Building a Foundation. Quantity AND Quality

The importance of a foundation…

I was asked the other day by an athlete on my opinion of quality of quantity. What is better? What do I believe in?

That is not a simple one word answer sorry to say. Said athlete seemed frustrated. There is a method to the madness of getting to the starting line whether it be a 5K, 10K, marathon, sprint triathlon, or ironman. It’s a process and you need a foundation.

Do I believe in quantity? Yes

Do I believe in quality? Yes

I have coached hundreds of athletes and have worked with athletes from ages 5 to 65 … those that can’t run a mile to those that are training to run close to 100 miles at a time. There is not an athlete out there that does not need to build a foundation (base) of muscular strength and aerobic capacity as he/she starts their training. If I see one more article stating that there is absolutely no need for easy aerobic training and only HIIT (High-intensity interval training) for endurance athletes will improve their performance, I will simply loose my mind. HIIT training without aerobic conditioning can just as easily lead to over-use injury and over-training syndrome. Think of it this way…

If the foundation of a house (an athlete’s muscular strength, connective tissue strength , tendon/ligament strength) is not strong enough; would it be intelligent to put a roof on top. The roof could and most likely would cause the foundation to crack and break down. This is exactly how athletes break down. When additional stimulus is added and the foundation of strength (or lack of) is not there to support it.


How can this be fixed?

Athletes can build a good foundation with a combination of SMART training build-up. I was listening this morning to a podcast with Rich Roll (an extremely talented triathlete and Ultraman) and Vinnie Tortorich (a ridiculously talented ultra cyclist and personal trainer for decades). Both these athletes have awesome podcasts on itunes that I highly recommend. I was listening to them agree on the importance of building a good base for further develop.

Whether you are a runner, cyclist, or a triathlete. Building a base need not be difficult, painful, or dreaded. Run easy, listen to your body. Pick some new routes, head for the trails, meet a friend. If you are going for a really long ride or run. Start out early. Get in an hour or two, then meet up with friends for a bit, then after they are done if you need to finish up on your own just get it done.  Remember though that the payoff is that you will have the foundation that you can add the roof to.

Quality? Yes, that is EXTREMELY important as well. In the past with my own training I have sometimes overlooked the quality component and hung on to the quantity component a bit to long. It is because I am a “distance” runner and athlete at heart. I love the endurance component but what I have found is that when the adequate foundation is built by adding quality work, this is where huge gains can be made. I often see athletes, especially distance runners and endurance athletes making the mistake of trying to maintain high training volume when training intensity increases. This can spell disaster. One component of your training will and should give a little. Make sure you keep balance in your training. If intensity increases, volume should decrease a bit.

There is such a delicate balance and fine line and unfortunately it is a bit different with each athlete. The concepts are similar, the individual athlete specifics differ. That’s why there are coaches.

With every athlete I coach, communication is the most important component! Listen to your body. Athletes have mastered the art of denial. If something hurts, listen to it. If you are not seeing improvement despite focused consistent training, you need to take a serious look at what you are doing and see what needs to change. But most important you need to have fun while doing it.

I had to laugh when Vinnie told a story on the podcast I was listening to. He told of a time when someone pulled over and asked if if he needed a ride while he was out training, he commented back something like “No, I want to be out here”

Reminded me of a time just a few years ago I was out doing a long run in the rain, a beautiful Sunday morning in Wisconsin just before sunrise. A little old lady pulled over on her way to church and said “sweetie, you are awfully wet, I will dry you off and take you home now”. I could not have been in a more happy place out there running in the rain, I smiled, and said “no thanks, I’m good :-)”

Whether it be training or in life. We need a foundation.

As I face a pretty scary neck surgery in less than 2 weeks and I think about foundation. Building yet another foundation starting 2014. A foundation I will build on and take to great places in 2014!!! Huge huge goals lie ahead and I’m excited.

I want to thank my amazing family, friends, coach, church family, doctors & pt, and followers! So great having you all around during this scary and uncertain time.


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