It is pretty well established that the “No Pain-No Gain” format of training doesn’t work for most people but I will argue that small doses of “pain” with regard to training intensity and/or variation is a good thing and that it can go a long way in helping you increase both training performance and overall results. For example, I frequent some steep mountain trails that I use as my measurement tool for results gained or lost. The first trail I found made me feel like throwing up just hiking it but I didn’t give up and I went from slowly hiking it, to hiking it fast, to a walk-jog then on to running up the entire trail. Each step of the way during this process, my body came to certain points where it just wanted to stop but each time…I never gave in and pushed forward toward my goal of getting to the top of the trail. No, I didn’t have a bandana with a skull and cross-bones on it, I didn’t grit my teeth, yell or do any other stereotypical act that is so commonly associated with fighting towards a fitness goal. I simply took a deep breath and said to myself, “ok dude, these legs want to stop running up this trail but since you made the decision to run up it, don’t stop just take choppy/shorter steps and let the body adapt to the steep incline and control your breathing.” Each time I ran each trail, I was able to run further and I have now progressed to where I now focus on running up faster and faster and hiking it is now what I do on my recovery days! I have now reprogrammed my body’s perception of what is hard, what isn’t, what is a workout, what is recovery and so on. These small steps not only reprogram the body but more importantly, the mind…you can do this too!
This methodical, patient approach doesn’t seem aggressive but it is because if you set a fitness goal, you aren’t going to reach them by sheer force alone, you have to use finesse as well. Look for ways of adding extra twists of intensity/variation each time you train to keep your body guessing and progressing. This can be in the form of a few sprints after a run, running up and down some stairs in a park after a bike ride (yes, while carrying your bike!), swimming a couple extra laps in the pool, a few more swings in the batting cage after Baseball practice…whatever! These little tidbits of intensity, variation and “something extra” to make your workout a little harder or a little different each time will all yield something extra in the form of results and improved performance. Stay hungry my friends!