1. Try to get good at EVERYTHING!
This problem is one that I learned about the hard way. My thinking went something like this. I can do my deadlift on Monday and Wednesday, Squat on Friday, my hurling skills for 45 minutes after every gym session, my speed work after my team sessions in the evening, and I will get my game practice from playing matches and our group sessions 2-3 times per week. Oh, and I will get up every morning and do mobility and core work. This type of program was haphazard, despite the many hours that I spend planning it out, writing sessions up, and doing my best to front up to each session. It basically resulted in me getting frustrated with myself for not being able to maintain the sessions, lack of considerable improvement in anything, and getting run into the ground. Now my training is streamlined. I value every session, and pretty much have a set routine week to week that I have been doing since January. Focusing on getting strong in a very select few areas over a given period of time will benefit you WAY more in the medium-long term. Build strength in 1 area, then maintain it, and move on to building strength in another area. You will eventually far surpass the achievements of those who try to get good at many things simultaneously. If you feel you suffer from this problem (fellow coaches, and very eager athletes I’m looking at you), then my advice is this.
- Focus on what’s important. Pick 1 primary goal for any 4-16 week period or beyond.
- Do at least 2 training sessions per week for anything that you want to improve on.
- Reassess your training program, and cut out the things that are non-essential. Focus on what’s important.
- If you cant find things that are un-important then you might not have a strong enough focus for your training.
- Be able to write your main training goal on a matchbox-sized piece of paper.
2. Just add your own ‘twist’
Maybe this is an affliction that comes with being a coach, but many times I said to myself; ‘Oh yes that’s a great program, so I will just do it except I will add XYZ’. Maybe this is a strain of the same affliction that causes doctors to not treat themselves. If you find yourself double guessing your program, or adding your own ‘twist’ to things because you think you know better then its possible that you are not with the right coach/ source of information, or you need to trust your coach/ source of information and let them do their job (to coach), and you do your job (to implement what they say). Personally speaking, results from ‘tweaked’ programs rarely compare to following the script. Mostly not because the ‘tweak’ was no good, but because changing the program makes it not the program anymore, and it damages the adherence to the program, as well as the credibility of the program itself, causing you to further double guess it further down the line. In short, it seriously damages your adherence, and as a consequence, can kill your consistency. With lack of consistency, you can kiss those gains goodbye.
3. Fit a square training program into a round lifestyle
This has happened to me, and Im sure many of you before. I mismatched the training program to the other things that were going on in my life. Trying to fit two sessions per day in for me is possible at times, but over the course of a few months, of doing this, I didn’t feel like I was moving forward in proportion to the amount of training I was doing, and I wasn’t. The reason. Lack of recovery. There are only so many hours in the day, and I came to realize that I was putting myself under quite a lot of pressure to get two sessions per day in, which was adding more pressure to my already pretty busy day. My work productivity took a bit of a nose-dive, and I was struggling to get the required amount of sleep, food, and rest in between training sessions and work to allow the body to recover. Now I train once per day for around 2 hours or more first thing in the morning, and the pressure is off for the rest of the day. I might jump in for another impromptu handstand practice session, some stretching, a few pucks, or whatever, later in the day, but its not scheduled, and there is no pressure. This suits me much better as I know I am getting the essentials done consistently in the morning, and I am free to work, play, rest, or train for the rest of the day. Extra good because someday I am in the zone with work, and others I am not so much in the zone, and a bit of table tennis can be just the answer!
4. Try to fast-forward success
If you are like me, then you want results like yesterday! Also, if you are like me, you may have tried to get them like yesterday as well. Alas, this is not possible. Unfortunately for all of us, getting them training gains means consistently fronting up for training day in and day out, week in and week out, and month in and month out. It means sticking to the program, and consistently and gradually moving towards your goal. I’m means taking recovery periods, and working hard for periods. Getting back on the horse when things go south, and not giving up when the going gets tough. You cannot bypass this process, and if you try to fast-forward your results, like I did before, then you might as well take out a decent health insurance policy now that will cover your physio bills, and sign up to Netflix, because you will need something to keep yourself occupied when you are sitting on your ass wishing you hadn’t bitten off more than you can chew. On the other hand, if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it. If you are not afraid of hard work, and have the balls to realize that if you want to achieve something worthwhile then you are going to have to ditch the ‘I want results like yesterday’ mentality, and hunker down for the long haul, then you will not only build a hell of a lot of character, but you will get the results that you want plus more.
5. Just Train Anyway
In the middle of a tough training phase last year, I went to Dublin to attend an anti-war demonstration and march. Drove up to Dublin, walked around 15 miles, stood around for a few hours, and drove back to Cork. The next day, I felt less than spritely, but I carried on with my heavy session as if I hadn’t spend 7 hours in the car and spent another 6 hours walking around Dublin. That was the last squat session I did for about 4 months. Consistency, persistence, and hard work are all absolutely essential to making training progress, but sometimes you just have to listen to the body. A mobility session would have been much more beneficial to me that day, and saved me quite a lot of pain and time spent on rehab and way from my desired training path. Sometimes postponing a session can be a bigger step forward than getting the session in regardless. If you find that this is happening consistently on the other hand, read back over point #3 again. Your training program may not be co-operating with the other things that you have going on in your life. In this instance, you have 2 options, change your life, or change your training.
The Bottom Line
The points that I have highlighted are ones that I have personally made myself, and paid the price for on every occasion. The price being, injury, being run down, sick, or spending time away from the path that I wanted to take in relation to my training. Each time was a valuable lesson, and I have certainly learned from them. I am sharing them with you, so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes and pay the same price or even a higher price. If you truly want to get your training in order so that you are making serious strides towards your goals, and you want to build a sustainable schedule that works in perfectly with the other things in your life, then you need a coach.
This article is by Ainle Ó Cairealláin MSc CSCS.