A long time ago, when lactic acid, periodization, muscle confusion and VO2 were still very foreign to me, I started working with a “coach” to help me with my cycling training. It was my first years or so racing and even though I did pretty well, I needed help with training as I was shooting in the dark.
This person was a chiropractor but also assisted endurance athletes with their training for a monthly fee.
The first month was pretty darn awful. My training heart rate zones were determined with a performance test and he wrote the program. However, trying to keep up with my heart rate zones was suicide. I simply could not reach those levels for the durations he wanted me to.
Looking back, he was a coach who has read many books and could reiterate a lot of fancy words but he had spent a decent amount of time on a bike himself. To him, training was all about numbers, science and putting them together. Nothing else mattered. We stopped working together not too long after.
Now, I do agree with this type of thinking, training is a science. No doubt about that. It’s about putting the pieces together for maximal performance. It’s determining what the proven strategy is to reach the goal in the most optimal way. But it’s not only that…
Training is also an art. Just like painters look at the canvas, have an idea in their mind and start working on it. After a few hours, they might modify and change their mind – all to create the best piece of art they can personally create. That’s what a good coach does. You have a scientifically proven strategy in mind but since every person is different, you have to read your client, adapt and bend with the forces coming your way.
Today, we have made amazing breakthroughs in the world of science and technology. Power meters are wonderful tools and are superior in many situations to pure heart rate training. There are also body suits and sleeves on the market which measure your blood lactate levels real time. This way, you know exactly what zone you are in, where your physical shape is at that time etc. This is all great and all, but when is it too much? When do we become robots and most importantly, when do we stop using common sense?
If you become too attached to all the data coming in, won’t you forget what your body is telling you? What the training feels like? Will you not pay attention to an ache or a feeling which is your body telling you it’s not feeling up to it today or you’re getting sick?
As a coach, I tell clients their ultimate goal should be to be able to identify the type of training they are doing by the feeling they have at the time. Data sensors are fantastic for training, especially for coaches, high level athletes or if you just start working out and don’t know what you are doing. Unfortunately, for most people they might also be a distraction, taking you away from your body, the joy of the workout and enjoying the surroundings.
To me, the joy in working out is challenging the body and enjoying the atmosphere or surroundings. Making it uncomplicated and learning what everything should feel like. This way, you’re able to identify any potential problems as well, for example an injury or an illness is coming your way.
Do yourself a favor, find a balance in using your high tech sensors and learn what an endurance zone feels like, what your body tells you when you are doing a 15 minute lactate threshold block and so on. Get back in touch with yourself in this crazy world. For 99% of us, there is very little need for lactate sensors, power meters and such. Learn the basics, get a heart rate monitor to monitor your health and training zones and before anything else, get in touch with your body before spending all your dollars on the latest high tech gadgets you’ll use once or twice.
By Sander Vanacker for FitGuana
Sander Vanacker is a personal trainer, CEO of Bring Back Nature, Inc. and founder of FitGuana. He believes in improving health and wellness by incorporating more nature into our lives, being active and spending more time outdoors.