Polarized training and the benefits of having a coach and teammates

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

Sorry beet juice fans but no news on beets or juice derived from them this week. I hope you don’t mind.

What I do have is still interesting, though.

Olympic speed skaters and polarized training

I’ve often talked about making your easy days sufficiently easy so your hard days can be sufficiently hard. Ed is probably sick of this topic and I’m sure others are ready for me to stop harping on it also.

Well, here’s a review of the training programs for Olympic speed skaters over a 38 year period. The main factor in performance isn’t time spent training or time spent on skates. In fact, there seemed to be no relation (of course, Olympic speed skaters are all spending a lot of time training obviously). The difference in times at that level was most closely correlated to how polarized their training was.

When they discuss polarized training, they are basically discussing the idea of keeping your easy days easy and your hard days hard. The easier your easy days are and the harder your hard days are, the more polarized your training is. As this research suggests, the more polarized your training is, the faster you are.

Of course, this is looking at speed skaters but it’s a good indication of what works. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find the same in distance runners. I’d love to see this kind of review done with distance runners.

The benefits of having a coach and teammates

It should be no surprise that I’d argue there are a lot of benefits to having a coach. I’d argue the same of teammates. In a coach, you should have someone who is committed to your success and should be capable of guiding you down the right path. In addition, though, both a coach and teammates can give you people you feel accountable to. You don’t want to let down your coach or your teammates.

Well, that seems to be the case for masters swimmers.

In short, the swimmers were more committed to their training, whether doing it individually or in a team setting, when they had the support of a coach and teammates. Of note, though (emphasis added by me):

The findings suggest that in order to increase participation in masters swimming teams and reduce non-supervised training, coach and teammates should exhibit a supportive attitude and avoid over expectation.

None of this "old school" tough guy coaching. Your coach and teammates should be supportive and not place the burden of expectation too high. I’d agree with this. I don’t like the "old school" philosophy. It’s never made sense to me. Your coach should build you up and fill you with confidence, not beat you down.

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