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Coaches Corner: The Importance of Balance in Training

Welcome to our newest blog series: Coaches Corner! In this series, Coach Ethan and Coach Landon will be discussing a vast array of topics, providing practical tips, and diving deep into the ins and outs of all things fitness!

Here's our first Coaches Corner from Coach Ethan: The Importance of Balance in Training

I've come to realize through my own missteps that balance, both in training and life in general, is key. Allow me to elaborate so that you can avoid making the same mistakes:

There are two ends of the spectrum: The person who struggles to get their ass out the door in the morning or someone who is constantly in motion; running, biking, swimming, and lifting non-stop, seven days a week. Neither is ideal. Most are acutely aware of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle: increased all-cause mortality, increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, fatigue, the list goes on. Less talked about is the other extreme: the person who continues to push and push until they inevitably find themselves sidelined by an overuse injury or simply mentally burned out from the rigors of training. In my own fitness journey I've found myself at one time or another struggling to find the sweet spot; either working out inconsistently and more recently, overextending myself and hindering my own progress. Both are frustrating in their own right. It turns out that fitness, as a discipline, requires incredible patience. As anyone who has been in the space for any amount of time will tell you, fitness gains are not made overnight (although ironically, your body adapts to the day's training while you sleep). When you feel motivated by a goal, whether it's weight loss, a time goal in a race, a strength goal in the gym, or perhaps a combination of these, it can be easy to get caught up in doing everything possible, going above and beyond to achieve this goal: squeezing multiple workouts into the day, pushing harder than what's prescribed by your training plan, perhaps doing a workout when you should be resting. Unfortunately, as valiant as these efforts may be, they are a recipe for disaster.

One of the simplest and most straightforward ways to great performance is consistency; nailing the workouts as planned, day in, day out. On a week-to-week basis, you may not feel like you're making any appreciable progress but as the weeks turn into months and the months turn into successfully completed training blocks, your fitness will improve, and dramatically so. If you have to take time off because of injury or heaven forbid, overtraining you will see your slow, steady gains erased rather depressingly quickly. That's the unfortunate truth about fitness, it's never static; you're either becoming fitter or you're losing fitness, there is no staying put. The human body is an amazing machine but the metabolic cost of fitness gains is relatively steep and your body won't expend energy unnecessarily. In this way, consistency emerges as the guiding principle that shapes performance. While immediate gains may elude you, the steady commitment to well-planned routines yields substantial transformations over time. This gradual process underscores the dynamic nature of fitness—the inexorable choice between advancement and regression.

So, how can we balance our training aside from limiting the amount of time spent working out each week? The two other most important factors are nutrition and sleep. Nutrition is important regardless of whether or not you're training for an event but it's also crucial to get enough calories to support your training. (Nutrition is really a topic I’d like to dedicate an entire post to as there is simply too much to discuss here so look for that in the future) For our bodies to be able to adequately recover they must have the necessary building blocks available. A good practice is to weigh yourself regularly and keep an eye on your weight, especially if you're doing high mileage training blocks or weekend brick workouts lasting 6, 7, or even 8 hours or more.

The importance of sleep also cannot be overstated. If you're training hard, you need to sleep hard, it’s as simple as that. As I stated earlier, fitness gains are not made during training, they are made when your body repairs itself during sleep, which is why shorting yourself on sleep can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to training. Whether we are engaging in endurance work or resistance training, we are, in simple terms, damaging our bodies, albeit in a controlled way. Your fitness improves as a result of training stimulus because your body will make itself a little more resilient so that next time, it can handle the rigors of the workouts you put yourself through. When you are chronically sleep-deprived, your body cannot make the necessary adaptations and the stress of training accumulates, eventually leading to injury. Additionally, it's important to keep in mind that eight hours spent in bed does not equal 8 hours of sleep. If you don't have a device to monitor sleep duration and quality, aim to spend at least 9-10 hours in bed, keeping in mind that sleep efficiency, the amount of time spent asleep vs the amount of time spent in bed varies from individual to individual but is rarely higher than 88-90%, meaning that in the best case scenario, eight hours spent in bed will only likely yield 7.2 hours of sleep and depending on the person or circumstances, this number can be much lower, especially if alcohol or caffeine are involved. According to the Cleveland Clinic “Sleep is a catch-all that benefits your physical, mental and emotional health. When you’re sleeping, your body has the chance to rest and recover — and these restorative properties even occur on a cellular level.”

It's important to be mindful of all the factors that will contribute to your success on race day; the more attention you pay to the other factors surrounding training, the more progress you will see. Fewer setbacks equals more progress. All that being said, amid the pursuit of balance, it’s important not to forget the joy of the process. The rhythmic cadence of progress is accompanied by the symphony of self-discovery. Embracing every stride, setback, and breakthrough ensures that the journey itself becomes the reward. As we strive for equilibrium in training and life more broadly, may we find empowerment in our newfound understanding—an understanding that propels us toward a future of holistic success and well-being.

If you would like to go deeper, check out the below resources. And please don’t hesitate to reach out should you have any questions on the post itself or how to practically apply this knowledge to your own training.

- Coach Ethan

Vitale, K. C., Owens, R., Hopkins, S. R., & Malhotra, A. (2019). Sleep hygiene for optimizing recovery in athletes: Review and recommendations. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(8), 535–543.

Bird, S. P. (2013). Sleep, Recovery, and Athletic Performance. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 35(5), 43–47.


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