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Top 5 Training Myths for Endurance Athletes: The Alternative Truths

Fiona Lockhart, CTS Pro Coach

Top 5 Training Myths for Endurance Athletes: The Alternative Truths
Fiona Lockhart, CTS Pro Coach

There’s lots of information out there for endurance athletes: sometimes too much. And because much of what you read in the media is conflicting, it can become quite difficult to figure out exactly what you should and shouldn’t do in training in order to improve your performance. Below are some of the myths that seem to be perpetuated over and over again, even though the scientific research doesn’t back them up.

  1. There’s no point in doing high-intensity workouts if you’re training for a long-distance event, like a marathon, since you’ll never be going that hard during the event.
    No matter what the event you are training for, it’s useful to change up the intensity of your workouts to make sure you work all your physiological systems, as well as to prevent physical and mental staleness. Research has shown that athletes who perform sprint workouts were able to improve their longer-term endurance performance. That doesn’t mean that you do high-intensity intervals, like sprints or hill repeats, all the time, but adding them to your total training mix will make you a better athlete.
  2. If you want to lose weight, go out and ride or run for long periods of time without eating. If you train in the morning, don’t eat beforehand.
    No, no, no, no, no. Your body needs fuel in order to perform at its best. If you try to train without sufficient fuel stores, not only will you wear yourself out in the long run, but your immediate workout will have only a fraction of the quality it should have. Consume gels, a carbohydrate-rich sports drink like GU20, and/or bars to maintain a steady supply of carbohydrate during your workout. Make sure you also take advantage of recovery nutrition, placing a priority on carbohydrate, within 30 minutes of the end of your training bout; this will maximize those glycogen stores so you can come back and train hard the next day.

    If you train in the morning, have something to eat before you start out. Your body burns through glycogen while you are sleeping, and your training will suffer from reduced fuel stores in the morning if you don’t eat anything. If your body doesn’t tolerate solid foods before early-morning workouts, try a carbohydrate drink.

    If you are trying to lose weight, think about cutting calories at times away from your training, not near to or during it.

  3. Losing weight will always improve your performance.
    While a light, lean body is certainly a benefit for endurance events, don’t overdo it. Just because someone else can perform effectively at a given weight doesn’t mean you should be at that same weight. If you’re trying to lose weight, do it slowly and gradually so that you can continue to fuel your body sufficiently to support your training. If your weight is going down, but your power output and performance are diminishing as well, you may very well be too lean for your own good.
  4. When doing strength training, always do lots of repetitions so that you don’t bulk up.
    In order to reap the most gains from a strength training program, you need to lift a significant amount of weight in a relatively short period of time. After you have done a few weeks of light weight, moderate repetitions (i.e. 12-15 reps) to allow your tendons, ligaments, and muscles to adapt to the rigors of strength training, you will need to raise the amount of weight and lower the number of repetitions in order to maximize your strength gains. Don’t worry; unless you’re spending 5 days a week, 4+ hours in the gym (and you shouldn’t be, if you’re an endurance athlete), you won’t get “muscle-bound”!
  5. To really be competitive, you need to train more than 15 hours a week.
    If this were the case, there would be very few competitive athletes over the age of 30. Let’s face it, with work, family, and other obligations we contend with as we get older, it can be difficult to find many hours of training time during the week. But that’s okay, because you can still train effectively with limited time.

    With fewer hours available to work out, establishing a structured training program becomes of paramount importance. Figure out how many hours and days you can train, and then set specific goals for each training day (i.e. lactate threshold workouts, sprint intervals). Then be consistent with that schedule. Not only will you continue to get stronger and faster, but you may also find that your performance gains are even greater than when you had more training time, because you are now forced to work with a specific plan.

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