Less is More
Each workout you do should have a specific purpose in your overall plan. In general terms, every workout should be improving fitness, maintaining fitness, or promoting recovery. Sounds pretty simple, eh? If you are not seeing improvements, if you are deteriorating or getting injured, it’s time to take another look at your training. Better yet, have an objective, educated partner take a look at what you’re doing. One of the keys to seeing continuous improvement is taking a long term approach to your training activities. Don’t just think about next weekend’s trip, but make plans for a big adventure next spring and train with that in mind.
Maybe your dream is to have a breakthrough trad season next summer, or do your first ice leads this winter. Everyone has some sort of long term objective in mind, even if you haven’t put it down on a calendar or told your friends about it. Long term improvement requires gradual weekly changes in your workouts and routines. Doing too much too soon leads to injury, breakdown and missed training opportunities.
“We are what we continuously do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”
Achieving your short and long term goals, enjoying your sport and having progressive improvements in your skills, strength, speed and endurance require consistency in your training. Downtime suffered from illness, injury and loss of motivation result in a loss of fitness, and the need to spend time rebuilding your fitness. It is estimated that the time it takes to rebuild fitness after a layoff period is approximately twice the time that was taken off. If you decide to chill out at the end of summer climbing season with a month of baseball playoffs, football preseason and beer, it will take you another two months to get back to your end of summer fitness level. If you were planning to make any progress over the winter or get out on the ice, that’s sure not a great way to start. Consistent training, not extreme training is the path to the highest personal level of fitness.
Consistent training, however, does not mean constant training. Fitness is actually gained only while resting. Workouts breakdown muscle tissue, deplete storage supplies and create waste products that your body needs to remove and recycle. Growth hormone is released only during REM sleep, about 30 minutes after falling to sleep. A rested athlete looks forward to workouts, enjoys exercising, feels sharp, coordinated and in control and grows stronger. An overtired/over trained athlete requires extreme willpower just to finish workouts, is sluggish, recovers poorly from workouts and stops benefiting from workout out altogether. Overtraining/under resting mimics 5-HT depletion, the same chemical pathways shown to be depleted in depression.
Rest can and needs to be incorporated in many ways and on many levels in your training plan, including adequate sleep, easy training days, days off, entire recovery weeks, and an interruption of structured training at the end of a season.