By Micheál Cahill, PhD, Vice President, Performance and Sports Science, ATH
Whether you’re training for a marathon or just want to keep up with your kids, grandkids or running partner, the best way to meet your training goals is to find a balance between health and performance.
When you diversify your training and allow for flexibility, you’re more likely to stick with your New Year’s resolution or long-term fitness plan. Let’s talk about ways to do that.
First, a holistic approach that focuses on mobility, strength and cardio is good for your body and your mind. A plan with SMART goals can keep you on track. Here’s a look at each SMART goal.
Micheál Cahill, PhD, vice president, performance and sports science, works with professional runner Dawn Grunnagle in December as she prepares for the 2020 Olympic trials in Atlanta
S – Sustainability is key. Don’t go from zero to hero. Being consistently okay is better for you than being sporadically great. Don’t all of a sudden decide to run 10 miles in one day. Instead, run 2.5 miles three times a week and get in some training for strength, mobility and flexibility. Remember that you’re working toward a long-term goal, but don’t forget to celebrate your achievements along the way.
M – Metrics matter. Complete baseline fitness tests so you can track your progress. Know your body composition, movement, strength and cardiorespiratory fitness. Metrics hold you accountable, and what gets measured gets done. If you don’t assess where you started from and where you are at different times, how can you have short, medium and long-term goals? To stay on track, you need to have milestones, like landmarks on a map.
A – Attire. It's important to feel good and look good when you are training. Choose clothes that match your body type and personality. This helps you be confident before, during and after your workouts. Scientists call this “enclothed cognition” – that mental shift your brain makes when you wear certain clothes. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology finds what we wear changes how we act because we associate the clothes with a symbolic meaning. This holds true for active adults and professional athletes.
R – Recovery. Train hard, recover harder. Your one or two hours of exercise is only the stimulus. It's the other 22 hours in the day where adaptation occurs. Use active and passive recovery to get the most out of your days off. It’s not about a workout or a diet. It’s about a healthy lifestyle. The workout just complements the way you live seven days a week.
T – Train, don't exercise. To stay focused, train with intent and have a goal. Use multiple forms of training in your workout and do what you enjoy. Be sure to vary your routine, which challenges your body to continually adapt. What I do, and what I advise others to do, is avoid yo-yo training regimens. Being able to sustain your training regimen is underpinned by a foundation built on health rather than performance. Health should drive performance.
Whatever SMART goals you choose to follow, be sure to measure and assess your outcomes and make changes as needed to adjust and achieve your goals.
I always tell our performance coaches that we don’t coach Excel spreadsheets. By that I mean, you can draw up the best training and nutrition program in the world and build it into a daily diary, but you have to be more reactive in nature because life happens.
Boost Your Outcomes
As you work on your own or with a fitness coach, stay conscious of the FITT principles – Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type. It’s about ensuring progressive overload on the body in a varied but yet specific nature to ensure you are able to maintain a cumulative training effect.
You don’t want to change all four FITT principles at once, but by manipulating each one at some point, you can push yourself and gain improvements.
Think of it this way: You can get a ton of high-end ingredients and throw them into a blender, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get a nice smoothie.
4 Tips For Living A Training Lifestyle
When you make fitness a priority and change your life to reach your training goals, you are tapping into your value system.
When people come to me in a 1:1 setting, the first thing I do is hand them a fitness log and nutrition analysis and ask them to write down what they eat and what they do for training on weekdays and the weekend. Most people won’t come back to me with the sheet.
You learn an awful lot by paying attention to how you fuel your body and how and how often you move or train.
Follow these tips to continue your success outside of the gym:
- Embrace the warm-up. The hardest part of any workout is the warm-up. I’ve never met any athlete who finishes a training session and then says they regret it.
- Be accountable to yourself. To succeed in any training or fitness program, you must be self-directed.
- Reward yourself. You’re working hard. Treat yourself when you hit a milestone. And remember that life is too short not to enjoy the things around you. Here are some ideas: If you stopped smoking, or reduced your alcohol consumption, calculate how much money you saved by making those changes and use it for something special or fun. For me, I would travel. It costs you money but still makes you richer.
- Your body is your result. All of this is more about a healthy lifestyle than anything else. Everything you do outside of your training should be complementary to it.
Micheál Cahill, PhD, is vice president, performance and sports science at Athlete Training and Health.