One final burst of speed. The stopwatch in his hand beeped. Panting to recover his breath, Alex looked down at the stopwatch. His heart beat painfully and disappointment coursed through his body as he realised his time had once more risen. Why? He had kept religiously to the training schedule he had decided on, and at first it had worked.
He had grown gradually fitter and faster as he had hoped. But then, a few weeks ago, he had noticed that he was taking longer and longer to complete a run. His heart rate even took longer to return to normal after each run. Yet he was doing the exact same training he had always kept to. What was wrong?
Dear friends, Alex’s problem is not as rare as you might think. No, he is not a victim of a strange as yet undiscovered disease, and no, he is not slacking off in his training. He has reached a state, which we call a training plateau, having failed to vary the amount of intensity between each session.
This strange phenomenon is a common problem for many athletes who do the same training day after day, week after week, month after month. Overtraining, as some would say.
What’s the Problem?
The curious fact is that muscles in the body, especially the heart, are much like the brain. They learn and adapt so repeating the same exercises over and over will soon cease to increase the body’s fitness. It is much like repeating the same math exercises over and over: while fruitful the first few times, it soon becomes an exercise in futility.
In fact, if the body feels it is not improving, it can actually begin decreasing in fitness, which is what Alex and many others have experienced.
Progressive training is the way to continually improve one’s health and fitness, and indeed to prevent it from declining. This involves varying the training process, for example, distance, speed and duration. It requires much effort, not only in doing the exercises, but also in the planning process, which is an integral part of progressive training. Here are some tips on how you can begin to plan your trainings:
- Look out for your weaknesses and work on them
- Don’t try to work on everything at once
- Join a training group
- Get a tried and tested plan. You don’t have to follow this exactly, but it can provide a good guide for making your own training schedule
Progressive running can raise your race performance by:
- Training negative splits, i.e. to run the second half of the race faster than the first
- Building your lactate turn point
- Improving your mental toughness
- Conditioning your central nervous system
- Improving your ability to run at a quality pace when fatigued
- Reducing the risk of heart failure (inability of the heart to pump sufficient blood around the body) under pressure
In a race, overexertion is a very real risk. If you do not train constantly, the chances of a cardiac event such as a heart attack (shutting down of a part of the heart due to an interruption in blood flow) or sudden cardiac arrest (heart stops beating suddenly) occurring during a race is higher.
Progressive training can also help people who have clinical diseases regain mobility and health. For patients of chronic stable heart failure, low intensity resistance training has been shown to improve muscle strength and overall exercise performance, thus allowing a better quality of life.
Moreover, it helps to reduce the mortality risk associated with heart failure. Note: Please consult your doctor before embarking on any form of training especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
With progressive training, you can get faster, higher, stronger.