Reading online articles or watching videos about exercise and you'd be right to think that all exercise needs to be punishing and painful. In a world of 'no pain, no gain' and monster workouts, professional and amateur athletes are reaching extraordinary heights of physical development....but at what cost? Is it right to be pushing beyond our limits every day, every week, month after month?
Before I extol the virtues of moderate and sensible exercise, I want to explain that in the past I've been guilty of training all out, session after session. I've done most sports and most types of training, often 3 times a day, often for days on end without a rest day. All in the belief that ‘more is better’.
My training regimes have given me a lot of happiness and success...but also injuries. As a massage therapist I see a lot of different injuries, most of which could be avoided by de-load weeks, rest days, easier sessions, careful planning and looking after the body a little better.
I work with some incredible athletes who train well and eat well, but the hardest thing for them to do is to rest well. As Dr. Phil Maffetone said 'training=work+rest'. Without rest we can't progress to our full potential.
The great Arthur Jones pioneered high intensity strength training, with a one set method, pushed to temporary muscle failure. Further developed my Mike Mentzer and then again by Dorian Yates.
Yates became one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time by doing one working set, 45 minute sessions, 2 days on and 1 day off, and having regular deload weeks. He also had three massage treatments per week. So how come amateur athletes are in the gym everyday for at least 90 minutes.
In endurance, some great athletes ensure proper recovery. Many also advocate four weeks of nothing at the end of the season. When was the last time you did that? Killian Jornet the great ultra runner trains in the spring and summer, and skis in the winter. He trains high volume, but not all year round. If he were to run all year round I'm not sure he'd be the same athlete.
As we get older our bodies struggle to recover in the same way. We need to eat better, rest better and train smarter. What about if we did this when we were younger and looked at the long term viability of our bodies?
Training smarter when younger, within our limits most of the time, and occasionally training all out, would perhaps result in better recovery, less injuries, less burnout, better wellbeing and better results?
Do your research, read some good books (Phil Maffetone or Dan Jon). Speak to the older guys in the gym that have been top athletes and ask them what they would do. Most of my older clients who've been top athletes all tell me they wished they’d never ran so far or hard, or lifted such heavy weights when they were younger.