It’s approaching that time of year when lots of you will be making new year’s resolutions and setting yourself goals for 2018, whilst I’m not against new year’s resolutions in principle, they don’t have a very impressive success rate, over 90% will fail.

One the biggest reasons for such a high failure rate is it’s very easy to get yourself excited about the “new you” and chuck yourself in at the deep end. People try to do too much, too soon. Things might be going great for the first few days, you might even last a few weeks. But if you try to do too much too soon it’s not going to last very long.

You may think this sounds pretty obvious, and I’d agree with you, it is! Yet unfortunately it needs to be said. I know some highly intelligent people who should and do know a lot better, yet they frequently adopt this sudden boost of physical activity strategy, and it only ever lasts a few weeks at a time, before they end up ill, injured or just generally knackered. Then they’ll go for months of inactivity before, having forgotten about their previous mistakes, do exactly the same thing again!

It’s funny how some people can have an extremely in-depth knowledge of physiology, yet still manage to somehow trick themselves in to thinking it only applies to the other 7.6 billion humans on the planet, and for them, it’ll probably be different.

The thing is, no matter who you are, your training experience, or how “epic” you are feeling during your first few sessions, NO ONE CAN TRICK SCIENCE!

Alaskan Sled Dogs are so efficient in their response to training that they can physically adapt during exercise, they quite literally get fitter whilst they are running. But unless you thrive in sub-zero temperatures, are covered in thick fur and look a little bit wolf-like, then you’re probably not an Alaskan Sled Dog, you’re probably just a human. Humans, unfortunately are less efficient in their adaptation to exercise. We do require a period of rest following exercise if we are to adapt to the training we have completed. Without this rest, we just become more and more fatigued, until eventually we will break down, whether that’s through illness, injury or a gradual and continuous decline of performance.

So, no matter what goal (click here to see a previous post I wrote on goal setting) you set yourself, it’s critical to start steady and build up gradually over time.

You wouldn’t go from months of zero training, to training twice a day, 7-days a week, would you? I hope not, but I’ve seen people try! It’s just not realistically sustainable, in fact, to do so without breaking down is physically impossible.

Everyone needs to build up gradually, but we all have different starting points and progression rates. The amount, intensity and frequency of your training will be highly individual, and hugely dependant on your previous training history, your current fitness, lifestyle and genetics. If you’re starting from scratch, then 3 days per week would be a sensible starting point, avoiding consecutive days and GRADUALLY over time building up to 4 and then maybe 5. Very few of the people I work with will train more than 5 days in any 7-day period and for some, 4 is the limit. Of the few people that do train 6 days, they will only do this on occasion, not regularly, and of the 6 days some will be easy sessions. None of the people I work with will train 7 days out of 7, ever!

On top of this, everyone I work with will have “recovery weeks” every 3 – 6 weeks, depending on the individual. What these recovery weeks look like varies massively (also highly individual), but in some shape or form, everyone has them.

Remember these key points:

  • EVERYONE needs rest days, if you don’t recover, you will break down eventually.
  • NO ONE can “trick” human physiology, it’s not going to be different for you.
  • No matter how “epic” you feel in the first week, you still need rest days.
  • You are (probably) not an Alaskan Sled Dog.


Dan Small, Mountain Goat Coaching

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