How to handle “The Method” – part 1 by Shem Leong

How to handle “The Method” – part 1 by Shem Leong

“The Method” refers to our training philosophy that comprises of at least one training session per day. We mix up Strength, Heart Rate, Tolerance, Neuromuscular and Endurance sessions to create hormonally balanced training programmes. When executed properly, The Method results in significant and sustainable gains in fitness over the mid to long term (months to years).  No short cuts to success here, just the best use of your limited training time.

Occasionally and unfortunately, some athletes go off the deep end and enter into a vicious cycle of mild injury/ sickness > partial recovery > re- injury/ sickness > worsening injury/ sickness > partial recovery > chronic injury/ sickness > long recovery period away from sport.

It despairs me to witness their frustration as they go round in circles, digging themselves deeper into the hole of chronic injury as they desperately fight to hang on to their deteriorating fitness. Despite my best instructions, they fail to accept that they are in a losing battle. It is impossible to “train through” being over-trained and I’ve had to “let them go”, watch them fall flat before they wise up and learn how to handle their training load. With the hardest nuts, this process of achieving the right balance can take a few rounds.

This article is to guide all the passionate age group athletes out there so that they may have a long career of training and racing hard.

Part 1 – Consistency is KEY

When an athlete 1st starts on The Method, they experience big and rapid gains in fitness as the new training stimuli induce big adaptations in their body. Their 1st misconception is to believe that this steep gradient of improvement is going to continue endlessly; unfortunately, it doesn’t. Once an athlete approaches their potential physical peak, the rate of improvement begins to level off as they settle at a new plateau of physical fitness.

At this point, a patient and wise athlete understands and accepts that getting fitter after this comes down largely to a game of consistency. Each little percentage gained from here on is hard earned and takes time. There are no short cuts – chipping away at it every day adds to their fitness one brick at a time.

Instead of giving in to their pleas for a higher training load, this is where I prompt new triathletes to stay curious and ask themselves, “What happens to my body if, instead of going herder or doing more, I try to stay as consistent as possible?” I would only identify the 1 or maybe 2 bigger gaps in an athlete’s overall development and specifically work on these areas, while keeping everything else the same. It is also the right time to introduce the intricacies of technique, nutrition, pacing and race day strategy to the beginner.

For the average age grouper, the demands of everyday life pose challenges and commitments that often pull in opposite directions. As a result, it is common and normal for age- group athletes to experience good days and bad days in training. However, the underlying message is that triathlon is an endurance sport and training for it is a consistency game. With everything else equal, consistency – doing what you can every day-  without burning out, is what separates the top 10% from the mid-packers.

The Numbers Game

The Numbers Game is a simple tool that I have devised to encourage consistency in training and to facilitate coach – athlete communication. It motivates athletes to get something, even if it is a little bit, done every day. It works well with the typical goal – oriented, focused, PB chasing, “triathlon” personality type.

The aim of each round of the game is simply to chalk up as many points as possible before you hit the “reset” button and drop back down to zero.

For every consecutive day that you complete on your programme, give yourself 1 point. So if you have followed your training plan from Monday to Wednesday, you’re up to 3 points.  If you skip a day, for whatever reason, you’re back down to 0.

As long as you head out and attempt to start a session, your score is safe. Anything less than 40% completion of your set and your score stays the same. If you only manage between 40 – 60% of the set, give yourself half a point. Anything more than 60% of the scheduled set gets a whole point- “A” for effort!

You still get a point if you had to swap sessions around to fit a different schedule. And if your plan has you on a rest day, then you get a point for resting. The higher your score gets, the more you’ll want to build on it instead of having to start from 0 again.  If you reach 14 points, you’re allowed a day off without resetting.

The advanced setting of this game has you subtracting a point from 0 for every day that you miss after the “reset” day. For example, if you miss 2 days in a row, you’re down to -1, miss three days in a row and you’re at -2. This makes is harder to claw your way back up to break even and discourages you from being lazy multiple days in a row. I like to use this additional rule when my athletes are in a race specific phase of preparation. 

For the typical busy age- grouper in Singapore, juggling work and family and training, 6 is a good average score to shoot for; meaning you miss one day a week. Performance-oriented athletes, age- group podium contenders, should aim for 14’s and above.

The Numbers Game is a simple way to track your consistency and spot patterns in your training. For example, if you’re stuck at 2 – 3, then ask yourself if there a way to reschedule your weekly routine (e.g. train at a different time) / tweak your training plan (40 min instead of 60 mins session) to make it easier to squeeze in a little bit on a busy day? Or do you always easily get up to 6 – 7 points and then have to reset to 0? Ask yourself why is that? Do you smash the weekend sessions too hard so that you’re always flat on Monday? Or are you able to get up to 14 regularly but can’t seem to get beyond that? Maybe that means you could do with an easy recovery day every fortnight?

Try out The Numbers Game this week and see how you go!


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