Training flat

Through no fault of their own many people fail to really get anywhere with their training. The fault lies squarely with their trainer.

The fitness industry is largely populated with kids who didn’t do very well in school, read far too little, and are dangerously over confident in their own abilities. What this leads to is that old industry stand by of “go hard or go home”. This is a dangerous line to walk for many. There’s no doubt that many could stand to train harder and need a push. However, many actually do train hard and will push themselves again and again and again. Soon the body starts to suffer from real deep fatigue and has to rely on a boost from the adrenal system to accomplish the tasks set out in training. But sooner or later that well runs dry and the client will crash. The result is injury or burn out leading to time needing to be taken away from training.

The reason this can be so difficult to plan for is simple – not everyone you train is at the same point. These days it’s quite common for a trainer to do a majority of their sessions as group training. But the problem there is that some of those people will be training daily, others only twice a week, and all the other options in between. Some of those will be in good shape and display a decent level of strength while others will be beginners who struggle to hold form with even the lightest of weights. And this is where the confusion starts. If you are only training twice per week then each session needs to be all out. There’s no alternative. If you’re relying on two hours of exercise to overcome the damage caused by the other one hundred and sixty-six hours of your week you are going to need to haul ass every single session. At the other end of the spectrum is the client who is training daily. Unless you’re eighteen years old and have a decent athletic history there’s no chance you’re going to be able to sustain hard training every single day.

And that’s one of the biggest issues most people have. Instead of having a week where the intensity of the week waves up and down, they try to make it a flat line, hence training flat. Imagine trying to run your car at redline all the time. How long do you think it would last before it caught fie in an epic meltdown? That’s what your body is doing every time you go to most idiot trainers and they flog you every single session.

Take our week at RPT, as an example. Today we had a few of our Spartan Race crew together and went for a bit of a run. (“A bit of a run” in this case was 15km in the Dandenongs for most of the crew then the three trainers did another lap making 21km). But tomorrow, because everyone will have tired legs, we won’t be doing anything of the sort. One of the things that came up today while we were running, was that one of the guys is starting to get asked a lot of questions by his buddies who are wasting their time at Crossfit. (And before anyone gets all uppity, he competes in surf lifesaving, and until someone can show me a high level surf Ironman who does Crossfit as their main training base I will continue to believe that it is useless as a training method for them). These guys are getting smashed every session – because it’s Crossfit, right? “Our warm up is your workout” and all that hoorah nonsense. These guys are seeing my client training twice daily in some cases and thinking, because they have no other experience outside their own little box, that he also must be getting smashed every session. Not surprisingly they think he is some kind of superman to be able to withstand that kind of workload.

But our week is nothing like that. We had a big day today, so we’re going to have an easy day tomorrow. I’m not going to share our exact training split because if you want to know that you can come and train with us, but old school meatheads will recognise this as the Weider Instinctive Training Principle. What this said was basically tailor your training to how you feel today. There can be problems here – many clients who need the Push will seek to use a lighter weight than they should be, or try to feign fatigue. They’re suffering from laziness. The cure for laziness is a kick in the ass at RPT. But for those who are genuinely tired I’ll drop some of what they should be doing – either volume or load. Otherwise they train flat, and the result is that they perform flat as they struggle to get out of the grips of fatigue. But dropping the overall demand of the session will allow them to freshen up and come back for a harder session tomorrow.

Because that is one of the hardest things for people to grasp – strength training won’t make your muscles hurt like it will if you do higher rep work. Low rep strength work, the kind that is actually what most people should be doing instead of the higher rep (as in ten plus reps per set) nonsense they actually are doing, doesn’t lead to muscle soreness. The body is not under tension for long enough to get really sore. But the CNS fatigue can last a long time. As in about five times longer than any kind of physical fatigue. You won’t feel it, but your CNS can be friend to a crisp, preventing you from being able to really work hard again. At this point a good trainer will recognise the signs and back you off, but an idiot will push again, accuse you of being weak and then wonder why you get hurt. Sound familiar?

That’s our big lesson for today – don’t train flat. Have hard days and easy days. Get to know and understand your body, and respond to what it is telling you to do. This is a long, slow process and will be sped up by having an experienced coach alongside you. You’ve got a coach, don’t you?