How to Do Simple Well in Endurance Training
by Derick Williamson
Ed. Note—Derick Williamson, of Durata Training, returns this week with an article expressing what many coaches wish they could impress upon their athletes: strive for simplicity and consistency. Williamson lives and works in the triathlon mecca of Colorado Springs, coaching for Durata Training, and also as head coach for USAT's Resident Paratriathlete Team.
As the head coach for the USA Paratriathlon Resident Team I get to work with these athletes on a daily basis and often they hear me say quite often is “Do Simple Well.” These are athletes that have medaled in the games, won world championships and achieved otherwise significant results so why would such a basic message be so central to our program? Well…it’s simple – layers of complexity can and will always be applied to training however if those layers of complexity are built on a foundation of irregularity, misunderstanding, poor form, untimely physiological progression, weak structural development or otherwise then you are setting yourself up for failure over time.
Coaches and athletes like to talk about “base” as it relates to training, building miles, volume, etc – (in a high performance environment I find this to be a huge waste, these athletes have years of “base” in their training what they need is a movement toward demands of competition, but more on this in a later post) what I feel is more critical from a “base” perspective is "basics". Are you doing the basics well? Do you understand the basics? How do the basics evolve as you as an athlete mature?
Basics are going to be very individual and it’s something I encourage all athletes to honestly reflect on individually and with your coach/performance staff. As you consider what your own “Basics” are unravel the layers and take everything you are doing back to its most simple movement, component, task or habit. Are you doing those things well and could you be doing them even better? From there make sure you do not miss the chance in each rep or touch to do that simple movement or task well!
I was the head coach for the Team Red, White and Blue national triathlon camp for years. Here – in a single weekend - we took service men and women who had little to no experience and taught them the skills needed to complete their first triathlon, skills like simply clipping into pedals or sighting in open water – they learned these and did simple well at first then moved on as the camp progressed.
Alternatively some of the professional Ironman athletes I’ve worked with have had great success but there were still simple components of success they needed to do well with; cornering and descending the bike at speed, race schedule planning, race day nutrition and execution, ability to stay aero for the demanded duration (did they skip the simple step of working on flexibility and core strength!?). Many believed they could get away with skipping the simple steps because they had such a physiological gift and for many they did get away with it for a while but there was always a race at some point where a deficiency in the basics caught up to the and they did not perform to their potential.
For a lot of amateur athletes (and even aspiring elites) one simple component of success I see overlooked or mismanaged is consistency. They jump into overly complex and aggressive training programs without first achieving the simple tasks of being consistent within the context of their training, their nutrition, their sleep and recovery hygiene and likewise. If you can come close to mastering the variables that underpin these simple components of performance you’ll achieve much more as an athlete than if you jump into the most detailed training plan that has the best intent but is built on a foundation of complexity composed of compromised bricks – something will crack in time and it will all come crashing down.
As I post more on this topic we’ll talk through how we can do swimming, cycling and running simply until then. Remember do simple well first, with intent and purpose and only then consider adding layers of complexity to your training.