My first year as a professional soccer player, I was 20 years old. I was drafted in December and left school in January to join the team for the off-season training. We spent 4 days in the weight room a week working on building strength and power. We also trained 4 days a week on the field doing mostly fitness and developing speed and conditioning. It was grueling but I was by far in the best shape of my professional career heading into pre-season. I remember our first match; I was faster and more fit than I had been in 4 years of college soccer. But, as pre-season began, I noticed that I was starting to fatigue and lose some of my sharpness and speed. I wasn’t playing as well as I had 2 weeks prior, but most of the veterans, the older guys seemed to be continuing to get better. More fit, faster, stronger, and more energy. Something was wrong; I was the young rookie that was supposed to be fast, skilled, and powerful. Why were these old guys getting better while I was getting worse? I talked to the coach and he noted that the old guys had kept the routine of weight room training and doing fitness work after practice. They were doing what was called maintenance work. They were in the gym just as often and continued to work on what they had built during the off-season.
What they knew that I didn’t was that the body must continue to receive a stimulus to continue to reap the rewards of that adaption. Meaning, if we spend the offseason working on increasing speed by doing sprints and intervals and then the season starts and we don’t continue to maintain that aspect of our fitness in the same way then we will lose that increase we built in speed.
What we typically see happen in our running community is very similar to what happened to me as a professional soccer player. We spend the off-season building strength, speed, and power. Which actually makes us faster not only for our shorter runs, but it has a potent effect for our longer efforts as well. Once the season changes and we begin running outside or preparing for races, we leave behind our speed and strength work and replace it with longer runs and less work on power and strength. For a short time we can maintain our improvements in that we worked so hard for in the off-season, but slowly over time we begin to see minor decrements in performance. When really we should continue to see improvement in performance that is significant throughout our season. As you layer new stimulus on top of the speed and power you have already adapted to, then you start to see real results and increases in performance.
My advice is to stick with your strength, speed, and interval training as you add your in-season training into your weekly schedule. Even if you aren’t training for a race and general fitness is your goal, the effect of high intensity training will get you closer to fitness than will longer efforts of moderate intensity.
For those of you who are interested in crushing your race goals this season, we’ve got you covered. Check out our “Training for your Best Race” Fly Lab on Saturday, April 8th at 10:00 a.m. Also, you won’t want to miss our newest class – Stride – designed specifically for runners looking to PR. And lastly, come run outside with us on Sunday mornings starting on April 9th! Check it all out on the schedule!