. Sometimes, this mismatch is positive, as clients realise that they can actually meet the expectations they have set. But it is more often that they do not. When expectations are unmet – we are prone to disappointment. Although clients will often overestimate the amount of training time they have, it is also important that we as coaches do not overestimate our clients. Whatever we think they can do, it is probably safest to set a lower bar to start.
Another equation that could be useful is making sure training stimulus matches recovery. That is, stimulus = recovery. Ideally, each training block will be met with adequate recovery such that we can adapt and become even better.
When training stimulus > recovery, we run the risk of maladaptation. That is, an adaptation occurs that leaves us in a worser state. Most commonly, this is demonstrated via injury. In other cases, this could leave us in an overtrained state, which results in loss of appetite, disrupted sleep and general lethargy.
When training stimulus < recovery, we can be sure that we are adapting to the stress placed upon us. However, depending on the distance between the two, it could also indicate that the training program is not difficult enough – and we run the risk of wasting time. A program that is not sufficiently stimulating still requires time. Make no mistake, doing something is always better than nothing (if recovery is ample). But in the context of improving, programs that do not sufficiently stimulate are frankly a disservice.
Depending on the individual in front of you, it may be beneficial to either base program design on time or recovery according to the above. Either way, what’s important is which direction our clients’ programs are heading towards. It may be all the difference between a successful training program, or a failed one.