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by Charles A. Richardson
Your answer about the order of intensity in a workout was very interesting. While these workouts [which begin with aerobic endurance, proceed to increasingly anaerobic efforts, and end with sprints–see article “Endurance Workout: Slow to Fast or Fast to Slow?”] have increased my strength and endurance, I am, as you suggest, starting to take more time to recover, and I am experiencing some muscle soreness.
Had I not been attempting to apply your training principles, I would have ignored this and put it in the “no pain, no gain” category, but I no longer subscribe to that theory. I have learned, from you, that continued muscle soreness is not a good measure of effort (or a measure of good effort), but rather a good indication of bad training. But because the training plan I described was increasing my strength, I was seduced by that into thinking it was a good long-term training regimen.
[When we take up a new activity, we make considerable progress with relatively little effort. It even matters little what the quality of training is–we get better just because we learn the new way of moving. As we advance in this new activity, the tolerance for nonsense diminishes. In technical sports we eventually arrive at techniques that cannot be learned well by just any method–only by the right method. In sports that stress conditioning we reach beginner’s performance levels just because we show up for a workout, but to move beyond that we have to work harder or smarter. Eventually, working any harder becomes counterproductive and to reach our full potential we have to work smarter. But, as Charles Richardson points out, it is better to work smart from the beginning.–T. K.]
As we both know, this is what causes so many bad training principles to get established. The positive effects are overemphasized, and the negative effects are ignored. It’s not that bad training produces no results, usually, but it produces less positive results than are possible with more intelligent training. And athletes’ negative responses to the pain caused by the damage are often dismissed as an indication of lack of desire or dedication.
I’ve also been of the opinion for a long time that bad training practices simply weed out those athletes whose pain threshold or joint strength can’t handle the effects of bad training but who might, with the proper training methods, excel.
Given how widespread ignorance of good training principles is, it’s clear to me that very often the ones who rise to the top are uniquely able to handle the stresses of bad training and possess joints, muscles, and energy production systems that are more impervious to that ignorance. I was unlucky enough to have both bad training as a young athlete and a body that couldn’t handle that kind of stress very well, so I’ve made it into my 50s having never reached what I thought of as my potential as an athlete, and with a fair amount of damage that limits what I can do. But I am inspired by what the application of good training, good nutrition, and a much more patient and positive attitude can do to repair the damage and expand my range of athletic possibilities along with my range of movement. For much of that, I have your writings to thank.