The Dynamics of Change and Performance Gains

Contributed by Tim Flahaven 

In March of this year Tina met with Dr. Devor to be re-tested on VO2.   During the de-briefing it was discussed that a slight change to per cent body fat could have a pronounced effect on VO2 Max and performance.   So she changed her diet. 

Note she didn’t change how much she ate or how often she ate but she changed what she ate.  If you want details – ask her or e-email her at tlhusted@gmail.com.   The point is this.  She changed one aspect of diet but otherwise kept most of her training routine the same.   (Also, she ran fewer miles and ran slow on recovery days).   The result was an easy 2:47 at Grandma’s for a 5 minute PR.   Easy because the last 5k was at 18:50.   

The challenge with change is it makes things different.   But when it comes to half or full training, be you a runner or a walker, you have quite a combustible mix of components to weight.   What can you change that will most immediately result in performance gains?   I think that formula is different for everyone.   For some, like Tina, there is a single factor that stood out that she could improve upon.   For others there are lots of things that we can do different.   For myself for instance, I need to cut beer out of my diet, I need to run 5Ks, and I need to train on trails like Alum Creek once a week.   Ben Henney is a bit more like Tina.  He is pretty sure that that by building strength in the lower extremities he will perform better.   As an endurance athlete, it’s imperative that you have an honest view of your areas of opportunities.   We all want to work on our strengths.   They are after all strengths and they are fun to work on.   Jenn likes to run on the track, where she is good.   Mark James likes to run on the track as well, but not so much tempo.   Take an honest assessment of your training portfolio – comprised as it is of diet/sleep/work stress/tempo/interval/over distance/racing/race prep/race fueling/strength training/etc. and look at where your biggest opportunity gaps lie and assess upside.   Better yet, ask a fellow MITer who has broken through to new performance gains and get some insight from he or she.   Ask Devor, or your coaches or any of us.   We may not be able to get it completely figured out but collectively we get you headed in a better direction.   The rule on how to recognize insanity – as doing the same things over and over and expecting different results – applies heavily to endurance training. 

 

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