Whether you are training for a marathon, triathlon, or an ultra-marathon, making mistakes will undoubtedly impede your training progression. To train effectively, you should be aware of endurance athletes' most common mistakes and hopefully avoid them.
Too Easy on Hard Days, Too Hard on Easy Days
Probably the most common training mistake among endurance athletes. Training intensities at either end of the spectrum typically evoke the most significant physiological responses. Therefore, when an athlete goes too hard on easy days and too easy on hard days, almost all of their training is performed at medium intensity, thus, not very impactful. This is because it is neither easy enough to develop one's low-end aerobic capacity nor hard enough to increase one's high-end fitness benchmarks such as lactate threshold or VO2 max.
Only Training at High Intensities
For many athletes, doing high-intensity work is much more 'glamorous' and fun than low-intensity efforts such as endurance and recovery workouts.
It is not uncommon to see an athlete that can perform in a race at a high level, but when you look at their heart rate data, they are maxed out the whole time. This athlete likely is poorly conditioned from an aerobic point of view due to a lack of low-intensity workouts. Their overall ceiling at which they can perform is usually minimal and does not increase past a certain point.
This athlete would benefit from incorporating low-intensity training to develop their aerobic capacity. For example, let's say that an athlete is 'prescribed' to do endurance runs at no more than 130 beats per minute. At first, the athlete might only be able to run at a 6 minute per km pace. But as they become more aerobically fit, they will be able to run at a 5-minute speed at the same 130 beats per minute intensity.
Not Enough Rest
Hard workouts or any workout only have value if an athlete can reap its rewards. And to reap the rewards, one must get enough rest and recovery. Endurance sports tend to attract individuals who like to push the limit and always have their feet on the gas. For these athletes, more is better. Rest and recovery are often viewed as wasted time that could be spent on doing more training.
For these athletes, they may either get injured, suffer from overtraining syndrome, or at the very least, see their forward progress stall and possibly regress. Believe it or not, proper rest and recovery are just as crucial to the training process as hard and long training days.
Too Much, Too Soon
'Cardiovascular fitness precedes musculoskeletal readiness' - When someone starts exercising, their cardiovascular system adapts faster than their muscular and skeletal systems. This is likely one of the main reasons why beginner runners get injured. Because they feel their aerobic condition is improving, they ramp up their training volume to reflect this increase in aerobic fitness. New runners might ignore the signs like overly sore muscles or shin splints of under-adapted muscles as things that go along with getting in shape and thus keep pushing. Then they get a stress fracture or suffer from connective tissue/muscle injury that causes them to take a lot of time off training.
Therefore, slow and steady is the right course of action when starting a training program.
Train Through an Injury
Many endurance athletes are afraid of taking time off training. Whether it be a rest day, a taper, or time off to recover from sickness or injury, many athletes view time off through the lens of regression and thus get less fit.
This is especially the case with injury. Many endurance athletes opt to ' tough it out and continue to push themselves, whether it's a niggle or an injury that completely prevents athletes from doing their favorite sports. There is no doubt that endurance sports are challenging, and pushing through discomfort is a necessary trait to have success both in training and competition. However, the discomfort should result from one's training intensity or volume versus that of injury or illness. Understandably, it might take a new athlete a while to learn through trial and error and overall body sensations what is likely discomfort due to intensity/volume or injury/illness. However, once learned, an athlete should listen to and respect their body and the overall training process by taking the appropriate measures (time off, rehab, reduced volume/intensity).
Trying to push through an injury or hoping that it will magically get better by doing more of the same thing that resulted in the injury is never a good idea.
Maximum athletic performance can only be achieved when someone's physiological efficiency and mechanical efficiency are at their best. Neglecting movement efficiency will only make the existing problem worse. Make sure you work on your form and technique, meaning that your muscles are activating at the proper intensity, in the appropriate order, with an adequate range of motion to move your body in the most efficient way. Good mechanical efficiency will make you faster, allow you to sustain paces at lower energy expenditure levels, and help you stay injury-free. Some of your actions include running gait analysis, swim video analysis, biking and running drills, getting a bike fit, plyometric exercises, and strength and core exercises.
Skipping a strength training program
Many athletes tend to overlook and skip strength training. Even when such workouts are planned, it is usually strength training if something must go during a given training week. That's unfortunate as strength training represents a critical component of our overall fitness, our ability to perform well and avoid injuries. It typically includes core exercises, plyometric exercises, and resistance training, regardless of the level of the athletes. The workout doesn't necessarily need to be hour-long. A 10-15 minute workout that an athlete performs at home, even while watching TV or listening to a favorite podcast, can be done anytime throughout the entire season.
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