Fitness should be seen as a lifetime pursuit of health and well-being. In today’s article, we’re going to share with you the reasons why you shouldn’t train like an elite athlete. We’ll explain why elite training plans are the worst thing you can possibly do if you’re over the age of thirty, and how you should train instead to achieve professional, lasting results.
I’m afraid to be the bearer of bad news. You are not an elite athlete. You probably have never been an elite athlete, and if you were an elite athlete, you’re probably reading this realizing you’re no longer elite. You are an everyday athlete, and unfortunately, even elite athletes become everyday athletes as they age.
If you’re reading this and you disagree with me, the chances are that you’ve never been an elite athlete and you’re following an internet elite training plan selling the secrets of the Soviet training block. You are also highly likely to have been injured in the last two years and are seeing results plateau, or worse, go backwards.
Elite training plans sell. Elite training books sell. I get it. I buy them, too. But, you’re not elite.
I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings. It wasn’t the intention, but as they approach mid-life, an ever-increasing percentage of the population still believe they are elite, or far worse, believe they can achieve elite athletic status because THAT’S what marketing gurus are trying to sell them.
We will always have a fascination with what the elite do. It’s human nature. But I’m telling you now, stop wanting to train like a Navy Seal. Stop wanting to train like an elite CrossFitter. Stop trying to train like an elite marathoner. Stop trying to train like an elite sprinter, and stop trying to train like an elite triathlete.
I’m trying to save you from yourself. I’m trying to save you from years of hurt and misery. You have not earned the right to do this. These athletes have spent decades preparing their bodies. They’ve dedicated their entire lives to it.I’m afraid to be the bearer of bad news. You are not an elite athlete.Click To Tweet
Elite athletes work towards a peak – a pinnacle in their careers. But right after a peak, there’s a fall. By training in this same manner, you are working towards a peak, too. However, your fall is going to be that much harder. Your body doesn’t have the coping mechanisms to handle it.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t compete in any of these sports or take part in these challenges or events. I’m merely saying that you should take a more sensible approach to training. Let’s build you up so that you can recover from these events. Let’s build on foundations so you won’t feel broken after an event.
Let’s build you up so you can take part in these events for a lifetime of fitness.
The Iceberg Illusion
Icebergs have two parts: what people see (above the surface) and what people don’t see (under the water).
Focusing on outcomes is one of the biggest mistakes people over thirty make when training for health and fitness. It creates a false impression of what leads to success.
We see the success, the records, the results, but not the work that went into it – the unseen hours, the setbacks, the loneliness en route to achieving results.
They don’t show the weeks, months, and decades of hard work that preceded it.
There are no shortcuts in fitness. There are no overnight successes. The sexy highlight reel of all those great training routines and workouts are based on decades of work. These athletes have earned the right to do this. You could even argue they are genetically gifted to perform these types of workouts.
An iceberg doesn’t move quickly. It doesn’t speed up. It just moves consistently, often at a barely discernible speed.
And just like an iceberg, you can’t fast track health and fitness. The human body isn’t designed to be fast-tracked. It still takes 9-months to have a baby.
The most important thing we help our coaching clients understand is that they need to learn to enjoy the long slow walk to greatness.
Patience is a virtue. Patience is a skill that sets apart the winners from the losers.
The hidden logic is that the invisible lays the foundation for the visible.
Onlookers don’t see the roots of the tree. They don’t know how deep they are or how the roots bow and bend underground as they overcome obstacles. They don’t realize that those roots are what gives the tree its resilience. Onlookers only see the visible – how big the tree is.
Those of us in the arena of fitness know better.Patience is a virtue. Patience is a skill that sets apart the winners from the losers.Click To Tweet
The Reality of Elite Training Methods
Here’s the reality. Elite training methods are often extremely boring, and elite athletes spend the majority of their time participating in their chosen sport or activity. For those who work with elite athletes, the #1 rule is to not get them injured. Therefore, training methods need to be stripped back to the bare essentials.
Let’s take running as an example, and elite ultra-runner Kilian Jornet. Here’s his highlight reel:
Pretty impressive, right? Look at all those sprints and mountain climbs. Who doesn’t want to give that a go?
The problem is that many people are giving it a go, and they are getting burnt out and hurt in the process. This is a perfect example of the iceberg illusion in the flesh.
What they don’t see is Kilian’s training throughout the year. He does close to 1250 hours of training a year. You read that right. 1250 hours. That’s over 40 hours a week and on average 3 hours a day, running at mostly Zone 1 and Zone 2 in terms of heart rate.
That’s easy work for most people who aren’t familiar with heart rate training zones. Of those 1250 hours, only 10% includes high-intensity work that is spaced throughout the year.
Kilian Jornet’s Zone 1 and Zone 2 are completely different to Zone 1 and Zone 2 for amateur athletes. Kilian is almost sprinting at this heart rate, whereas most amateurs would need to walk. That’s a big difference. His decades of training have given him the ability to do this work at such a speed with relative ease.
Sadly, most amateur runners do 90–100% of their running as high-intensity work. As a result, injury rates are high and many get burnt out. See the difference here compared to Kilian?
It’s not just Kilian Jornet who follows this simplistic model of low-intensity training. Read the feats of one of the worlds’ greatest Ironman athletes, Mark Allen, and he will tell you the same thing – long duration and slow miles.
His going all out towards the finish line is just his sizzle reel. It’s just the tip of the iceberg of hours and hours of hard work that he put into low-intensity training AND recovery work.
