Sederquist: Endurance training tips for the common man, everyday housewife and Joe bag-of-donuts
Skieologians: The applied sport philosophy column
The main reason I tune into the Minneapolis-based KFAN radio station’s Dan “the Common Man” Cole is to be soothed by the advice of realism and a “don’t take it too seriously” approach to following major sports from a veteran follower of not only the woebegone Minnesota franchises (I’m a longtime Twins, Vikings, and Wolves fan, sadly) but the Detroit Lions as well. Cole’s commentary eschews the vogue conventional approach steeped in deep-diving the latest analytics, Pro Football Focus takes and ESPN advanced stats. Instead, he takes the esoteric approach, which has rightly earned him his nickname.
Today, I present the Common Man’s approach to endurance training. Unlike Cole, I don’t intend to ignore science. Rather, my three guidelines below were conceived from intensive reading of the literature, sports physiology books, training journals from other athletes and thousands of my own hours spent striving and grinding to maximize my potential to the fullest.
While my resume in no way compares to a Vasaloppet podium placer or even a Mount Evans medalist, I have enjoyed some successes in long-distance running, biking and skiing. So, if you are someone who looks forward to racing the Birkie — whether it’s from the elite corral or Wave 8 — perhaps the following exercise devotional will resonate more soundly with you than a traditional deep dive of the latest research or a two-hour podcast with Anders Aukland. To be frank, if you’re a common man like me, you either couldn’t identify Aukland in a two-person line up with King Kong, or if you could, would rather avoid the idolization and pedestalization of yet another professional athlete, anyway.
No worries — I have just what you need.
Here are three rules for success in any training regimen.
You have to enjoy your training.
This might seem obvious, but in order to improve in a sport, you must train, and you are more likely to train if you enjoy your training. Every program will contain ingredients we aren’t particularly fond of, but the majority of your workouts should bring you joy. If they don’t, change it. Further, there is a tangible benefit from a belief in your training. A dislike of your training is likely to instill distrust in it as well. Winning the physical battle in a race means stepping to the starting line with confidence in what you did to get there.
Your training plan is only a good one if you recover, adapt and grow.
This is my way of saying, “training is good, more is better….as long as your body is allowed to recover and produce adaptations which lead to improved performance.” Training is both a science and an art — to ignore either can be detrimental. I utilize a combination of scientific research, peers and coaches’ advice, books, my own past experiences and what is logistically possible given my work-life circumstances, in order to develop a training plan. I told you I wasn’t completely cut from the common man cloth.
However, you’ll notice this section is not filled with citations, books, studies, etc. That isn’t because I believe they lack any merit. Training principles — even those backed by “scientific research” — are not rules. They are part of the body of information we as coaches and athletes ought to draw from. Read, consider and implement — but don’t become dogmatic. If you spend enough time bathing in scientific literature, or, better yet, try to contribute to the literature yourself through a thesis or research project, you’ll quickly discover the nature of published research is troubling in many ways and far, far, far from being a completely objective foundation to stand on.
My standard for determining a plan’s effectiveness is growth in my chosen metrics of measurement. “I double-poled two hours three weeks ago and nearly died, and three hours felt great this time around,” might be the anecdotal observation and “My time biking up Mount Evans was 2:43:17 last summer and this fall I did it in 2:15:00,” could be the objective one.
Connect your outcome goals (you should have process and outcome goals, both short and long term) to your training.
In order for progress, the plan has to allow for proper recovery. This balance of stress and recovery has so many different variables, and as individuals, we bring even more variables to the table. Thus, there is no cookie-cutter approach that is appropriate for everyone. The trick is to apply the few very basic scientific mechanisms, such as specificity in training and super-compensation, which are set in stone, in ways that are enjoyable, feasible, and practical.
You have to be consistent in your training.
The hallmark of the most successful athletes has nothing to do with being at the cutting edge of the latest research or implementing some sort of revolutionary, Alberto Salazar-type approach. Consistency is the real secret. Building up fitness, like building financial wealth, is not done by following fads, but by making smart investments over the course of a lifetime. Trends come and go, but trusted techniques are timeless.
Approaching your training with a few basic beliefs and concepts, being consistent in their application and introspectively analyzing their effects on you as an individual, will get you much farther than trying to chase down the latest workout craze. One of the best thoughts on this topic ironically came to me via a Salazar pupil, Galen Rupp. While being filmed doing mile repeats on a treadmill after running a 3:50 indoor mile, the greatest American male distance runner of all time said, and I’m paraphrasing a little, that the most important part of this workout was “making sure I can do the next one.” He went on to explain how building fitness over several years — even a lifetime — was the most critical antidote to injuries and setbacks and the most unflashy, at times frustratingly slow-working ingredient to improved performance.
Consistency in anything requires dedication, patience, and a willingness to traverse waters rife with unexpected turbulence. That is why my first point remains perhaps the most fundamental piece of this triumvirate. If you dislike your training, you are less likely to be consistent in it, which physiologically will prevent growth.
Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, but it is always a good idea to hone in on the key to true joy in anything: a heart of thankfulness. In a place as beautiful as the Vail Valley, with access to a variety of outdoor activities, feeling blessed should be automatic … even for us common folk.