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“The Basics”

by Steve

We now live in a world where we try to over complicate endurance performance and lose track of what is most important. We can now measure so many different metrics, test many different variables, write complicated workouts, and try to optimize everything we do, yet in doing so we lose track of what is most important and that is the “Basics”. What do we mean by “Basics”?

The “Basics” are the fundamental foundations of successful endurance programmes, the “essential facts or principles of a subject or skill”. Eamonn Flanagan (Lead S&C Coach at the Sport Ireland Institute) recently presented a case study on Irelands two Olympic champion rowers and their program. Some of the key points he identified were as follows:

  • Sustainable Consistency
  • Comfortable with monotony
  • Process focused and belief in it
  • Comfortable with simplicity
  • Buy in to what they were doing
  • Interrogation of what they were doing in training and having an input into it
  • A focus on “What matters most”

These reflections really impacted on me as an endurance coach, two endurance athletes at the top of the world’s elite and their focus and clarity around what is important is just refreshing to hear. The basics, the fundamentals are the backbone of every successful endurance programme.

So, as an endurance athlete what is most important?

  • “Sustainable Consistency”- Do an amount of work that is sustainable over long periods of time, we are talking 12 + months on the minimum end of the scale and ideally 5+ years.
  • “The Mundane”- Get comfortable with the “Mundane”, not all endurance training is exciting or fancy in make-up, but it can be incredibly impactful over time. You can of course vary the work up but in general certain types of training just need to get done to improve.
  • “The Process”- Keep your focus on the day-to-day process and stop over thinking the result etc. What you do daily and session by session basis and how you execute the training is what will make the greatest gains.
  • “Simplicity”- Just because something looks or seems “Simple” on paper doesn’t mean it isn’t effective. Often the most successful endurance programmes are simple in their construction. Get comfortable with simplicity.
  • “Buy In”- For any endurance programme to be successful an athlete must “buy in” and have “belief” in it. Otherwise, it will not work out.
  • “Input”- Successful endurance programmes are built around “Shared Input” between the coach and athlete. The athlete must have some autonomy and the direction of the programme must be agreed upon by both parties. This shared input leads to greater buy in on the athlete’s behalf. It is also ok for an athlete to question the “why” behind the programme and the coach must be able to give a firm rationale for this and engage openly in these conversations.
  • “What Matters Most”- Always keep your focus on “What Matters Most” in the programme. This may be staying injury free, training execution, looking after recovery, open and honest communication, balancing life with training etc. Know “What Matters Most” in your programme and focus on this.
  • “Keep Showing Up”- Endurance athletes and coaches must “Keep Showing Up” daily and bring their best. There will be many highs and lows and challenges on the journey and a big part of success is negotiating these with minimal impact to the programme and keep moving forward. Sometimes it is just about hanging in there a little longer and then a big performance comes.
  • “Nail Your Recovery”- The adaptation from training happens during the recovery process. Nail your sleep, nutrition, hydration, and downtime and reap the rewards.
  • “Environment”- Creating the right physical & psychological environment for athletes supports them in achieving enhanced performance potential. Choose and surround your wisely by people that impact you in a positive manner and find a training environment that lifts you emotionally and provides a variety of training options.
  • “Coaching”- Athletes should find a coach that they trust in, believe in what they sell you, form a close relationship with them based on honesty and open communication and then you have a platform that will help you achieve things you never thought possible.
  • “Lifestyle Balance”- Endurance sport is just one part of an athlete’s life and a balance must be struck with school/college/work/family life. Athletes must be organised and have a daily and weekly routine and plan their training around their own lifestyle. Becoming overly obsessive with your training and racing doesn’t help in the long run and having downtime to relax and spend with family & friends is important.
  • “Feel”- Its todays technologically advanced world and an over obsession with data and gadgets, it is critically important that endurance athletes understand clearly “Feel” at various training intensities and most critically their racing speed. You must have a firm connection and understanding of how your body is feeling in training and how your body responds afterwards. While gadgets and monitoring tools can be useful it’s important, we never get too far away from “Feel” in endurance sport.

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Performance specialist who has 24 years of experience in Development & High Performance sport

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