As a swimmer in the 1990s and early 2000s I was coached with the idea that more is better. 10,000 yard swim workouts two times per day? That was a normal occurrence during winter “hell week.” Double swims 5 times per week? You bet! 6, sometimes 7, days of workouts per week? Absolutely! Now, I will say that while this was the accepted idea at the time of what was needed to make you a great swimmer, I was also very lucky to have coaches, specifically in Hawaii and Minnesota, who understood the importance of making that yardage count and not just doing garbage yardage for the sake of swimming. Yes, we swam a lot, but almost every set was done with purpose and intent.
When I started getting into running about 7 years ago now and looking at half marathon and marathon training plans online, I continued to keep this same mindset. I figured I should run everyday of the sake of keeping my “running legs” and more is better for conditioning.
The funny thing is, as a swim coach myself now, I wasn’t following my own preaching. Working with age group swimmers it’s about proper stroke technique, fast kicking and quality sets. My fellow coaches, who worked with the older kids, agreed. Quality over quantity. They also believed that gains in the pool could be achieved on land via circuit training, strength training and yoga. Essentially, there is no need for 10,000 yard workouts. This not only prevents kids from burning out, but allows them to become more well-rounded athletes preventing injury from using the same muscles over and over again.
As I was recovering from FAI surgery one of the biggest things imprinted on me was the necessary need for rest and recovery. Initially I didn’t have a choice. 1 hour of physical therapy and by the time I got home I was ready for about a 3 hour nap. My body needed that rest to heal. For someone who has more energy than she knows what to do with and feels like she always has to be moving, this was a tough lesson for me. As my body got stronger I had to remember that rest was just as important as increasing the amount of minutes I could run.
Just over a year ago when I decided that I was ready to tackle the sport of triathlon, I knew I wanted to work with a coach for two specific reasons. 1) coming back from FAI surgery I needed someone to write the patience and caution into the workout plans for me that I otherwise would have jumped the gun on and 2) someone who would adhere to the idea of quality over quantity and remind me that more is not necessarily better.
Now that I’ve got a strong cardiovascular base and strength among all 3 disciplines in triathlon, I have two rest days per week! At first I was taken aback by this idea, but as the intensity of my workouts has increased, I’ve come to realize that is exactly what my body (especially my hip) needs to heal and recover. As far as my workout intensity goes, it’s not necessarily the time spent doing the workout, but making that same amount of time (and sometimes less) harder.
My uneducated knowledge of working out at least understands the basics that workouts actually break down your muscles and cause inflammation. This is how muscles become stronger. But in order to do that they need time to repair and rest. What I didn’t understand and truly appreciate was just how much rest. At first I was so skeptical of this type of training, not knowing how it would work for me, but as I see myself getting stronger and faster, I’m becoming a believer.
Not everyone is going to adhere to the same type of training and not every body is going to respond the same way, but for me?
Quality over quantity…and sometimes less is more.