It’s common thought that to maximize sport performance you simply need to train more and push harder to be successful. Many endurance athletes are familiar with the 10,000 hour rule (associated with the writer Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers). This concept says it requires 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to obtain elite level proficiency in cycling, running, swimming or triathlon. In many ways this concept holds true; you need to put in the time for your body to make the physical adaptations. However, we have found that there is more to the equation than just simply training more. You certainly can and do become a better cyclist simply by putting in more miles. Assuming you have the time and fitness to spend 5+ hours a day riding your bike, in time, you will become a highly competent cyclist.
There’s no question that if you put in the time, you will improve. But is this high volume, single-focused training approach the right way to maximize cycling performance? Maybe, maybe not. Is it the only way to maximize performance? Definitely not.
Endurance Sport Training Philosophies
There are many theories out there to follow, however we have found the answer to be: “It depends”. It depends on who the athlete is. How old is the athlete? What is the athlete’s background in sport? What is the athlete’s lifestyle? Do they have a job and/or a family? Do they have the time, energy and physical capacity to allow them to train 30+ hours a week, week in and week out?
If you’re a 20-something year old, athletic individual with minimal life stress and plenty of financial backing, then it’s time to put in the big volume. However, if you’re over thirty, have to make money to support yourself and/or your family, or are a less than perfect physical specimen, then simply doing more of the same thing is not the best path to follow to reach your fullest potential.
Through working with hundreds of different athletes coming from all shapes and sizes of background in sport, we have found that there are six essential components required to maximize fitness and athletic development.
So how is the aspiring athlete going to maximize improvement when spending endless hours cranking out the effort is not an option? We have found over the years that all athletes must make fitness and sport a lifestyle. Much like a professional, you must focus on both the large and the small components of fitness to build the best possible athlete you can be. We have identified six key elements that are crucial to athletic success. Each one can be implemented regardless of the individual experience level or the amount of time the athlete has to devote to their sport.
Our 6 Components of Performance of Sessions:6 Sport Performance:
Strength & Stability
Diet & Nutrition
By learning, incorporating and striving to always improve upon these six key components of fitness, an athlete will be better able to reach their fullest potential in sport performance.
The Endurance Athlete’s Training
The first three components, aerobic conditioning, muscular stability, and skill proficiency make up the physical “training” an athlete with do.
Aerobic conditioning is highly trainable. The most common method is by spending more time performing your endurance sport at low to moderate intensities of effort. Training aerobic endurance by extending the durations of your training sessions can also improve aerobic conditioning. Training plans that include high intensity interval training at specific periods are also very effective at improving your aerobic conditioning.
Including muscular strength and joint stability training will improve an athlete’s range of motion, application of force, and overall durability. Improper joint mobility and/or joint stability limits nearly every athlete in some manner. Improving these characteristics through proper strength training modalities, an athlete will become more efficient and able to use more of their given maximal aerobic capacity.
Developing the skills to move the body in the most efficient manner is critical to maximizing performance. Wasted energy through improper movements not only slows you down but wastes valuable energy. Both of which limit your performance. By incorporating deliberate skill practice into your training plan you will maximize gains in strength and coordination leading to increased movement efficiency.
Sport Performance In Between the Training
The last three key components: diet & nutrition, stress management, and mental fitness are efforts made in between the physical training sessions. These details require as much or more effort to incorporate into an athlete’s routine. However they can also often yield some of the biggest results.
Most athletes are aware of the importance of nutrition but few actually take it seriously for any length of time. Many gains can be made through optimal nutrition: you perform better on race day. You’re more likely to achieve optimal body composition for improved performance. You can obtain optimal energy levels to improve training capacity as well as optimal hormone operation within the body to improve health and recovery.
Recovery between training sessions is critical to maximize your training consistency and adaptation. Learning and incorporating proper recovery methods are critical to adapting to your training load. In addition, recognizing non-training forms of stress in your your life and adjusting your training accordingly will allow you to train more effectively. Combined, both efforts will allow you to get more from each training session.
Finally, perhaps the most neglected and overlooked component of success in sport is the power of the mind. Getting yourself in the right mindset to compete to your fullest potential can be difficult to learn. It is subsequently also one of the most important abilities for athletes to transform themselves into champions. Practicing mental strategies and learning how to compete to your true ability will unlock the complete athlete within you.
To become the best athlete you can become and reach your fullest potential in the least amount of time possible, you must address these six crucial components of sport performance development: aerobic conditioning, strength & stability, skill proficiency, diet & nutrition stress management, and mental fitness.
When any one of these components is neglected or underdeveloped an athlete will fall short of their maximum ability. Don’t fall into the trap that there is only one path to improvement, doing the same thing over and over. Rather, choose to expand your athletic ability by addressing these six components of performance. Allow yourself to continually evolve and improve as an athlete. By incorporating these 6 components into your daily lifestyle you will be able to consistently improve your performance year after year.
Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Sessions:6 Sport Performance. Looking for help with your endurance sport training? Check out S:6’s Training Plans, Team Programs, and Personal Coaching options created to fit your needs and budget.