You Can’t Train Like an Elite Athlete
Most of the adult population in the western world are completely sedentary. Most gym members and regular exercisers still tend to spend more than ten hours per day sitting in a chair. Most everyday athletes over thirty have a full-time job. They have family, children, and the stresses of everyday life to contend with. They sleep less than 6 hours a night, drink less than three glasses of water a day, and walk less than three thousand steps a day.
This is simply not conducive to an elite training protocol. Elite athletes have this stuff nailed down. Not only that, they don’t usually have to worry about the “life” component that most people over thirty do.
Is it any surprise that when people train like an elite athlete, they become injured? Everyday athletes are simply not robust enough to handle this elite style of training. Most elite athletes have never had a desk job. They’ve been playing around and moving their bodies three dimensionally for many hours every day for most of their lives.As an everyday athlete over thirty, you need to train specifically towards your sport, and that sport is the sport of life.Click To Tweet
Elite sports people care for one thing only — playing or participating in their sport. Elite sports people reach the peak of their chosen activity through years of sacrifice, hard work, luck, environmental factors aligning to their advantage, genetics, and cultural factors. They tend to be amazing at compensating for weak links in their bodies.
Their training is highly specific to their sport, and in many cases, training an area in which they are weak could well make them worse at their sport.
As an everyday athlete over thirty, you need to train specifically towards your sport, and that sport is the sport of life.
Your #1 priority is to make sure you’re sleeping at least seven hours a night, which is far harder to achieve than those sexy workouts that burn you out and make it harder to sleep well.
How Should Everyday Athletes Over Thirty Train?
The biggest problem I see in fitness is that everyone who is not an elite athlete is trying to train for life like it’s a sprint. They’re always trying to peak, trying to hit a new 1 rep max or personal record every week.
But life is not a sprint. It’s more like a marathon. Fitness guru and world-famous fitness educator Steve Maxwell highlights this point extremely well. He regularly challenges people to look at their current goals and think differently about them.
Steve challenges people to think how a goal they’re working on will make their lives better when they’re 80 years old. When asked that question, most people can honestly say that it won’t.
It’s our belief here at Strength Matters that we should ask ourselves the same question about every exercise in a workout, every daily activity, and every bite that we eat – Will this make my life better when I’m 80 years old?
The answer is that in the vast majority of cases, training like an elite athlete will not.
As everyday athletes, we just need to be able to move well enough to avoid discomfort or injury. We need to be strong enough to lift the things we need to (including ourselves). We need to have a healthy enough heart and lungs to walk up a long flight of stairs and allow us to live long and prosper.
Are you focusing on a strength goal but lack the ability to move well? Are you focusing on a cardiovascular-based event such as a half marathon but lack a base level of strength? Are you training for power or strength but get out of breath when you walk up hills? Do you ever pick up even the smallest twinge or injury in your own training?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, I would highly encourage you to think hard about your current training. Ask yourself if this is really the right thing to do to make you better when you’re eighty years old.As an everyday athlete, we need to prioritize health first and ensure that we are following a balanced approach to fitness.Click To Tweet
As an everyday athlete, we need to prioritize health first and ensure that we are following a balanced approach to fitness. This will help us avoid injury, perform at our very best every day, and allow us to live long and prosper.
The reality is that most people need to walk more, drink more water, and sleep more. It’s why WWS is the most important thing we do.
Once they have these fundamentals in place, they can prioritize mobility (which includes flexibility), work alongside some basic resistance training, and complete aerobic work. They will have a pretty solid plan to handle anything that life throws their way.
It really is that simple. However, we are drawn to the elite and want to emulate everything that they do. Sadly, they’ve been doing it for years, and you’ve only just started.
As everyday athletes, we train to be better at everyday tasks. We train to make our lives better when we’re 80 years old. We pursue a lifetime of balanced fitness. We enjoy our training and value the need to see long-term results. We want to live long and prosper, and that means we need to train smart and train with purpose.
As everyday athletes, we focus on the things that other people don’t see. We’re the iceberg.
Elite athletes are just that – elite. They have decades of experience in their chosen sports and have spent thousands of hours crafting their bodies to cope with the demands of their sports. They have the fundamentals of fitness and health nailed down and have all the time in the world to pursue their passions. Elite athletes have earned the right to train like elite athletes. It’s hard work that you will never see.
Most everyday people over thirty are not strong enough, mobile enough, or have the heart and lungs to cope with an elite training regime, let alone the time to do it. Moreover, they have far more stressors from daily life to cope with, and life and family is the bigger priority.
Injuries have a far more devastating effect on everyday athletes. Injuries can impact family life and work. This is why an elite training plan is not suitable for people over thirty. Not at all.
People over thirty need to focus on the basics of walking more, drinking more water, and sleeping more. Work on mobility, stretch daily, and do some resistance work with simple cardiovascular work.
You’ll be surprised at how you see your results sky rocket.
Life’s a marathon. Not a sprint.
The problem is that this type of work is boring. But, remember, an elite athlete does the boring work. You should, too.An elite athlete does the boring work. You should, too.Click To Tweet
Every Journey Begins With a Single Step
In every great movie, the hero embarks on a path that promises adventure, challenges, and finally, achievement. Often, the hero finds a guide that takes the hero under their wing and pushes him or her to the limit. Just think, where would Luke be without Yoda? We are the stars of our own movies. And we all need that guide.
When it comes to fitness, a coach can be your guide to movie hero-type success, and your secret weapon. There are so many benefits to having a personal coach. I would go so far as to say that coaching is a prerequisite for achievement. Period.
Applying the Strength Matters System of Athletic Development to achieve a pain-free athletic lifestyle won’t be easy but it’s guaranteed to work if you follow it. And we’re here to guide you every step of the way.
Are you ready to take that first step?