The 'switch'

A light switch has two settings, on and off.  To develop as an athlete you need to have both settings.

I’m convinced that some people just do not have an ‘off’ switch.  Constantly doing more than they should, flirting with injury and over training.  Always questioning their training and consequently questioning their own ability to achieve their goals.

Before we continue further let’s have a quick look at some basic training physiology.

The widely accepted model for achieving fitness improvements is depicted in the table chart below (Reaburn:2009)

In its essence we need to be ‘on’ to train and stimulate the body and we need to ‘off’ in order to allow the body time to recover and become fitter.  In your untrained individual the challenge is to get them to flick the ‘on’ switch and get moving, whereas in the trained and highly motivated individual the challenge is, a lot of the time, to get them to hit the ‘off’ switch.

“But Bob rode 500k last week”

In the motivated athlete training for a big event, I often see them comparing their training to someone else’s and questioning why they aren’t doing the same volumes and intensities as Bob.  What follows is the athlete tacking on extra km’s to their training, going harder, and squeezing in extra sessions all in an effort to keep up with Bob.  Then when it comes time for them to hit targets in a specifically planned session in their program, they can’t do it.  Why? Because they’re too tired.  Let’s take an Ironman triathlon for instance.  It is such a big event to train for that you can almost never do enough training.  But what you can do is the right amount of training for YOU at a particular point in time, suitable for your particular fitness level.  Every session you do needs an appropriate amount of recovery time to gain the fitness benefits from that session.  Some sessions need more than others.  Knowing when to push and when to pull back comes from experience and knowing your body.  Pushing through is not always the answer.  Have the sensibility to pull back if you need to and don’t just go with the crowd.

Having a sleep in or opting for the easy ride group is not the end of the world.  It’ll allow you to reap the benefits of your hard work and help you reset, ready to hit the next hard session to your full ability.

Does this sound like you?  If so what I can say is just learn to chill out!  Find something totally unrelated to your primary sport, that you enjoy, and indulge in it for a little when you have some downtime.


Peter Reaburn PhD, The Masters Athlete - improve your performance, improve your fitness, improve your life, 2009, Info Publishing pty ltd, p148.

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