Boring for many, endurance training can become repetitive at times. On the other hand, too much variation of workouts can hamper performance improvements, by failing to provide your body with enough stimulus to create gains and time to adapt to them.

Humans tend to become bored or unmotivated when they struggle at a skill or simply cannot understand a concept.

Athletes are no exception, specially when one doesn’t understand why you’re doing what you are…. well, doing. That’s today’s north, grasping the concept of repetition training and why it’s necessary for endurance training of any kind.

Now a days most coaches scramble to create entertaining and varied training sessions and programs in a desperate effort to retain clients.  Session name’s like “happy hour” may keep their bank accounts stable but, what value are they adding to the athlete’s performance? Even if it’s not the main priority, we can all agree that, improving is one of the main reasons why we seek coaching help, Why dilute the process then?

“Champions pay attention to detail, and never get tire doing the fundamental tasks that support their endeavor. They find enjoyment and stimulation in the most mundane tasks. Repetition does not bore them” Coach Dan Pfaff (track & field)

-What science says [variability]

The training principle of variation or variance, states that stimulus need to be changed over time to keep the improvements consistent . Because the body seems to adapt to a stimulus quickly and then plateau. But, I’ve found this DOES NOT STRICTLY means performing different workouts all the time. It’s the periodization factor, the peaks and valleys, alteration and modification of factors like intensity, volume and duration that ultimately provides all the variability you need.

-When I started teaching PhysEd

I wanted to do a different activity every day. The idea of a bored student haunted me at all times. And so I did, planned new material for each day, drills, games, everything, then I quickly found out it was the wrong way. I was negating myself the opportunity to assess my work and student progress.  More importantly, I was reducing skill practice time and the adaptation phase, students struggled.

-Anecdotal evidence

The issue of ‘repetition’ was recently discussed in the real coaching podcast. Then , coach Paulo Sousa – who coaches Manny Huerta amongst others in The Triathlon Squad in California and Joel Filliol – who coaches Olympians Mario Mola and Richard Murray amongst others – agreed on the value of repetition in endurance training. A way of providing opportunity for week to week adaptations, workout consistency and a way of informal testing, were their strong supporting arguments.

“Repetition is your friend. Variety is for the weak-minded, and interferes with the learning process. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition” coach Joel Filliol (triathlon)

“The good ones don’t get bored with repetition because they are so tuned in to the process” coach Dan Pfaff (track and field)

“When designing training sessions I never go fo the entertainment value” coach Paulo Sousa (the triathlon squad)

-Alberto Salazar

One of the most successful coaches in distance running – coaches multiple olympic champion Mo Farah and Olympic medalist Galen Rupp – has also advocated on the benefits of repetition of workouts.

I got old notes from the 2012 Nike Cross National coaches clinic where Salazar addressed the issue. He relies on the concept of mental confidence to prove his point. By repeatedly performing the same workouts overtime, the athletes gets to know exactly where they are at that point and where they are going next. The coach manages pace and priority level – for essentially the same workouts – at different times of the year to create the physical stimulus he wants and boost the athlete’s confidence at the same time.

“if your workouts vary so much that your athletes don’t intuitively know that they can compare it to what they did before, how are they going to get the confidence to do what they need to do?” Alberto Salazar – 2012 NXN coaches clinic

-2008 womens marathon olympic champion

Constantina Dita discussed in an interview a couple of years ago, how her training had very little variation. The controlled, repetitive environment seem to produce all the gains she needed, at 38 years old she conquered a gold medal, which provides a huge statement and all the evidence I need . There is a saying that goes: don’t fix it if it ain’t broken”. You can read the full article HERE.

“Constantina Dita-Tomescu’s marathon training is based on a one-week block of workouts that has remained constant for years, with only slight variations for the season and distance from a goal race. Not only are the distances and intensity of each day consistent, but also the location, even the course …”
Read more at http://running.competitor.com/2014/06/training/is-variation-overrated_5000#VHSJ7bV985EgKkq0.99

If you get bored…

1-Think and use repetitive workouts as benchmarks.

(IT BOOSTS RPE, DEVELOPS FEELS FOR A CERTAIN EFFORT AND TRACKS PROGRESS)

2-Revisit your engagement levels, your motivations and your goals.

(MAKE SURE YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING YOU REALLY WANT TO BE DOING)

3-Switch the workout’s intensity, pace, recovery ratio, priority level and/or location.

(PLAY AROUND WITH THE WORKOUT IN A WAY THAT IT CHALLENGES YOU)

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t conclude that doing the same workouts all the time  is the absolute truth of endurance training. The same way, having an infinite number of different sessions isn’t a holy grail for success. Balance!

Consider that training shouldn’t be primarily fun or entertaining, it shouldn’t be boring either, it just needs to be effective.

-eMMa

 

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